In Edmonton, the city I live, wherever you go you see a flashy black and white bird. The magpie. They strut everywhere. In yards, in parking lots, on rooftops, on patios. And when they do fly, you get a display of their black and white feathers that shimmer an iridescent greenish hue in the light. Some think of them as garbage collectors because they are opportunistic scavengers. Essentially, they clean up other’s garbage. In a wilder environment, they follow larger birds or mammals and clean up what the others don’t eat.
Now what does this have to do with a recipe? I get inspired in many places. The more I learned about this ubiquitous Edmonton bird, the more I was fascinated. They work as a community to raise their children. They mourn their dead and ” eat the remains.” They’re cognizant of environmental conditions and how well they can care for a given year’s young so they may eat their own eggs if they think the number laid can’t survive.
I thought about all of this in a brunch dish to make a “MagPie.” Magpies have massive, riotous nests and that immediately reminded me of American diner-style shredded hashbrowns. These birds also cache away food all over the place so I thought a frittata represents this playful hiding of ingredients perfectly. Finally, within the frittata, I though a “blackened” chicken breast can represent this black and white bird with little bits of long red roasted peppers and bits of cheese to represent their hidden food.
Food is supposed to be fun and silly sometimes. It makes the process of cooking a true joy!! Happy brunching!!
Blackened Chicken and Roasted Pepper Frittata with Diner-Style Hashbrowns:
For the Blackened Chicken:
200g chicken breast, cut into 2cm/1″ wide strips
3 Tbsp creole seasoning (or cajun seasoning)
2 tsp oil
For the Blackened Chicken and Roasted Pepper Frittata:
Prepared Blackened Chicken, cut into 1cm (1/2″) slices
1 medium red bell pepper, broiled for 5-7 minutes until the skin is blackened. Peel, stem, seed and slice
60g/2 oz mozzarella or smoked cheddar, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup milk
For the Diner-Style Hashbrowns:
400g starchy potatoes (like Russet), peeled, coarsely shredded
1/2 tsp salt
4-6 tsp oil, for griddle frying
Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
To prepare the Blackened Chicken, place the chicken strips on a plate. Sprinkle liberally with half of the creole seasoning. Turn the chicken strips and sprinkle them with more seasoning. Rub and coat each chicken strip evenly.
Preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tsp oil to the preheated pan. When you add a small pinch of creole seasoning to the oil and it crackles, but not smokes, it’s ready. Add the coated chicken strips to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes per side until deeply golden and lightly blackened. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Cut into 1cm (1/2″) slices. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until smooth.
Line a 25cm/10″ square cake pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper. Pour the egg mixture in the prepared pan. Lay the chicken, roasted peppers and cheese evenly over the egg mixture. Place the pan in the preheated oven on the centre rack and bake for 23-25 minutes until set and just lightly golden on top. While it bakes you can prepare the hashbrowns.
Using your hands, grab handfuls of the salted, shredded potato and wring out as much moisture as you can.
Preheat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a teaspoon or so of oil and let it come to just shy of smoking. Take 3/4 cup of the shredded potato in your hands, wring out moisture again and sprinkle it in an even layer in the pan. Oil a smaller lid for a pot and press it down on the potato hashbrown. Allow to griddle for about three minutes until it is deeply golden. Flip the hashbrown, press down with the lid again and allow to griddle for about 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. The timing should have the hashbrowns just about done in time to take out the frittata.
To serve, cut the frittata into four pieces and serve on top of a hashbrown. Serves 4.