I have some strong opinions about brunch. For example, I don't like the term brunch, which reminds me of hotel buffets and eggs Benedict. I also don't like hotel buffets or eggs Benedict. Which is not to say I have anything against fancy food at brunch. In fact, in my strong, and usually pro-gruel, opinion, there's no place at the brunch table (or counter) for gruel.
This appears to be one of the few areas of culinary common ground the yachtsman and I share: No gruel for brunch. We are not a yogurt and granola people. We'll pass on that fruit salad, thank you very much. Pancakes? Perfect, if they're of the buttermilk or, even better, gingerbread variety; the only whole wheat at brunch should be in the toast. Other than that, we're up for most anything: greasy egg sandwiches; fried chicken and waffles; cheesy scrambled eggs; huevos rancheros. We love coffeecake and pancakes, cornbread and biscuits, waffles and French toast. Potatoes are key, of course: home fries, hash browns, latkes. And the yachtsman will eat just about any breakfast meat, though I've never seen him take out a slab of scrapple, and that's probably for the best.
One morning of each weekend we eat out: The yachtsman prefers diners, I will never tire of the Penny Cluse. The morning we don't eat out usually involves bagels, but occasionally we actually crack a few eggs and cook something brunchy in our own kitchen. For example, the yachtsman makes a mean griddled egg sandwich, and I make a mean face while I wait for him to finish cooking my food.
This morning, to kick off Aspragus Week here at GFD, I made Asparagus and Pancetta Hash. This is not gruel, friends, it's brunch food: You've got your potatoes, your bacon (the Italian kind), and the one green vegetable glistens with fat. Yes, fat. Pancetta renderings. Also, this dish is salty. Also, it is fucking delicious. Whether you're a gruel lover or player hater, I'm pretty sure you'll like this hash. If you're a vegetarian, I feel sad for you, because not eating this hash is a real loss. And I fear that a vegetarian version of this would...well, I fear it would suck, frankly. See "pancetta renderings," above.
But all you no-gruel-for-brunchers should try this at home: Dice and sauté some pancetta, potatoes, onion, and asparagus. Serve with a sunny-side-up egg on top, as I did for brunch this morning, or eat it unadorned, as I will for lunch tomorrow.
Asparagus Pancetta Hash
From Smitten Kitchen
Makes enough to top with four eggs
¼ pound pancetta, cut into ¼-inch dice
Olive or canola oil
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into a ½-inch dice
1 small yellow onion, chopped small
½ pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch segments
1. Heat a 12-inch or larger frying pan over medium heat. Fry the pancetta, turning it frequently so that it browns and crisps on all sides; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan.
2. If necessary, add some oil to the pan, enough so that between the pancetta renderings and the oil the bottom of the pan is coated (depending on how fatty your pancetta is or how well seasoned your pan is, you may not need any oil at all). Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and let cook on one side without moving until they’ve started to brown underneath, then begin flipping and turning them, letting them cook again for a few minutes between turns, until they’re close to being browned on all sides, about 15 minutes.
3. When the potatoes are almost as crisped and brown as you’d like them, add the onion (if added too early, the onion will burn). Cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked through and nicely browned.
4. Add the asparagus, cover the pan, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender but still crisp. Remove the lid and return the pancetta to the pan for another minute to reheat. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed, then serve.