Lately (as in, like, the past several months) I’ve found none of my go-to dinners particularly exciting. My favorite pantry pasta riffs? Fine. Roasted vegetables and grains? Okay, whatever. I’ve heated up a frozen veggie burger and called it a night more often in the past few weeks than I have in my entire adult life. And it’s fine! But I miss looking forward to dinner. So I started eating breakfast at night.
I love breakfast. Whole-grain pancakes, lacy-edged fried eggs, oatmeal with a scoop of almond butter melting in the center, crispy potatoes, buttered toast with jam—I want it all…but not at 8 a.m. Here’s a tip: Breakfast is better for dinner. The flavors are exciting (sweet! savory! both on the same plate—you’re allowed!); and, with a bit of consideration, I’ve found it’s significantly cheaper than the typical protein-vegetable-starch dinner formula. Here, I’ve still followed that outline, but it has the glow that only comes from breakfast foods: smashed potatoes with bacon and eggs. For dinner! Or breakfast! Or lunch or brunch. I’m not your mom; eat whatever, whenever.
When I hear “smashed potatoes” these days, I think small waxy potatoes, parboiled, smashed, roasted, and topped with something salty and creamy—and that was certainly the inspiration here, mixed up with a classic baked potato bar (sour cream, bacon bits, you know the drill). Fat, starchy russet potatoes (about $3 for 4) are baked whole until tender, then smashed and crisped in olive oil. Meanwhile, you’ll slowly render all the fat you possibly can from a few slices of bacon (about $1), because that is free-with-purchase cooking fat, my friends; and just like that, you have bacon-fat-fried eggs (about $3 for 8). Divide lettuce or tender greens ($1 to $3, depending on the green) between plates, top with a smashed-baked potato and two eggs, then shower the plate with sliced scallions, spicy sour cream sauce (about 50 cents respectively for the called-for amounts), and crumbled bacon.
If you’re parsing out this meal for fewer than four servings at once, bake the potatoes fully, but don’t smash them; render the fat from and crumble the bacon; make the sour cream sauce. Store everything in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, recrisp the bacon bits in a skillet, then toss in more reserved fat and fry the eggs; smash the potatoes and do the second bake—you can even save on olive oil and re-crisp in the bacon fat as well, if you’d like.
Savings don’t stop with the meal, by the way. You’ll likely have extra rendered bacon fat. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for months and use it for any sautéing needs. And we can’t forget my favorite tip: Save the bottom inch from the root ends of the scallions (and lettuce if it came from a head with a root as well), position them upright in jars of water like you would a vase of flowers, and watch them regenerate. (Yes, I am still doing this: Check out the video below.) —Rebecca Firkser
Test Kitchen Notes
Nickel & Dine is a budget column by Rebecca Firkser, assigning editor at Food52, and breakfast-for-dinner eater. Each month, Rebecca will share an easy, flavor-packed recipe that feeds four (or just you, four times)—all for $10 or less. —The Editors
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes
- Serves 4
large russet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork
olive oil, plus more as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoons
preferred hot sauce, like Cholula (optional but recommended)
strips bacon (or turkey or vegetarian bacon, if preferred)
scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
crunchy lettuce such as green leaf or romaine, or tender greens such as arugula, baby spinach, or baby kale
- Heat the oven to 425ºF. Place the potatoes on a sheet pan and bake until very soft, about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a pot lid to smash each potato. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until slightly crisp and starting to brown. Turn off the oven and leave the potatoes inside to stay warm.
- When the potatoes are about halfway through baking, start making everything else: In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and hot sauce, if using. Thin the mixture with water until it’s reached a drizzle-able consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
- Place the bacon in a large (at least 12-inch) unheated cast-iron or nonstick skillet. Turn on the heat to medium-low and cook, flipping the bacon every couple minutes, until as much fat as possible has rendered and the bacon is crisp (take your time—it will take about 15 minutes, depending on the bacon and your stove). Set the bacon aside on a rack or paper-towel-lined plate. Once cool, crumble the bacon.
- Pour the rendered bacon fat into a heatproof measuring cup or small bowl. (If using real bacon, you should have about 1/4 cup fat. Pour 3 tablespoons of the fat back into the skillet. If using turkey or vegetarian bacon, there will be little to no rendered fat. Instead, pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the skillet.)
- Turn up the heat to medium and carefully crack 1 egg into the edge of the skillet and let it set for about 15 seconds, then turn the skillet around and crack in another egg at the other end of the skillet. Repeat with 2 more eggs at the remaining poles of the pan. Let the eggs sizzle and continue to set for about 1 minute, shaking ever so slightly to ensure they’re not sticking to the pan. Once set, nudge the eggs to the far end of the skillet, then tilt it toward you to pool the fat at the edge of the pan closest to you. Use a spoon to scoop up hot fat and baste the egg whites for about 30 seconds, turning the edges crispy and golden brown. Remove the eggs to a large plate and season each yolk with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining eggs. (There should still be plenty of fat in the pan, but use more as needed. Store any remaining bacon fat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.)
- Divide the greens between four plates and top each with a warm smashed potato. Place two fried eggs on each potato and divide the crumbled bacon between the plates. Drizzle spicy sour cream over each serving and shower with scallions.