Adding a cast iron skillet to my camping tool box this year completely changed my campfire breakfast game. In previous years, camping breakfast used to be instant coffee, bacon, and some hard-boiled eggs from home. Sometimes it was just oatmeal or a granola bar. There’s still instant coffee, but with the skillet I can now make eggs, which makes a big difference.
This trip, I even made hash browns, one of my favorite breakfast foods. At home, I love to make hash browns with cheese and poached eggs on the weekends. I put a thin layer of corn, peanut, or whatever other frying oil I have on hand (but not olive oil) in the bottom of a large skillet. I use whatever potatoes I have on hand at the time – sometimes it’s frozen hash browns, other times the hash brown shreds you can get in the refrigerator section, and when I don’t have either of those and I’m really desperate, I just peel and grate up whatever whole potatoes I have on hand. I drop the shreds in an even later over the bottom, piling them up a little bit (they will shrink down a ton as they cook) and sprinkle with salt. I let them cook over medium heat, pressing them down and squishing it all into a patty as it fries. Once it is all golden brown and holding together, I flip the whole patty over, cook until crispy and golden on the other side, then top with cheese and serve with poached or fried eggs. It is like eating a glorious, giant, cheesy potato chip.
My usual technique wasn’t going to work at the camp site, so I modified it a bit. I cooked some back on a grate high over the fire, using a grill mat to avoid flare ups leading to charred bacon, which I have dealt with in the past. My uncle brought grill mats to the shore this year (used to cook the steaks for Shore Surf and Turf – Fluke Ceviche and Skirt and Flank Steak) and they worked well, so my parents ordered a set and gave me one of the mats. You have to be careful that they don’t get too hot, or they will melt, but mine did fine even with some direct flames beneath it. I reserved one slice and cooked that in the skillet, to get some nice fat in there for the hash browns. I also added a little butter, then threw in half a bag of refrigerated potato shreds. I seasoned with some salt and garlic powder from the spice missile (see picture in Campfire Steak) and let them cook, stirring occasionally. Once they seemed cooked and mostly golden brown, I threw two slices of American cheese on top, then pushed them over to one side of the pan so I could fry the eggs in the other. As soon as the eggs were done, I pulled the bacon off the grate and served everything together. The hash browns may not have been the style I usually make at home, but they had a nice smokiness, and eating outside with a view of a lake was hard to beat.