When I first moved in with Jim he had about 50 pots and pans. If you include the lids I promise I am not exaggerating. His angle was that he could cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner without ever washing a single pan as he went. Can you imagine that horror show? I can’t. On a regular day Jim uses a spectacular number of dishes when he cooks, so it’s best to limit his options.
Now, the oddity here is that Jim is the master of ‘Bucket Food’. This means he likes to make an entire meal that can be served from a single pot (or bucket if you’re expecting a crowd). But in spite of that simple dining concept somehow those 49 other pots, pans and lids have some other involvement in the meal. And you absolutely cannot clean up behind the man. He won’t stand for it. “I’m still using that. Did you clean that up? Why? Why? Baby, can you get out of the kitchen?”
So, what is bucket food? It is not a derogatory term, it is shrimp etouffe, chili, stew, gumbo, jambalaya. A lot of the recipes for Jim’s bucket food comes from something we refer to as “the meat skirt.” This involves comments like “Have you looked in the meat skirt?” “Did meat skirt make this?” Meat skirt is a Paul Prudhomme cookbook from 1984. If you have a copy of this cookbook, and everything in it is very good and fool-proof, you already know the author is wearing what appears to be a skirt made of sausage and chicken with crab accessories. I pulled the book out to accurately document Paul’s accouterments for this blog entry and Jim walked by and excitedly asked “Oooooh are you making something from the meat skirt?” So, I highly recommend the meat skirt; it elicits what can only be described as squeals of joy from my spouse.
I have managed to whittle down the pot collection, for which I receive a lot of teasing, because once every three years or so we “need” two mandolines. If we are missing some key cooking tool I am, of course, told that I forced him to give “insert cooking tool name here” away, as if I chucked his record collection, which I have not.
Jim has perfected what he refers to as “my world famous breakfast potatoes.” I’m not sure where else they are famous but they are extremely popular in this house. This recipe was born from an annual man camping trip. That’s 30 dudes in tents, drinking, fishing, drinking, doing manly manual labor, drinking, some of them shooting guns and cooking bucket food and an array of meats. Jim came back determined to perfect his take on this staple of the trip’s annual menu. His are really good, lots of caramelization. But the problem we had was he couldn’t cook enough of them to satisfy our appetites for them. Pan over crowding is the death of a crispy hash brown. So, this year for Christmas the kids decided to get him a special new breakfast potato pan. I believe it was a similar sentiment to when they got me an ice cream maker for my birthday. Helping him restock his pilfered arsenal we got him a 14” diameter cast iron pan. It is a behemoth, it takes two hands to lift and it’s so large we cannot store it in a regular kitchen cabinet. But it gives Jim great joy and now he can make enough potatoes to satisfy us all.
Jim’s World Famous Breakfast Potatoes - Serves 4
4 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tbs. olive oil
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1 yellow onion
Salt and pepper
A few dashes of cayenne
Slice the onions and potatoes thinly (about 1/8”), on a mandoline, if you have one. Heat 1/2 of the butter and the oil in a cast iron skillet. Saute the onions over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until they start to brown. Add in the potatoes, salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir occasionally. You are trying to get them copper brown and even a little burny, so you don‘t have to stir them often, about every 5 minutes. About 1/2 way through you will need to add the additional butter. Continue until the potatoes are al dente but with a good char, about 20-30 minutes longer.
Note: The key to this dish isn’t so much a special secret ingredient but time, patience, temperature and a very large pan. I also very much enjoy mine with sriracha and a poached egg on top.