Winter Vegetables for Breakfast

Hopefully some of you were inspired to look upon the daikon radishes and carrots of your CSA shares with new excitement following my last post singing the praises of Bahn Mi. However there are, of course, additional staple storage crops that can be challenging to the home cook. A few posts ago, my blogging predecessor April (who has gotten busier at home and will be taking a break from writing for the farm for the foreseeable future) offered some wonderful suggestions for one of the most challenging of these staple storage crops: celeriac. Nevertheless, Catarina recently shared with me that she is still hearing of customers' frustration with the goofy-looking aromatic root in their kitchens. So I figured I'd share my own favorite preparation of the vegetable, for my favorite meal: breakfast.

First, why celeriac? A member of the carrot family, celeriac is a far more forgiving crop than its close relative celery. As common as celery is in many recipes, and as prominent as it may be on grocery store shelves, from a farmer's perspective, it is a real pain in the tookus. Celery is slow and sensitive during germination, it takes the entire growing season to mature, and without very stable moisture availability it has a tendency to become more fibrous and woody than we'd all prefer. And after all that effort it has a relatively short storage life. By contrast, though celeriac is also difficult to germinate and takes a long time to mature, it is less sensitive to moisture variation and has a tremendous storage life. Celeriac also has great nutritional benefits; it is a strong source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and iron. It's also relatively low in carbohydrates, an obvious perk for those limiting their intake.

Now, how celeriac? Most recipes I encounter for the crop tend to use it as substitute for either celery or starchy roots like potatoes.  This is all well and good, it succeeds in the base of a soup, or in a gratin or mash. But for a less common preparation to hit the spot even earlier in the day, I can't recommend highly enough that you work celeriac into hash browns for breakfast. I love hash browns, and try to keep a container of grated and par-baked roots on hand in the fridge for quick finishing in the frying pan. In the past I have relied on a combination of roughly equal parts potato and sweet potato--but I recently subbed in celeriac for the potato and loved the result.

I start by grating both sweet potato and celeriac and parbaking them with a drizzle of whatever fat is handy (olive oil, butter, bacon fat, etc), about 8-10 minutes at 400F.

I let the parbaked roots cool down, as it makes them easier to crisp up in the pan later without burning, and refrigerate the excess for future meals. I then saute the grated mix in a bit of the same or a different fat, salting the pan and stirring and flipping every minute or two. When the roots are approaching my desired crispiness I add some diced onion or shallot and kill the burner, letting the residual heat of the cast iron skillet finish the cooking while I focus on eggs.

Finally, I fold in some garlic powder and thyme to season the hash browns, and plate it all up.

The result is really delicious, a great variation on a breakfast staple, and a great use of of a potentially challenging crop. Though I've yet to try it, I'm sure potatoes wouldn't detract from the hash brown mix, should you find yourself with more than you otherwise have use for.

Yet another breakfast idea that I've recently tried is this Korean take on a breakfast sandwich:

I very much enjoyed the inclusion of cabbage and carrots in the sandwich, the egg patty created with them is simple and delicious.

I opted for a bagel as my bread vessel, passed on the kraft single (really guy?!) in favor of Brookford cheddar, added another egg in lieu of ham, and dressed with sriracha instead of ketchup. I was very happy with the result; I'm going to be making this sandwich on the regular. I only wish I hadn't finished all of my hash browns a few days prior, they would have accompanied the sandwich wonderfully.

In addition to the obvious suggestions like avoiding white bread and individually-wrapped 'cheese' slices, I can't help but pass on advice that I wish I could share directly with the video's creator, whose apparent disregard cut into me like nails on a chalkboard. Please, DO NOT use metal utensils with non-stick pans. The coatings scrape off all too easily, and there are several known and many suspected health risks associated with them. For this reason, if you haven't already, I would encourage you to ditch non-stick pans altogether in favor of cast iron. It takes nearly no effort to maintain a good seasoning on the pans once you get a feel for it, and cleaning them has never been easier thanks to these great little chain mail scrubbers that are now widely available. Cast iron cookware is as cheap as at it gets, can easily last several lifetimes, and instead of leaching toxic lubricants into your food, it leaches beneficial iron instead.

Safety first, then teamwork!

Alright, time to get off my soapbox, build a new shelf to house my seed trays in our sun room, and catch up on seeding. Hooray for snowdays!

Best wishes,

Matt