Mar 2, 2010

Meatless on the Super Cheap & Easy

Last week started what I think will be a series of meatless meals. Because of Lent, most people I know are seeking out meatless dishes.  At work, at home, on the phone with relatives...conversations lately tend to start with "whatcha cookin' Friday?"

These conversations recently taught me about a dish that some of the older Cajun ladies I work with make. They simply called it "Eggs & Rice." My coworker, Miss Shirley, explained that she adds leftover cooked rice to scrambled eggs. Maybe some sautéed onions find their way in if she feels like it. She described it as almost a rice dressing with large pieces of scrambled eggs. While she talked, other people were nodding and commenting "mamma used to make that."  I later found out that my mother-in-law used to make this during Lent.  Probably not a surprise that I study--I mean really study Cajun & Creole cookbooks, especially old obscure ones.  I've never come across a written recipe for this. Not that one is needed.  It's an easy, inexpensive thing to make with items you already have.

My mom and I were talking a few days ago about things her mother and grandmothers made during Lent. I mentioned Eggs & Rice and she told me she ate it growing up. She added that Eggs & Potatoes was her answer to Eggs & Rice since she likes potatoes more. (My mom, a South Louisiana native, is not a huge fan of rice.  I should hang my head now.)

I may not have found any info on Eggs & Rice, but a quick bit of research from my own bookshelf pulled up mention of Eggs & Potatoes.  Who knew?!

I dug through my favorite source of info on Louisiana foods--Stir the Pot: The History of Cajun Cuisine.  The lead author is Marcelle Bienvenu, who is a food writer, cookbook author, source of info for Emeril, and considered to be the "Queen of Cajun cooking."  And she's not paying me to say any of this...she doesn't even know I exist.  Ms. Bienvenu states, "On meatless days of the Roman Catholic calendar, bayou and prairie Cajuns usually ate eggs" (96).   She goes on to write that two people interviewed from Acadia Parish remembered "early twentieth-century prairie Cajun cooks generally served either egg and potato stew with a roux base over rice, or...smothered potatoes and scrambled eggs" (Bienvenu 97).

So my mom's not weird after all!

I decided to ask mom how to make Eggs & Potatoes since I've been thinking about it lately.  As expected, I got no measurements and sketchy instructions.
"Cook the potatoes like you do. You know, with the onions"
"You know, those potatoes you made last time you were here."
"Oh, ok. Brabant Potatoes."
"Yeah, I guess that's it.  Then add the scrambled egg."
She meant season and whisk up some eggs, pour it in, and scramble.

I made it last week. It wasn't quite like I remembered eating growing up, but close.
A couple of things happened.
First, while I was making this I thought about all the possibilities: adding cheese, mushrooms, bell pepper, cooked asparagus, bacon (wait, then it wouldn't be meatless).

Second, and here's the joke...which is on me.  You may have even figured it out.  Mom's Eggs & Potatoes is just the basics of a Spanish frittata.

I'm not good at math. 
It even takes me a while to put two and two together.

Mise en place for Mom's Eggs & Potatoes: well, you'll definitely need some eggs and potatoes!  Also onion, Creole Seasoning, butter (not the whole stick, don't worry), oil.
I also added a splash of milk and some salt and pepper to the eggs.

I think part of the charm of this dish is that it uses things you probably already have and it's flexible.

Treat the potatoes like Brabant Potatoes (one of my favorite ways to eat potatoes). 
Place the peeled, cubed potatoes in a skillet and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until slightly tender.  
Don't waste time!  Chop the onions and whisk the eggs while the potatoes par-boil.

Drain the potatoes and wipe out the skillet.  This is my attempt to reduce dirty dishes.  Heat oil, butter, or a mix of both in the skillet.  Add the potatoes and onions to the hot skillet and cook until both are browned.  Season with Creole seasoning.  If I'm eating Brabant Potatoes, I like to slice the onions.  In this, I like them chopped.  Why?  Shrug.  Just Because.

Spread the potatoes & onions out in the pan.

If you still haven't worked on the eggs...watcha waitin' for?!  Git-on-it!
I like to season with salt, pepper, and add a splash of milk cream, or half and half.  Here's what I do to get fluffy, perfect scrambled eggs
Thanks, Tyler Florence!

If the pan looks dry, add a little butter so the eggs don't stick.  Lower the heat and pour in the eggs.

You could do a number of things here.  You could treat this like a frittata and lift up on the edges now and then to let the uncooked egg hit the pan.  You could then place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the eggs (if your pan is oven-safe).

I made this on my lunch break, so I felt like mom's non-fussy way was called for: treat this like scrambled eggs and get the food on the table.

It may not be pretty, but it sure was easy, cheap, and brought back some memories.
 Also good for breakfast or brunch.

Mom's Eggs & Potatoes
from Ms. EnPlace

Part 1:
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
water to cover potatoes
2-3 Tbsp oil, butter, or a mix of both
1 small onion, chopped
Creole seasoning

Place potatoes in a skillet and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until slightly tender.  Don't overcook.  While the potatoes simmer, chop the onion and prep the eggs (below).

Drain the potatoes and wipe the pan.  Add 2-3 Tbsp butter, oil, or a combo of each.  Heat on med-high.  Add the potatoes along with the onions to the pan.  Cook until both are browned.  Season with Creole seasoning.

Part 2:
pat of butter
3-4 eggs
splash of milk, half and half, or cream (whatever you have handy)
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk eggs with a splash of milk and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk until foamy and the color lightens.

Once the potatoes and onions are browned to your liking, add another pat of butter to the skillet.  Lower the heat.  When the butter has melted, pour in the eggs.

Cook flat like a frittata, or for fluffier eggs, "fold" the egg mixture.  Using a heat resistant rubber spatula, slowly stir the eggs from the outside of the pan to the center.  When eggs are just about cooked through, turn off the heat.  Serve immediately.  Serves 2-3.

Source consulted:
Bienvenu, Marcelle, Carl A Brasseaux, and Ryan A Brasseaux.  Stir the Pot: The History of Cajun Cuisine. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2005.


  1. Eggs and Potatoes is an awesome meatless meal, and it's filling too! I love how you said you drain the potatoes and wipe the skillet in an attempt to reduce dirty dishes. I started laughing because I do these things all the time! I love these kind of dishes that bring back memories.

  2. We were just talking about this at lunch. Some friday during lent we had Smothered potatoes, scrambles eggs and homemade biscuts. My mouth is watering now......... my mom also cooked egg and rice.

  3. We like to make eggs & potatoes with leftover baked potatoes. Just brown them up in butter and add the eggs. Yum!!!

  4. I had no idea other people ate this! I thought it was just my mom being her thrifty self.


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