Once the holidays hit, no matter how exhausted I may be from a year of nonstop cooking, I get an 11th-hour wind to cook even more. But instead of my usual meals for one or two, I like to invite friends over for late, lazy breakfasts since most have days off from work and can spare the hours for long naps afterward. And just because Christmas and Thanksgiving are over doesn’t mean I’ve switched into new year diet mode yet. I like to take this last week of the year to indulge myself in hearty fare one last time. This year, I’m striking a balance between both customs by making a veggie-heavy breakfast hash that makes enough for a crowd but is just as easy as cooking for one. Oh, and it just so happens to be bathed in bacon fat.
Now I know that some of you may be turned off by that, but my years of being raised in the South left an indelible taste for bacon fat-coated vegetables, a rich treatment I indulge in only once a year. And while you can use butter or olive oil in its place, the distinctive taste of bacon fat works particularly well with that of the root vegetables I use in the hash: creamy, robust rutabaga and sharp, fresh celery root, both of which are plentiful in the markets now. I toss in mushrooms because I love them, but you can leave them out if they’re not your favorite.
The genius of this hash though, is that it is fully cooked in the oven. There’s no finnicky turning and flipping in a skillet, trying in vain to contain the mass of veggies as they surely go spilling over the edge, causing you to curse having to clean your stove top again. The veggies get steamed on a baking sheet to get them tender before getting blanketed with thick-cut bacon, which bastes the root vegetables in their fat as they render and cook. A final blast of high heat gets the edges crisp and sizzling.
I stir in baby greens in the end to atone for my choice of fat and serve the whole melange piping hot with a fried egg on top and sharp pickled onions I threw together while the hash baked. It’s a hearty breakfast to end the year on, one that satisfies my need to cook just one more big meal in bold fashion while retaining the ease necessary for this brief respite before the new year, and new work, gears up.
Bacon-Basted Root Vegetable Hash
2 1/2 hours, largely unattended. Serves 6 to 8.
If you want to make this hash vegetarian-friendly, simply omit the bacon and toss the vegetables with 1/2 cup olive oil or melted butter in Step 3. Then cook the vegetables for 1 hour at 425 degrees or until they’re as crispy at the edges as you like.
- 3 pounds rutabaga (about 3 medium), trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (2 1/4 pounds)
- 1 1/2 pounds celery root (about 2 medium), trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (10 ounces)
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms, halved or torn into bite-size pieces
- 4 sprigs rosemary or 8 sprigs thyme or a mix of both
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
- 12 ounces thick-cut bacon (14 to 16 slices)
- 4 cups mixed hearty salad greens
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 to 8 fried eggs
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, combine the rutabaga, celery root and mushrooms and toss to mix. Spread the vegetables into an even layer then place the herb sprigs evenly over the top. Cover the pan with foil, crimping the edges shut and bake for 1 hour.
- While the vegetables bake, make the pickled onions: Combine the onions, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until softened, at least 1 hour. The onions can be made up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Uncover the pan and discard the foil; increase the heat to 425 degrees. Arrange the bacon slices evenly over the vegetables in a single layer then cook until the bacon is cooked through, about 30 minutes (it will not be crisp). Using tongs, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and keep warm; increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Use a flat metal spatula to gently flip and redistribute the veggies and herb sprigs, ensuring they’re coated in the bacon fat. Return the pan to the oven and cook the vegetables, flipping once halfway through, until brown and crusty, 35 to 40 minutes longer. (Add the bacon back on top of the vegetables for the last 10 minutes of cooking if you want more well-done bacon.)
- Remove the pan from the oven, remove the herb sprigs and stir the greens into the veggies while they’re hot so they wilt slightly. Season the hash with salt and pepper and serve it while hot, topped with an egg and some pickled onions.