Now that the chilly, misty mornings that are par for the course for Seattle fall are here, I welcome them for the opportunity for some serious cooking therapy. Today was one of those days, much needed after three weeks of work and family crises. So when my husband took our girls out for a walk, I opted to stay at home, crank up my iTunes library, and exercise my long-ignored creative cooking muscles. In other words, I dived in with very little plan, figuring something will work itself out in the end.
With tons of potatoes from our CSA, I knew I wanted to make a hash. On my dinner rotation is a hash of crispy potatoes under a mixture of chicken, pesto, mushrooms, and spinach or roasted broccoli, topped with melted cheese. I automatically took a container of pesto out of my freezer to thaw, but not having many of the other ingredients on hand, I opted to swap the chicken for some apple sage vegan sausage, and took out some kale to add some kind of green vegetable to the mix. While looking in the fridge, I decided to take out some shredded parsnips, leftover from the spiced parsnip babycakes that I was making for a preschool Halloween party because I couldn’t think of what else I would use those for this week.
I started cooking the potatoes in one pan and the crumbled sausage in the other, but something just didn’t feel right. I needed to edit down my ingredients. I decided to hone in on the sausage and the parsnips because both could have a sweet and savory element that could play off of each other. And after that, things started to click into place. I put away the pesto, figuring that the sage in the sausage would either be overpowered or at the least, get nothing from the basil in the pesto. The kale seemed like one vegetable too many, but that hash could use some more aromatics in the form of leeks and fennel, both sitting in my fridge with no particular plans to use this week. And since the sausage had apple and sage in it, why not add some cheddar to the Monterey jack cheese I was planning for the top of the hash since cheddar is such a natural playmate for those flavors.
This hash had a great mix of textures: crispy, salty potatoes, parsnip ribbons that were still slightly crisp, gooey melted cheese. There was a hint of sweetness from the parsnips and the apple in the sausage but it was balanced by the boldness of the sage. The adults in our household devoured it– believe me, it’s even better with a drizzle of Sriracha. The kids? Well, not so much: our preschooler ate half of it with minimal prodding, but our 6-year-old barely ate a forkful at lunch and was not pleased when her plate was returned to her as a snack later that afternoon. I know that I said that I would post about what was generally liked by both our kids and my husband and me, but I don’t care– that 45 minutes was the first time in weeks that I felt like myself again and I want to remember that feeling and carry it with me to give me strength when needed.
1.5 lbs potatoes (red skin or Yukon golds)
Apple sage sausage (I used vegan Field Roast, but I bet chicken-apple sausage would be tasty too.)
Half a medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 medium leek, trimmed of dark green and root ends, thinly sliced, and placed in a bowl of water to clean off dirt.
1/4 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced crosswise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup shredded parsnip (about 1 medium parsnip)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
1 cup mix of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Put potatoes in the bottom of a big pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and continue boiling for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Drain and let cool until you can touch them. Dice potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover the bottom of a 12 inch skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high until oil is shiny and slick. Add the potatoes and spread them out so they’re in a single layer. Let cook undisturbed for 10 minutes then flip them over with a spatula. Potatoes should be golden brown on one side. Continue cooking undisturbed for another 5-7 minutes, adjusting heat if necessary to keep potatoes from burning. Stir around again, then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crispy golden on most sides but still tender in the middle.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of canola oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Crumble sausage and cook until browned. Add diced onion and garlic and cook until onion softens, about 5-7 minutes. Scoop up the sliced leeks so that you leave any dirt behind in the bowl of water and add the leeks and fennel to the sausage and onion mixture. Continue to cook until fennel is softened, another 5-7 minutes. Add the shredded parsnip and mix in, seasoning with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for just 3-4 minutes or until parsnip has wilted slightly but is still crisp tender.
Add the sausage mixture to the potatoes and mix until combined. Top with shredded cheese then bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese has melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away. Who am I to judge if you want to add a fried egg with a runny yolk on top of each serving?
Makes 6 servings
CSA Count: 4 (potatoes, parsnip, fennel, leek)
Kid rating (out of 2 empty plates): 1/2 (1.5 if you count the cleaned plate after what was essentially 7 hours of not eating and bribed with a cracker)
Note for the working parent: You can boil the potatoes the night before, cool them, then store in the refrigerator overnight. Dice up the cold potatoes and proceed with directions as written for a dinner that should come together in roughly 30-40 minutes.