Colonial Kitchen // Healthy Potato Hash

I find genealogy so fascinating. How did we get to where we are now? I look at my ancestors who sailed across the ocean to make a new life in the US and wonder how they decided where to go, where to settle. How did they move across the country from Connecticut to the Midwest and why? Or did they even have a choice in coming to America? It's interesting learning history from an adult perspective rather than what we were taught as children. Remember how they made America look so incredible, like Europe was so awful, and that everyone who traveled was a Puritan? There were so many other reasons for people to come, and yet, we always assume it was for the best. I wish I could go back and really see what happened, see what they looked like! 

When I first started this series I mentioned a couple of my direct ancestors who helped found the village of Southold, Long Island. That was so amazing to read about! There have been quite a few supper and dessert recipes written so far, mostly because that's when I'm most available and in the mood for cooking. However, my most favorite meal of the day is breakfast! Yes! I could eat breakfast food all day. Eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, pancakes, fruit, waffles... you name it, I can find a way to eat them all day. I really love a good set of scrambled eggs filled with spinach, green onion, cheese, and mushrooms. Ugh, that sounds so good right now. Anyway, today we're making a really wonderful breakfast dish that is also fairly quick and easy to throw together. But first, I wanted to dive into what was typically eaten at breakfast time in the 18th century and what daily life was like for most colonists!

I tried to pinpoint a set of ancestors who were young people living through the American Revolution. Not to my surprise, I found several people who fought in the Revolution as patriots. That always has seemed rooted deep in me. I remember watching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? by Ancestry.com that followed Rachel McAdams genealogy, and she was so happy to find that her ancestors fought for the British in the Revolution, and then later moved to Canada where she is from. Funny how your roots and where you grow up can change your perspective! Either way, I zoned in on a couple from my direct ancestry, Silas D Benjamin and Elizabeth Youngs, who are from my maternal side of the tree. Silas was born in 1750 in Orange County, New York. His wife, Elizabeth Youngs was born in 1755 in Oxford Depot, New York. Don't you just wonder how they met?! Apparently they met before Elizabeth had a chance to do anything because she was 14 when they were married in 1769! Not long after, Silas would join the American Revolution and fight alongside the Patriots in 1775 at the age of 25. They both survived the war and died at ages 68 and 69, respectively, which is fairly old for the time! There weren't really any censuses going around at the time, or at least I don't have access to them, so I can't know for sure what they did for a living, how rich or poor they were, if they held any status, what kind of home they lived in. If only I could be on Who Do You Think You Are? and travel around discovering past notes and references! Wink, wink. 

Let's say they were middle class folks, such as myself; what would their life have been like on a daily basis? For breakfast, the day would start with a mug of beer or hard cider (they believed water was too impure to drink), bannocks, a bowl of porridge, and perhaps some much or a cornmeal pudding. Bean porridge was a big favorite in New England and was to be eaten with brown bread made from corn meal. The porridge could contain meat or vegetables, as well. By the time of when these two were living their young lives, meals were much more put together and had more options. This dish that I'm about to share would have been a great mix of ingredients for any time of the day! You can make it as vegetarian as you like - we're trying to cut out more meats in our daily intake, but I still added some bacon just because. 

INGREDIENTS // 

  • 2-3 small Yukon golden potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 8-10 strips of bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, asiago, or pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper

RECIPE // 

  • In a large pot, boil some water and add the potatoes. Boil for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly tender, and then add in the parsnips and butternut squash. Boil for another 3-5 minutes. 
  • You can either cook the bacon first and then toss in the onions, but I ended up cooking the onions first and tossing in bacon I had cooked the previous day. If you are starting with fresh bacon, be sure to drain the grease after cooking. In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sautee the onions and garlic until translucent and shiny, about 5-7 minutes. 
  • Strain the potato mixture and add to the skillet. Toss with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring semi-constantly to prevent sticking. After they have all cooked together for a time, press the potatoes down with your spatula. Cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until the bottom forms a slight crust. 
  • Top the potatoes with grated cheese and flip the dish over with the cheese on the bottom, and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve warm, topped with a fried egg.

This is so sweet and savory. The bacon really adds a nice touch along with the butternut squash. I could even see some brown sugar being incorporated somewhere in this dish! Enjoy with some brown bread (:

xoxo Kayla