Sunday, December 4, 2011

On Poor Man's Steak and Eggs, or "A Minor Redaction as to the Virtue of Pre-Prepped Food"

I am no fan of pre-prepared food. I scoff at chopped onions in the deli case. I roll my eyes at the individually frozen chicken tenders. I scowl at the bags of frozen potatoes, ready to boil for "homemade" mashed potatoes. I tell myself the basis for this nastiness is threefold: money; these products are always more expensive, taste; they usually taste off, and experience; it's good to know where your food comes from. Though I make good points, to be honest, if I'm not judgmental about something then I may actually have to come up with educated opinions about things.

We certainly can't have that.

I'd like to share with you a product (and no, I am not compensated for this review) that saved my bacon for dinner the other night when we didn't have much left in the pantry for dinner. Dehydrated hash brown potatoes.

I'm seeing more and more brands now: these are Golden Grill, Hungry Jack also has a line. We bought them for camping because when bears are involved, the least amount of food waste the better. Plus there's no need to refrigerate them, which is also nice when cooler space is at a premium. A few of these little containers have been hanging out in the bottom of our pantry for months. You fill the container up with hot tap water and let it sit for 10 or 12 minutes. Reopen the spout and TA DAH! Hash browns!

You really ought to drain the leftover water out before you start frying them. Of course I did not do this and had potato soup for a few minutes until the extra water boiled away. And you should know the carton says it makes six 1/2 cup servings and that is ridiculous. It may make three cups of hash browns but that will never feed six people unless you're also making waffles and pancakes and sausage and bacon and oatmeal and probably peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Plan on one carton for two entree servings.

Brown, brown, brown in your favorite cast iron pan with a metal spatula. It was a cold, windy night. Our living room and garage are still torn apart from the broken pipe disaster and we both were at our limit for house falling apart/winter coming/dark outside/no social activities in this county/no bars/frustrating jobs. The sound of a metal spatula scraping across a cast iron pan is soothing to me. It means comfort food. Something hearty, and healing. The likes of which cannot be contained in a non-stick pan.

Weekend before last I made a pot roast. I served it on the weekend, then cleaned up all the meat and stored it back in the braising liquid to use during the week; french dip sandwiches, shredded beef burritos. We had about a quarter of a cup of shredded beef left, so I put that in the pan when the potatoes were almost browned enough.

And because I have yet to figure out baking eggs without it being a giant pain in the ass, I fried three eggs in a separate pan and laid them on top to serve. I never said I wasn't too lazy to figure a technique out on a weeknight. 

Simple? Yes. Cheap? Yes. Adaptable? Sure! Make it without meat. Make it with whatever meat you have around. Make it and add leftover veggies from the night before. Make it and add kielbasa and cabbage.

Just make something. Hot. Filling. Soothing. And preferably, in cast iron.


  1. Tyree gave me a box of these to try and I made some for a weekend breakfast when I realized I was out of potatoes... I was surprised that they are pretty good! I need to get me one of those cast iron pans...

  2. They're shockingly good, aren't they, considering how awful most dried potato products are. And hooray for not losing quality after months in the pantry! Sportsman's Warehouse is a great place to buy new Lodge pans (and they're all pre-seasoned) or you could check out the thrift stores...


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