Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Alex Special

My parents owned a Chinese restaurant when I was growing up. Being the dutiful children we were, we worked at the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights every weekend except Sundays which was the only day the restaurant was closed. Sundays were reserved for our little mini Disney World. Just about every year we would get season passes to some Orlando theme park, mostly Disney World, and go there EVERY weekend. We loved it. On those special Sunday mornings we would often go to Shoney's located at the hotel across the street from our neighborhood for their morning breakfast buffets before driving an hour to Orlando to the "happiest place on earth." For those of you that don't know, Shoney's is sort of an 'All American' restaurant popular in the south in the 90's. Was there anything really fabulous about this breakfast buffet? No, just your typical breakfast foods. But they DID have grits, and you already know how much I love grits.

My oldest brother Alex, would almost always get the same thing. He would pile on a healthy helping of grits, throw on some home fries and top it all with some strange yellow 'cheese sauce' (which I'm not at all sure had an once of real cheese in to begin with). My middle brother Allen, and I would follow our oldest brother's lead - our Disney World fuel of choice. This strange, now somewhat disgusting original breakfast combo is what inspired this grown-up, dare I say it, gourmet version of what I lovingly now call, the Alex Special.

We headed to Alex's house this year for Christmas so I decided to make this dish for the one person it's named for. It was a big hit for Christmas breakfast!

Another great part about the 'Alex Special' is that it is great for using up leftover vegetables, potatoes in particular. I never usually make this unless I had leftover potatoes from dinner the night before. Any breakfast that takes more than 30 minutes to assemble just isn't really within my morning mental capacity.

The Alex Special
Makes 4-6 servings
Cheese Grits
4 c. water
1 c. quick grits (not instant, please!)
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
1.5 c. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (extra for sprinkling)

4-6 c. roasted yukon gold potatoes, cubed (about 3-5 lbs.)
1 roasted large yellow onion, optional
6 slices bacon, precooked
1.5 c. sliced mushrooms
1/3 c. green onions, sliced
1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1 egg per person

Bring water to a boil. Salt the water and wisk in grits slowly to avoid getting lumps. Cover and let simmer whisking every few minutes to make sure the grits don't settle and everyone gets cooked evenly. After about 6 minutes when the grits are creamy, throw in the butter and stir until melted.

Add the shredded cheese and mix in until blended. If there are some chunks of unmelted cheese, it'll make someone's (Christmas) breakfast even that more special, mmmmmmmmmm.

Take leftover potatoes and onions and toss in a skillet with bacon and mushrooms.

Heat on medium heat until everyone is warmed through, about 7 minutes.

Throw in the green onions and parsley last.

Turn the burner off and let the hash sit in the pan while you cook the eggs. This gives the green onions a chance to cook a tiny bit without the parsley losing its color.

I just throw an egg on top, sunny side up (don't forget to salt & pepper your eggs!).

To plate, lay down a creamy bed of cheese grits first. Pile on some potato bacon hash, sprinkle w/ more cheese. Throw an egg on top. More cheese. More cheese. More cheeeese. Mmmmm.

Be still my heart.


Here Alex is demonstrating the reaction you should expect:

Note: If you're making potatoes the night before (which I highly suggest - who wants to get up at 6am to bake potatoes?), just cut potatoes and the onion into 1" cubes - toss with about 2-3 tsp. olive oil and 1.5 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper.

Bake at 425F for 30 minutes until fork tender.

I always use the Costco pre-cooked bacon as a shortcut but if you're using raw bacon, slice the bacon and start in a large cool pan or skillet on medium heat. After it's browned, remove the bacon and pour off the excess bacon grease but leave whatever sticks in the pan. Heat the potatoes and onions in the same pan and proceed as above, just add the bacon back in after the potatoes are heated through.

This is what you can expect after the second helping:

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