It can’t be just me who thinks that starting the day with a big bowl of “gruel” after a glorious sleep in the back country is paramount to culinary treason. Sure there are loads of calories, carbs and flavor in a bowl of oatmeal. Actually, there is absolutely no flavor in a bowl of oatmeal – unless you add sugar and loads of other stuff. And all those sugar and carbs just starts you out with a big insulin spike and sets you into sugar burning mode. That means as soon as those carbs are burned up, you’re going to be hungry again. I would much rather start the day with a breakfast that kicks some hunger ass, packs a nutritious punch, tastes awesome and rockets me into solid fat-burning for the day.
On a hike of the La Cloche Silhouette in Killarney Provincial Park in May I tried out a new back country recipe on my (second) favorite hiking companions. I called it breakfast hash. To my friends in Washington and Colorado the sound of “breakfast hash” may have different meaning, but for me the words mean sunny side up eggs poached in seasoned sweet potatoes, bacon and pork sausage, mushrooms, onions and asparagus.
Making a great back country breakfast hash is easy if you follow a few basic steps:
1. Pick your protein – I always start with bacon. Always. I render the fat out of the bacon at low heat for a long time. You want as much fat out as possible. Once the bacon is crisp, add your secondary protein, which could be ground pork or turkey, a great breakfast sausage or perhaps a chorizo. Use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to break up the meat into equal-size pieces as it cooks. This ensures that all the pieces cook evenly. Once meat is thoroughly cooked remove to a metal strainer and rinse under warm water to remove all the fat. It breaks my heart doing this step but it is essential as fat doesn’t dehydrate and spoils quickly. Once fat has been rinsed off, allow meat to drain.
2. Time for the flavor base – Onion is the most common aromatic vegetable I use, but you can sub in leeks and garlic, or a combination of all three. Cook them right in the bits of bacon fat left in the skillet until they’re softened and browned.
3. Add a starch or two – The starch base doesn’t have to be regular white potato. In fact, you can use any starchy veggies like roasted sweet potato, sliced parsnip, fresh pumpkin, or butternut squash. Once the flavor base (leeks and onions) are brown and aromatic, add the uniformly cut cubes of whichever starches you choose. Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium.
4. Don’t forget the veggies – For me, this is where mushrooms take the stage. I love mushrooms, especially shittake and crumini. Simply cut the mushrooms uniformly, add them to the pan and stir into the starch. Along with mushrooms I like asparagus, brussel sprouts, arugula, spinach and kale and sometimes even cauliflower. Once the veggies are nicely browned, return the protein to the pan, increase heat to medium high. Add chicken stock to mixture and cook until liquid has reduced to almost nothing. Now it’s ready for the dehydrator. See the recipe below for full dehydrating and cooking instructions.
5. Better put an egg or two on top – I top my hash with a couple of farm fresh eggs poached in sautéed spinach when I’m at home but in the back country simply drop fresh eggs into the simmering, re-hydrated hash, season with salt and pepper, cover and then don’t touch it for two – three minutes.
Kitchen Cook Time and Prep: This recipe makes enough hash for 4 back country servings and takes about 25 minutes to prepare.
Tools: You will need a large fry pan to cook with. In the back country you will need a stove and a small light fry pan, like the one I have in the picture. A spoon or spork would be helpful.
Back Country-What to Expect: I use the MSR MicroRocket Stove when I hike and I love it. My only complaint is that the heat dispersal over a wide surface, such as my 9 inch titanium fry pan is not that great. Poaching the eggs evenly requires you to move the pan around a little while cooking.
NOTE: I recently discovered that unlike freeze-dried commercial meals, home dehydrated meals will reconstitute after a couple hours in cold water. Stick your next meal in a water-tight container with some cold water and when you stop for lunch or dinner you only need enough fuel to warm up the meal. This technique allowed me to prepare three meals per day for four people for four days on one 13oz fuel canister. I’d call that a win!
Try this recipe out, let me know if you have any questions or comments below, and make sure you share this recipe with your friends that love a big breakfast and the back country.
Back country preparation is super easy. First allow the hash to cool down to almost room temperature. Once cool, pour 1½ - 2 cups of mixture onto the drying sheet lined dehydrator tray. Use the meat setting (155-165 degrees) for this dish and allow to dry for 10-12 hours, overnight usually will do it. Drying time will depend on many factors, including the thickness of the sweet potatoes.
Once completely dry break into to small pieces.
Store in resealable vacuum seal bags. I store all my back country meals in the freezer to prevent spoiling. Serves 2
Back Country Meal Prep
Method 1 (the faster way) Add 1½ cups, 12 oz of water to the meal. Reseal and store over night in either your food canister or bag. In the morning the water will have been absorbed by the ingredients and the dish will only need to be reheated. Over medium heat in a small fry pan, allow mixture to begin to boil, reduce heat to low. Make 2-4 "wells" in the mixture and crack a fresh egg into each. You'll notice that you can skip this step if you add 6 eggs because they will just pool everywhere anyway. Cover and allow eggs to poach for 2-5 minutes. Move the pan over the heat to allow for more even cooking.
Method 2. Bring 350ml (1½ cups, 12 oz.) of water to boil. Pour the contents into the pot and boil for 5-7 minutes, or until it looks like it did before you dehydrated it. Once the mixture has been thoroughly re-hydrated, make 2-4 "wells" in the mixture and crack a fresh egg into each. Cover and allow eggs to poach for 2-5 minutes. Move the pan over the heat to allow for more even cooking.