Jungle Spuds

This makes mornings worth waking up for!

When I was growing up, we didn’t always have a lot of stuff. Typical low-socioeconomic status lifestyle. That said, one thing we didn’t really suffer from was hunger. Somehow our mom always knew how to maximize resources to feed her three hungry boys. The same was true whenever we had company. When I think about breakfast time in my childhood home, two things come to mind: Scratch made drop biscuits with sausage gravy and Jungle Spuds. Today’s focus will be the latter.

Jungle Spuds is one of those things that can easily be upsized or downsized depending on how many mouths there are to feed. There are only two limiting factors: your imagination and what leftovers are in your refrigerator. I’m not sure how many times we made this while I was growing up, but I’m quite certain no two batches were ever the same. That’s the beauty of this dish. While the foundational ingredients, eggs and potatoes, are always represented, beyond that there really are no rules.

The Foundation: Eggs and Potatoes

For the eggs, they are always scrambled. I recall many times using a whole dozen. Once they are scrambled. All sorts of items from the cupboards get added. You pick. A little of this a little of that. I like Worcestershire every time. Usually some garlic powder, red pepper flakes along with salt and pepper. Hot sauce can be added here, or at plating. Or both, whatever! The potatoes I grew up eating were always sliced and fried from raw. In the recipe that follows, you’ll see I used left over baked potatoes. I actually prefer this, but it is a little tougher to get a crisp on them. Other great potato options would be canned potatoes, frozen hash browns, or tater tots. Hell, mix them all up!

Once you have the foundation laid, the fun can really begin. Options are, as I mentioned earlier, endless. For me, garlic and onion are must haves. Then raid the fridge. Start with veggies. How about spinach or kale, maybe some left over mixed veggies. Leftover asparagus would be excellent in there. Mushrooms, any and all kinds. Fresh, canned, whatever. Veggies are great at breakfast, too!

Meat. Lets see, here are the leftover meats I recall eating in Jungle Spuds growing up: bacon, ham, bratwurst, steak, pork chops, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, Little Smokies, pepperoni. Now that I do a lot of BBQ, I can see left over pulled pork, brisket, and chicken all participating.

Each of these ingredients adding to the food symphony that is Jungle Spuds. Top it off with some cheese. What kind you ask? Whatever you got! Add them all, you won’t be judged by me!

One last piece of advice, use cast iron. It just makes everything better. For me it’s nostalgic, but it really works well. It also can be used for open fires, grills, smokers and ovens. What would you use anything else.

Ok, so here’s what I did today. I started out with a 12 inch Lodge cast iron skillet. Over medium high heat, I melted some bacon fat I found in the fridge. I’m just getting started and I’m already winning! Tossed in a chopped onion and cooked it until it just started to brown on the edges. At that point I added baby bella mushrooms and chopped garlic. I broke down 3 baked potatoes into half-inch dice and tossed them in to warm up.

Grabbed six eggs, beat them with salt, pepper and Worcestershire. I tossed in a handful of grated parmesan cheese. Once the potatoes were hot, I added the egg mixture. This is where another difference between my mom’s version and mine come into play. She would cook this on the stove top, stirring until the eggs were set, topping with cheese and serving. For my dish this morning, I opted to not stir and placed the skillet into a preheated 450 degree oven. Once the eggs were done and started to brown on top, I hit with some shredded cheese, and popped it back into the over to melt. I cut wedges and served up it with a dollop of sour cream.  What an awesome dish.

This is food diversity. It’s also an extremely tasty way to clear out left overs. Don’t be shy with this. Don’t make a plan. Just get your foundation laid, and start adding whatever bricks you can find. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I know I never have. One last thing, it’s been known to cure some ferocious hangovers, too…err that’s what I’ve been told…

Big Green Ern’s Breakfast Bake

This was the version I made on Sep 2, 2017. No meat in this one. This fed my wife, two of my three boys, and I and had two portions for this week. Leftover, leftovers, I guess.

Bacon fat (Olive or vegetable oil would work, but why would you?)
2 Baked Potatoes (Great use for leftovers)
6 eggs
1/4 cup onion diced
2 cloves Garlic chopped
1 cup mushrooms sliced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Sour cream
Melt bacon fat in a 12″ cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sauté onions until soft and starting to brown at the edges. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and potatoes. Stir gently as the potatoes are tender. Heat through and brown them a little if you can.
Scramble eggs in a bowl, add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan. Stir to combine. Here is where Mom’s Jungle Spuds and my dish differ. I don’t stir in the eggs. The potatoes are too fragile. Pour egg mixture over the potatoes. This process creates a more pie-like or custard like texture, which I like.  Place the cast iron into a preheated 450° oven. Bake until eggs are set and are golden on top. About 10-12 minutes. Top with shredded cheese and return to oven until melted. Garnish chopped parsley and serve with sour cream.
This is a fun dish to keep close at hand for weekend mornings. It can be spicy or bland, meaty or vegan. It’s always different, and always good. In a world of rules and order, let this dish become your families delicious chaos.
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