Easy Sweet Potato and Pepper Hash with Eggs

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

It was the morning after the first leg of my recent cross-country road trip and I woke up to aroma of cinnamon and butter wafting through the air. We'd arrived at the home of Stella Parks (aka BraveTart) in Lexington, Kentucky, late the night before and spent far too long drinking and chatting before we called it a night. With a full day of driving ahead of us the next morning, going to bed early would have been the smarter move, but I'm wise enough to know that you shouldn't ever turn down bourbon from a Kentuckian in their own home.

Stella, hard at work on her book (slated to be released next fall!) had been up early to test just how sticky a sticky bun could get before reaching the upper limits of absurdity (answer: very sticky) and there was already a batch in the oven by the time I finally rolled out of the fold-out bed in her office. I'm never the type to do anything half-assed, so I resolved then and there to fully commit to procrastinating before getting back on the road by having a long and leisurely brunch.

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I'm also wise enough to know that when a gentlelady offers you her buns, no matter how sticky, it's only polite to offer her something in return, so I turned to my in-a-strange-kitchen-with-no-knowledge-of-what-they've-got staple breakfast: vegetable hash. In this case, Stella happened to have some gorgeous sweet potatoes and purple bell peppers, two of my favorite hash ingredients.

If potatoes or sweet potatoes are your base, the best way to make hash is to par-cook them in salted water. Not only does this help season them to the center, but it also ensures that they'll be evenly cooked in the final dish, allowing you to focus only on the browning and crisping stages once they hit the hot oiled skillet. Since sweet potatoes take a little longer to brown than other vegetables like onions and peppers, I give them a good head start before adding the rest.

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A touch of acid and heat brighten things up, and I add mine in the form of a vinegary hot sauce. In this case we had Cholula on hand, but my go-to is Frank's (Tabasco would work just fine as well). Finally, to make a meal of it, I make a few wells and crack eggs directly into the hash, cooking them in the oven until they're just beginning to set.

There's nothing like a good 1,200-calorie breakfast to help you power through the pretty countryside of Western Kentucky, or to make you want to fall asleep at the wheel doing it.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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