When life gets complicated, make hash browns (and cream cheese pancakes)

You may have guessed, by absence or title, that my life has complicated a bit.  Sped up.  Flooded unexpectedly with shiny new people, who are just passing through, but leaving a bright patina in their wake.  I won’t bore you with details.   I have also reached a volta.  The verse must turn.  Professionally speaking at least. The need for the next step has arrived, and I’ve been turning in all directions, gauging the wind, weighing my options.  All this option weighing and shiny new people have been taking up a lot of (unbegrudged) time, so I have neglected you.  I have been cooking old standbys, or worse, eating at work.  There has been a whole lot of pasta, chicken Marsala, stuffed mushrooms, coq au vin, steak sandwiches, risotto.  Not much exciting.  But when life speeds up, sometimes you don’t want exciting. Sometimes you just want to plunk down and take a rest.

Belly plunks down to rest on the regular. Pleading with a 20lb fluffy white furball to stand please and move along is absolutely not socially awkward. I can totally look my neighbors in the face. Um...

So sometimes you just want a different spin on a simple everyday food.  Like sweet potato hash browns with a fried egg and cream cheese pancakes with macerated berries.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Yield – 1 serving

1/2 medium sweet potato, shredded
1 tiny, tiny onion (or 1/4 of a small onion), sliced thin
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon bacon fat
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat skillet to medium low.  Add 1/2 bacon fat,

You don't keep bacon fat in your fridge? Your grandmother probably did. You don't want to disappoint your grandmother, do you? DO you?

once melted, add sliced onions and a pinch of salt and lightly caramelize, about 2-3 minutes.

Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add potatoes in 1 thin layer and season generously.

Potatoes without salt taste like nothing.  (Remember though that the bacon fat is salty) Cook for 2-3 minutes until bottom is browned.  Pick up with spatula, add second half of the bacon fat, flip hash browns, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until browned on the other side.

If you’re me, put fresh ricotta on top.

Add a fried egg for good measure.


Since I’ve been away so long, I also brought you some cream cheese pancakes.  These are the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had, with tiny bits of cream cheese surprise in them. I topped them with berries macerated in Grand Marnier.

Macerated Berries

2 cups fresh berries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup liquor or liqueur

Rinse and cut berries to bite size, if they don’t come in bite size.  For instance, quarter strawberries.  Pour sugar over.  Pour liquor over.  Stir.  Let sit for 20 minutes to a half hour to draw the juices out of the berries and create a simple syrup.

You could use whatever liquor you like, rum, chambord, triple sec, etc. or none at all. I used Grand Marnier because I was at work, and there I can use all the frou frou stuff.  If you have an uber expensive pretty much undrinkable liqueur around your home just for things like macerating, well then you, sir or madame, are my culinary hero.  Can I come over?

Cream Cheese Pancakes

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
heavy pinch salt
1 egg, separated
1 ounce heavy cream
3 ounces water
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla.

Preheat skillet to low. Mix together dry ingredients. Whip egg white to soft peak. Set aside.

Whisk together egg yolk, cream, water, and cream cheese.  Fold into flour gently.  It will be lumpy.

It's ok. Don't fear the lumps. They are just little sunbursts of cream cheese. Happy, fatty, pancake punctuation.

Gently fold egg white mixture into batter.

It will still be lumpy. Don't overmix whatever you do. Fold only until the egg white disappears. Then stop. Really. Step away from the batter.

Add butter to skillet.  It’s important to keep this at low to prevent your butter from overbrowning, and to cook the pancake through with all its glorious billowy fluffiness.  Do not be tempted to rush it.  Bump it to medium low if you must.  Take it any further, and I can’t be held responsible for what happens.  I won’t have burnt, runny pancakes on my head, uh-uh, an emphatic no on that one. While I’m ranting, no, you may not use butter-flavored pan spray.  Okay, yes, you can, just don’t tell me about it.

This is where you would top these with maple syrup or butter and powdered sugar if that's what you have lying around.

But if you’re like me, top with a stupid amount of boozy berries.

Yes I did sing the pancake rap as I made these. (NOT WORK SAFE)


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