Breakfast of Champions

I love breakfast. I love everything to do with breakfast — except for the waking up early to eat it part, which is why brunch is really quite ideal for me. Plus at brunch it’s acceptable to drink, whereas at breakfast you might get a judgmental side-eye for your Kir Royale. But at brunch, it’s never the lunch part that I go for. I am never even swayed or tempted, it’s always breakfast that catches my attention. Give me a nice strata or just some soft-scrambled eggs. I love hollandaise, hash browns and sausage drizzled with maple syrup. I love pancakes, waffles and French toast. I even like oatmeal and cream of wheat. Heck, simple buttered toast with raspberry jam can thrill me.

So when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light for a rosti casserole with baked eggs, I knew I had to try it. Now right from the get-go, I was a little skeptical. To someone who doesn’t know better, a rosti may appear to just be baked hash browns. But I used to cook professionally at a high-end restaurant and during one menu cycle, I had to make rostis to go with the steak. For several months, I actually had rosti nightmares and for very good reason — they are a huge pain the ass, especially when making them in large quantities.

There is the grating of the raw potatoes (which I luckily avoided – thank you prep cooks!), then there is the process of cooking them in ripping hot duck fat. This is the most difficult part because you need to get the pan incredibly hot to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Once you have the base layer going, you keep packing more and more into the pan until you have a rounded mound. Then you must invert the potatoes into another pan that is scalding hot. In all of this you need to hope you don’t burn yourself with spattering duck fat, burn the potatoes or (worst of all) have half of the potatoes stick to the pan and have to start all over. It’s no wonder I used to pray that no one would order the steak. Shockingly, it didn’t work.

I could go on and on about how much I hated cooking those things, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop. Clearly, even three years later, I still retain some PTSD when it comes to certain menu items that I had to make back then.

Anyways, let me say that the Cooking Light recipe is nothing like what I consider a “real” rosti, yet it’s still completely satisfying. Maybe even more so because of its simplicity. Take some thawed hash browns (Ore-Ida brand is my preference), mix in the ingredients and bake. What could be easier?

A little side-note, I have never made this with the turnip it calls for. Not because I am anti-turnip, in fact I quite like the little guys. I just never have them handy when I feel like making this. So usually I just julienne an onion and add that to the mix. The last time I made this, I even threw in some thinly sliced kale for roughage and topped it with leftover toasted breadcrumbs for added crunch. The possibilities to customize it are endless — from adding bacon (take that Cooking Light!), to mixing up the cheeses, to adding veggies. Really almost anything will taste good.

Then once it’s golden and crispy on the bottom and sides, crack some eggs on top and bake for another 8 minutes or so. I like to put the oven on broil at this point, to get the eggs just perfect and to crisp up the top of the casserole. Voila! Easy and delicious.

Second disclaimer: I only cook a couple of eggs on top since I know we won’t be able to eat the whole dish, even though I usually halve the recipe. Then the next day, I crank up the oven, heat some potatoes in a small pan and add a fresh egg. It’s a fantastic light supper…and a great excuse to drink a Blood Mary with your dinner!

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