Weekend brunches with family or friends feature heavily in “moments that matter”. With a delicious dish of crispy smashed potatoes, pancetta, and a poached egg, those moments will matter so much more.
Although the idea for this dish originated from a Bon Appétit recipe, it ended up evolving into something quite different. And in my clearly biased perspective, much more interesting!
Potato crisps up so well, whether chips/fries, hash browns, or something a little less “prepared” like these boiled, smashed, and crisped baby potatoes. Potatoes though need something to help bring out their qualities. It may be a tomato sauce and a beer. Or in the case of this recipe, mushrooms, pancetta, and spinach. The poached egg adds an additional luxurious dimension.
This Mediterranean inspired dish has an Asian inspired counterpart on delectabilia: the grilled eggplant, spinach, and quail eggs on soba noodles. OK, so there are not so many ingredients in common. However, they both work so well as a brunch or lunch dish.
While the pancetta helps with the bacon eggs and hash brown nostalgia, it could be replaced by actual bacon. Omit it all together for a tasty vegetarian crispy smashed potatoes dish. And be sure there is an ample supply of good coffee, Champagne, or Pinot Noir.
Although well suited to a brunch or lunch, this crispy smashed potato dish, and the soba noodles too, are delicious any time of day.
Smashed and crisped potatoes. Mushrooms, pancetta, wilted spinach, and poached egg
- 1 kg small potatoes 15 – 30 mm diameter
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 100 g pancetta
- 4 cloves garlic
- 150 g button mushrooms
- 250 g fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 4 eggs
- a sprinkling of pepper
- a sprinkling of smoked paprika
- Cook the eggs with an immersion circulator (sous vide) at 63 degC for 60 minutes.
- Alternatively, if you don’t have a sous vide setup, cook the eggs at 75 degC for 13 minutes. Use a digital thermometer and be careful to keep the water as close as possible to 75 degC. The margins of error with this method are so much less than with sous vide. It would pay to do a test or two first.
- Plunge the cooked eggs into ice water to stop the cooking, then keep at room temperature until ready to serve.
- Scrub the potatoes well and trim any dodgy bits. Do not peel.
- Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool in a colander.
- Clean and dice the mushrooms.
- Crush or finely dice the garlic.
- Chop the pancetta into bite sized pieces.
- Wash the spinach and allow to drain in a colander.
- Add a Tbsp of oil to a hot skillet and sauté the mushrooms until any expelled moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms just start to brown.
- Add the garlic and pancetta and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer mushrooms and pancetta to a bowl.
- Pre heat the oven to 130 deg C.
- When the potatoes have cooled, use a side of a large knife to press each one flat. Should be about 5mm thick.
- Heat the 2 Tbsp oil in the skillet over a high heat.
- Carefully transfer the flattened potatoes to the skillet. Don’t crown them, do in several batches.
- Once the first side has browned, carefully flip them over and brown the other side.
- Allow to drain on paper towels then transfer to the oven to keep warm.
- When all the potatoes have been crisped, wipe out the skillet.
- Over a medium heat, add the mushrooms and pancetta, then the spinach. Stir fry until the spinach has wilted, but still has a little structure to it.
- To plate, add some of the wilted spinach, top with some crisped potatoes.
- Break the eggs over a perforated spoon to allow the loose white to drain away.
- Clear a space in the centre and add a poached egg. Sprinkle with some pepper or smoked paprika.