January 14, 2012

Cast Iron Breakfast: Baked Farmhouse Eggs

The best thing about the weekend is sleeping in late and eating breakfast for lunch.  I have been spoiled lately and been going out to Buoy 9 or the Labor Temple for a plate loaded high with potatoes, bacon and fried eggs... oh - and grease.  I guess that is what makes it a special weekend treat, but that got me thinking... how can make something just as wonderful, but at home with half the weight...
What better weekend to take up the challenge of a fancy breakfast at home then a football (Go 9ers!) weekend?  I had a potato, veggies, some bacon and a couple eggs left from the last shopping trip so I set to work this morning with the goal of making something that tasted full of grease but was actually light and filling.  

All photos by Holliday

Gathering my ingredients helped to make my plan for breakfast.  At home I usually would make a scramble with vegetables and a side of toast and bacon, but what I really wanted was fried eggs and bacon and homestyle potatoes.  And I would be all over that but I am hopeless when it comes to frying eggs.  I know how to make them, I just end up making a huge broken yoke mess all over the place.  I am somewhat stumped at how I make something like fried eggs, but without actually frying them.

I turn to my cookbooks and find a baked egg recipe in the Favorite Recipe book and found a baked egg dish that is essentially frying an egg in the oven over vegetables.  The recipe is sliced and sautéed veggies that make a nest for an egg to be baked into.  Healthy, simple, and without bacon.  But recipes are meant to be tweaked so I take the idea and change it around a little bit to suit my stomach needs this morning.  

Here is where things are going to get crazy and basic.  I have often made what I consider Farmhouse Potatoes by cooking potatoes with onion and veggies so I start with a little bit of olive oil, potatoes, green and white onion, green and red bell pepper, a serrano pepper and mushrooms.  I toss in some garlic and black pepper to mix as well for good measure.  I had bacon cooked already to be a side, but while the cast iron is sizzling away I decide to toss the bacon in the pan as well.  Might as well make it a skillet meal!

The veggies are sizzling away and to help the potatoes cook faster I cover my cast iron pan with some tinfoil and leave it alone other then to stir it up once in a while.  It is starting to smell so good and I'm getting excited!  I refer back to the recipe again to see what they did next and I realize I might have a problem.  The recipe is made in a non-stick skillet and then transfered to a non-stick baking sheet before going into the oven.  The skillet part isn't an issue, but I don't have a non-stick baking sheet and I had planned on putting the cast iron right into the oven to finish the cooking.  

I get why I would need the non-stick baking sheet though.  The recipe calls for the egg to be cooked on the non-stick sheet surrounded by the veggie "nest".  Well I can't do that, but I think I can make a nest in the potatoes and cook the egg that way.  

Here we go!  Eggs are in their nests and I am carefully transferring the cast iron to the 400 degree oven. I have the feeling that 400 degrees may be slightly too hot to cook eggs so they stay runny, but I'll go with it.  While the eggs cook I shred some cheddar and jack cheese and chop up fresh cilantro.  Again, 400 degrees for 10 minutes seems way too long to me so I check the skillet after 5 and the yokes are white already, so I pull it out and top with cheese.

Cheese and cilantro on, back in the oven to melt and I am hungry!  After the cheese is melted I pull it out and serve myself half.  I am going to enjoy all of it I'm sure, but wanted to make sure I liked it first before getting crazy with a huge plate of food.  Also, if I limit what is on my plate I can trick my mind that I am full before I will eat too much.  

Now that is some good breakfast.  It is hearty and has all the flavors of a fried meal but without the weight.  I barely used any olive oil to cook the potatoes with and there was no oil used at all to cook the eggs.  The flavors were all there and each bite had veggies and bacon and egg in it.  Problems?  There were some.  I was right and the oven temp being too hot.  The eggs cooked all the way through and ended up being more like hard boiled eggs.  It wasn't bad, and I'll probably make it like that again (I pick around the yoke) but I really wanted runny eggs today.  Oh well.  

The flavors were right on and I can't wait to experiment with more Mexican flavors next time.  I had thought about using cojita cheese in place of salt and the cheddar/jack cheese but decided against it at the last minute.  I think that would make it even lighter by replacing the cheese and the table salt.  Maybe a mix of pepper jack and cojita....  

All in all a very good breakfast.  I will be making it again, and again, and again in the future.  Really endless possibilities: broccoli, zucchini and other garden veggies would be wonderful mixed in with with the potatoes.  

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