Shameless Chef

The Shameless Chef: A Fistful of Breakfast

You can't mention the concept of breakfast without someone near you piping up that it's the most important meal of the day. Well if it's so damn important, how come I sleep straight through it 95% of the time, Mr. Smarty Pants? And I happen to be in perfect health, if you don't count the bad knees, iffy ankles, respiratory problems after more than two flights of stairs, bouts of blurry kaleidoscopic vision, and occasional numbness on the entire left side of my body.

Still, every now and then, for one reason or another, I am forced to leave my soft, comfy bed before noon, and when that happens, I like a nice, hearty meal to give me the energy I need to make it through the hour and a half before I take an early lunch. I also like a meal that's simple, cooks up quickly, and is customizable to suit my mood. And starches. I do like me some starches.

You will need:

• 6 eggs • 1 sack of frozen hash browns • 1 bag of diced ham • grated cheese • optional: butter, cream, olive oil

This is a good recipe for the dorm-living student, because all you really need to make it is a hot plate or skillet. That is, if you live in one of those dorms where you can cook things without the goddamn smoke alarm going off, because all the smoke alarms are set to Maximum Detection Force in order to catch the stupid kids who try to get away with smoking the reefers indoors. Seriously, you'd think these jackasses would at least go out to their cars, but no, they catch one or two every year. I guess planning ahead is not top priority for potheads. (And those smoke alarms really are more sensitive than that guy from Death Cab For Cutie while he's on his period.)

Anyway, you'll want to spray some no-stick spray in your skillet or else lube it up with some olive oil. If you have space on your stove for two skillets at once, even better; that's what I did and it took barely any time at all. First, get the skillets warmed up on fairly low heat (not more than mark 3 on a 10-mark stove) and lay down the hash browns. You can leave them alone for a little while once they're simmering.

Next, you make some scrambled eggs. I went by this guide here, and they did indeed turn out delightfully fluffy and awesome. I admit I left out the plants, but I followed his egg-cooking instructions to the letter. Still, even if you decide to ignore the lessons of one Gordon Ramsey (presumably because you're deliberately trying to fail or else are dumber than a sack of hammers that only watch Glenn Beck) scrambled eggs are difficult to screw up too badly as long as you don't burn them.

Once the scrambled eggs are done, remove them totally from the heat. That means you put them on a nearby plate or something, because you don't want them to keep cooking lest they release their deadly poison. Your hash browns will still be cooking, so take this opportunity to flip them. Now, take the skillet you made the eggs in and dump in as much ham as you think you'll need, as well as some cheese. Mix that all together on very low heat, just enough to melt the cheese. By this time, your hash browns should be done, so turn all the heat off, remove everything from all heat sources, and start your layering.

A good casserole and a good haircut have one thing in common, and that is: good layering. The hash browns are your base. Spread the scrambled eggs on top of that, then add the ham and cheese. That's it. It's ready to serve right this second.

The great thing about this dish is its propensity for customization. You can throw on some picante sauce or some onions or some refried beans. You can use sausage or bacon instead of ham if you wanted to. It goes great with hot sauce and/or ketchup, and probably wouldn't be bad with spicy mustard or malt vinegar or Jack Daniels or whatever the hell else you've got laying around. Cook up a big batch for the family one morning and let each member tinker with it to their heart's content. Do me a favor and don't let anybody get too weird with it, though. If I hear some dumb bastard complaining about how this dish sucked and I find out he added black olives, anchovies and pineapples to it like he was making a goddamn pizza, there will be violence handed out. I've got one of those big metal spatulas and it can dish out quite a swat.

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John Seaborn Gray