We don’t talk politics at brunch

With November 8 right around the corner, I think a lot of us are wondering if this country is going in the right direction.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to step onto a political soap box. I am, however, going to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart. Something that makes me proud to be a citizen of this country. Something we call “brunch.”

In case this is your first time visiting my blog or you’ve somehow forgotten, I had the privilege of spending the first half of 2016 living in Europe. As magical as that experience was, I spent most of those five months disturbingly deprived of brunch. This is in small part due to the fact that I was very wallet-conscious, and in large part due to the lack of availability of really outstanding brunch food.

In the past few years, America has become obsessed with trendy brunch places. Just a couple weeks ago I went around town with a friend hopping from restaurant to restaurant in Columbia searching for one that wouldn’t involve a two-hour wait. (We settled at Room 38. They have six variations of biscuits and gravy. ‘Nuff said.)

howBrunch is crafty little beast. It someone managed to convince us that it was fair to cobble together two separate meals into a super-spread, nearly giving it a monopoly on the meal scene. I’m surprised the Dems haven’t tried to regulate that.*

One of the key reasons that I’m so enamored with brunch is that it allows me to be a total potato in the morning and still enjoy breakfast-themed food when I wake up at noon, like I did today.

When I did finally extract myself from the covers, I decided to make a classic: sweet potato hash. It’s one of those things that starts with a relatively healthy, simple base that can be altered based on what you have on hand. Since I didn’t even have the potatoes themselves, I ran to the store to stock up on all the things I want on a dirty, sexy pile of hash.

The defining quality of hash that separates the men from the boys, as they say, is the egg. If you’re capable of topping your hash with a sunny, runny yolk, I salute you. Today, I attempted a truly risky feat: the poached egg.

Ever heard the phrase “Walk in on surgery halfway through and it looks like murder”? That’s how I would describe poaching eggs. Just watch this video and you’ll see what I mean.

I would probably guess that the human surgery survival rate is actually higher than the poached egg survival rate, though, especially after my experience today. Don’t even ask how many eggs took the plunge into my simmering cauldron before I succeeded.

After a solid hour of prepping, panfrying, and poaching, I did create the dirty, sexy hash of my dreams. Here’s the rundown:

-3/4 cup sweet potato

-1/4 cup red bell pepper

-1/4 cup sweet onion

-1 clove garlic

-3 slices Canadian bacon

-1/2 avocado

-1/3 cup pico de gallo

-1/2 cup baby kale

-1 egg

-1/2 tbsp Sriracha

Step one: Dice the potato, bell pepper, onion, bacon, and garlic so it’s all ready to go right when you need it. Dicing can be very labor intensive so I get this step done in one swoop before I start any cooking.

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Step two: Fry up the bacon until it’s got a golden color. Remove from the pan.

Step three: caramelize red bell pepper and onion until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes.

Step four: Add sweet potato and cover with lid, stirring every five minutes or so until the potato is soft.

Step five: While the potato softens, bring a small pot of water, vinegar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Make a little whirl pool with a spoon and then add a fresh, cold egg. Take the pot of the heat and cover undisturbed for five minutes. After five minutes take the egg out with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel.

Step six: Add the bacon back to the hash and mix in some seasoning salt. Optional: I like to get a little texture on my potatoes so I press down on the potatoes with a spatula and crack up the heat for a couple minutes so they get a little crusty.

Step seven: Assemble your hash. I like to lay the greens down first and top them with the hash so that they wilt a little from the residual heat. Top the potatoes with the rest of the fixins: pico, avocado, and (VERY carefully so you don’t prematurely break the yolk) the poached egg. Top with more pepper and Sriracha.

Boom. You’ve got brunch.

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*I would just like to be clear that this is purely a feeble attempt at making a political joke, not an actual statement on my party affiliation

 

A not-so-cool chick(en)

If I’m being honest, I’ve never been the coolest kid in school. Or one of the cooler kids. Or cool by any means.

Here’s a photo of me after winning second place in a Texas state science competition:

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As nerdy as this occasion already was, I managed to make it even worse by neglecting to take off my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt when I got on stage. In my defense, I didn’t expect to win anything, but still, I think we can all agree that when it comes to being not-cool, I’m a PRO.

While many transcend their nerdy phase when they escape the clutches of middle school, I did not. I managed to stay very uncool by morphing into one of those really annoying girls who’s way too invested in her high school newspaper.

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Of course I was also a self-proclaimed captain of the backpacking team because as I’ve mentioned previously, I am not anywhere near athletic enough for real sports.

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When you enter college, there’s an expectation that the concept of “coolness” changes radically from what it was in high school. This is definitely true, especially when your freshman floor is full of other former way-too-invested-in-the-high-school-newspaper types.

Yet here I am, standing ankle deep in my senior year of college, still proving to myself and others that I am without a doubt not cool.

On Sunday night, I spent two hours standing in my kitchen keeping watch on a whole roast chicken. With my cat as my sous chef.

(I’m often told that I’m going to become a cat lady, to which I respond: already there, buddy. Case in point.)

So why was a slaving over a whole bird? Because I like to feel fancy from time-to-time. And because Bink’s birthday was last week and I’m trying to spoil him in his old age (that little thing is 17 years old, people.) And for you, my kookie readers.

I’m not going to give you a recipe spiel here because salmonella is a very real thing and I don’t want to be on anybody’s hit list because I’m just not qualified to be directing anyone in their chicken-roasting experience. Instead I’ll just give you a few tips:

-Google “How to roast a chicken,” there’s no shortage of recipes. For starters I’d go for a simple S&P combo **link

-When buying the chicken, don’t be stingy. You’re investing around two hours in this project so you may as well start with quality. Sometimes bargain meat says stuff like “96% real chicken!” and that scares me a lot. What is the other 4%?? Did you expect me not to wonder??

-When you unwrap the chicken, check the inner cavity. There will likely be a small bag of chicken guts in there (yes, chicken guts is the culinary term.) If you forget to take this bag out, you will have a very messy, very displeasing roast.

-Rinsing the chicken is no small task, and if you’re like me you will look like you’re performing a comedy routine. Be ready to deeply sanitize your sink after you’re done cooking.

-Beware of finicky ovens. My cheap college-apartment oven was very temperamental, so I had to keep an extra eye on it. That’s right, three eyes. My kitchen and living room also had a real sultry (read: smoky) vibe when I was done.

– The moment you pull it out of the oven, you’re going to want to dig in. The house smells like Thanksgiving and you’ve been waiting for at least an hour and you’re just tired of being patient. But good things come to those who wait, let the meat sit for at least 15 minutes.

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(You’ll notice in the photo above, despite some strategic angling, that I in fact dug into the skin immediately because it was 9:30 and I was starving. And as I mentioned previously, nothing that I do is cool).

So there you have it, another rowdy night with Megan.

I may not be conventionally cool. But what’s cooler than being able to roast your own chicken? That question is rhetorical, please don’t answer it.

 

 

Shouting from the stovetops…

The first time I splurged on a black pepper grinder, I told myself: “Because you’re worth it.” Audibly. In the Walmart spice aisle.

When it comes to what’s on my plate, I’m not your average millennial.

Being a foodie hasn’t always been easy. On top of the financial burden of buying fresh instead of canned produce or quinoa instead of ramen, I’ve always felt that there’s a stigma about people my age who enjoy things like roasting a whole chicken once a week.

During my sophomore year of high school, I brought a bagged lunch because I was getting tired of the soggy cafeteria corn dogs. As I ate my chicken salad sandwich and minded my own business, a friend sat down beside me.

“That sandwich looks like barf.”

Word to the wise: Never insult my food. I will spork you.

I cook like a middle-aged housewife. You can find me dirtying all kinds of dishes at least five nights a week. I’m proud of my talent, but every time my roommate comes in the front door and says something like “Ooh so fancy!” it makes me want to crawl into my pasta pot and become one with the penne.

I’m 20 years old and I would rather buy a big ole pack of prosciutto than a ticket to a football game. I tear up a little when I have to throw out a container of ricotta because cooking for one means that I don’t have time to give it the attention that it needs.

I’ve hidden my culinary talent from my peers because I thought it was weird. Not anymore.

I’m shouting it from the stovetop. I’m a kookie millennial.

Step one: Acceptance
Step one: Acceptance