I was folding towels on the counter when I looked in the mirror and noticed, over my shoulder, the small white stool pushed in the corner of the bathroom. It has been, for I don't know how long, maybe as long as we've been in this house, the stool the boys use when they're brushing their teeth, or washing their hands, or filling up a cup of water to drink. That stool makes a creaking scrape of a sound as it's pulled across the floor, which is amplified by the shower tile, so, in the middle of the night, you're always notified when someone short is thirsty.
It's not been used in months. The boys are taller, getting so much so that there are times I have to squint to see the baby in their faces. This whole growing up business happens both in secret little bursts and slow, steady progress. It seems persistent and yet surprising that they're getting bigger, and it's all of a sudden May and the school year's almost over.
With the impressive headway into big personhood my sons are making, they've got their own schedules, ideas, homework, playdates, and plans that need managing, along with my own, to make up the hectic that fills up our minutes. (For the record, I don't understand how people function with only calendars on their phone. I'm a pen and paper sort, and am lost without a hard copy to keep track. )
In response, I made breakfast. A hot breakfast, a full-flavoured, full-bellied assignment, as one does. A celery root and potato rösti with Gruyère and eggs. The recipe came to me by way of Caroline Wright's new book, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals.
Though her recipe feeds four, I split the portion to feed one and three, respectively. For me, I nicked a generous handful of the celeriac potato strands and pressed it into a small skillet, while I took the remainder of the mixture and, as per instruction, cooked that in a larger skillet alongside. When mine was done, an egg was cracked and slid on top, then the Gruyère, and a generous seasoning of pepper. Under the broiler it went, until the white was set. The egg white, left to its own devices for that blasting, eked its way into the nooks and gaps of the rösti, filling in those spaces, and melding into a chewy, brown edge with the vegetables and cheese.
That's not to say that the rösti itself is a slouch. It isn't. In the pan, the combination of potato and celery root turns solidly golden and interesting, with the grassy notes of the celery coming through and going nutty. The method of its making is fuss-free, yet the rösti approaches elegant.
Since I am happiest when there's greens with eggs, I couldn't help but pinch some twisty leaves of frisée from the crisper and snag some bacon too. The sharpness of the endive balanced out the sweetness of the celery root and the stodge of the potato and the richness of the egg and cheese. The salty crunch of the bacon brought another texture, and, come on, there's not need of convincing. It's bacon and eggs and potatoes and cheese. It's an easy sell.
Can I confess? It felt like cheating. Here I was, in the funny light before the sun is properly up, I'm in the backyard eating a feast of a breakfast, on a weekday no less, and everyone else's lunch? Pretty much taken care of! Already! All I had to do was rewarm the larger rösti I'd made, crack some eggs, dress some greens, and, done.
Caroline's whole book gives you the feeling you're getting away with something, like you're already ahead before the game's even started. It delivers quick, straightforward recipes with glance-and-you've-got-them instructions, plus tons of chatty substitutions, suggestions and tips. She's like the girl in high school that seemed to always have it together, who knew where to hang out on Friday night, or listened to the coolest music that nobody had ever heard of, and always had perfect hair. (I was not that girl.)
CELERY ROOT RÖSTI WITH GRUYÈRE + EGGS
Excerpted from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals (©2013) by Caroline Wright. My congratulations and cheers to Caroline upon its release. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York, all rights reserved.
The recipe here is reformatted from as it appears in the book.
- 1 small peeled celery root (celeriac), about 10 ounces
- 1 medium peeled potato
- 1 tablespoons cornstarch
- Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper, for seasoning
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 large eggs
- 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
Preheat the broiler with a rack in the top position. Coarsely grate the celery root and potato into a medium bowl; toss with cornstarch and rosemary. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery root mixture, pat it into a large pancake, and cook until browned on the underside, 5 to 7 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a plate, then carefully flip it back into the skillet to brown the other side, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Crack eggs on top of the pancake, sprinkle with Gruyère, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly and the egg whites are set, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Caroline suggests another combination of parsnip with thyme and Parmesan.
- In my laziness, I grated the potato and celery root in the food processor, which makes quick work of the job, but will leave the vegetables damp. I sprinkled the shreds over a lint-free tea towel and then folded the towel over, pressing out the liquid. I came back about 5 minutes later, fluffed up the strands, and they were dry and ready to go.
- As said, I tossed some frisée with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and bunched that up on top of the r östi. The bacon happened to be hanging around.