Monday, January 26, 2015

Pancetta & Potato Hash

My stepdad used to make something he called Potato Casserole when I was growing up and of all the hundreds of people who passed in and out of our house over the years, I've never met anyone who didn't love it. A few years ago, I tasted Potato Rosti for the first time while on holiday in Switzerland and couldn't believe how similar these two dishes are. It blew my mind that on top of the world in the Swiss Alps, there were people eating effectively the same mish-mash of potato awesomeness that my family in Eastern Kentucky could be enjoying at the same time. Sure the cheese is different as is the bacon, but the sentiment and the flavors are incredibly similar. In an effort to capture the tastes of both with a bit less effort, I've put together this little recipe and it's the perfect cold weather comfort food for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

The recipe below is for 2 people as a meal, but it's easy enough to multiply should you want to make this for the whole family, however you may find that you need to either cook it in batches or get two pans on the go. The thing to remember is that you want at least 1 egg and 2 smallish medium-sized potatoes per person. That said, it's just as easy to divide and this is one of those dishes that's easy enough to warrant cooking it for one - it's perfect for nights spent snuggled up on the couch with a chick flick or a good book, a can of diet soda and maybe some chocolate or ice cream for dessert. Don't get too caught up on the measurements as these are just benchmarks… If you have more or less of any of these ingredients, it won't make or break the result as long as you have enough potatoes.

1 shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium sized potatoes washed, dried & diced into 1 cm cubes (not peeled)
100g coarsely shredded Swiss cheese (I use Leerdammer or Emmental)
150g cubed pancetta
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of 1 lemon & part of the juice
2 eggs
Sea salt flakes & freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Peel and very finely chop the shallot.

2. In a large frying pan or preferably a wok because it has more room for stirring, heat the oil on medium-low heat. When it warms up, add the shallot and cook gently until soft. They may brown a little, but don't worry about that.

3. When the shallot is soft, add the pancetta to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook while stirring until it starts to brown a bit.

4. When the pancetta starts to get faintly bronzed, throw in the lemon zest and stir it around allowing it to sizzle for a bit. Add the diced potatoes and the cayenne pepper and give it a stir. If it looks too dry in the pan, feel free to add a bit more olive oil, but not too much or it will be sizzle city.

5. Cook the mixture gently over medium or medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are browned and cooked through. This should take about 15 minutes or so.

6. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, fry the two eggs over easy - you want them to be cooked on both sides, but still have runny yolks. (You can poach the eggs if you prefer.)

7. When the potatoes are done, sprinkle over about half of the juice of the lemon (more if you like) and give it a stir. Add salt & freshly ground pepper to taste and top with the cheese. Cover if you have a lid or some tin foil for a few minutes and let the cheese melt.

8. Divide the cheesy potato mixture between two plates and top each with a fried egg and a good grinding of fresh black pepper and enjoy!

I love this with Heinz Baked Beans, however it also benefits from a slice or two of buttered toast if you're super hungry or want to make it stretch to feed a few more. 

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