Skillets, hashes, or skillet hashes: No matter what you call them, this versatile and hearty dish is crucial to your breakfast or brunch menu. While corned beef hash or a classic sausage/potato/egg skillet will always resonate with comfort food fans, breakfast skillets, much like on-trend bowls, are getting a makeover with inspired flavors and treatments. They’re the perfect platform for culinary creativity, whether it’s a melting pot of global flavors or a seasonal special that stays true to tradition. Breakfast skillets maximize the ingredients you have on hand, appealing to customers seeking to customize and experiment with limited-time offers and daily specials. For those looking for diversity and bold flavors, skillets deliver.
Build a Better Skillet
Potatoes, vegetables, protein, cheese, and eggs are the cornerstones of any hash or skillet. Reach for on-trend ingredients and flavors to make them new and interesting without losing the comfort food essence.
Starting with the base, potatoes are a popular option because they can be prepared in many different ways, from home fries to roasted red baby potatoes. Try using different root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash, carrots, and celery root. Ingredients such as Brussels sprouts, squash, and beans are other on-trend skillet building blocks. Starches and grains such as polenta, grits, and quinoa can also provide the base.
Just as the possibilities are endless for the foundation of the dish, so are the options for proteins. This is an excellent opportunity to make use of meat components from the previous night’s dinner service. Pulled pork, short ribs, chicken — these can all be cross-utilized inside skillets during breakfast and brunch. Offer customers different choices of meat so they can customize their own builds; try carnitas, chicharrones, and other ethnic-inspired styles of seafood, chicken, and beef.
Eggs transform what seems to be merely a side of fried potatoes to a breakfast-worthy dish. Poached and fried eggs are mainstays, but get creative with different preparations such as cured egg yolks. Or make the eggs the focus of the dish, such as Eggs in Purgatory, which is based on the North African dish of shakshuka. This one-skillet Israeli dish calls for eggs baked in a savory tomato stew spiked with spices such as cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Set your skillet apart with the addition of seasonal vegetables that are sautéed or lightly dressed, housemade condiments like sauces and salsas, and unique fresh toppings.
Skillets are the perfect way to incorporate international flavors — and to leverage the trend that is permeating all parts of the menu. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items were among the list of breakfast/brunch menu trends, according to the NRA’s 2016 What’s Hot chefs’ survey. Consider huevos rancheros, the classic Mexican breakfast made with fried eggs and hot corn tortillas smothered in salsa. This dish is perfect for skillet service and while very familiar, it can easily be taken to the next level by adding layers of aroma, texture, and heat. Ethnic flavors are also best exemplified in the popular dish of chilaquiles, which comprises fried tortillas, queso fresco, salsa, and scrambled or fried eggs. Market it as a “hangover special” to reach those who are still feeling the effects of last night’s festivities. Korean flavors also lend themselves well to the skillet concept; traditional bibimbap is already a skillet essentially, with crispy rice topped with vegetables such as spinach, carrots, bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), and a fried egg. Offer an inspired Korean take with kimchee fried potatoes topped with eggs. Capitalize on the savory porridge trend with Chinese congee and top with other complementary ingredients such as barbecue Chinese pork and bok choy sautéed in oyster sauce and garlic oil.
Seal the Deal
Specials liven up your breakfast and brunch menus, and skillets are a great choice when it comes to tantalizing customers’ palates. Since skillets are so versatile, they make great specials that can help boost your bottom line while reducing food waste through cross-utilization. Ordered too much asparagus for dinner service? The surplus vegetable can be a part of your brunch special the next day. Didn’t sell all of the duck confit last night? Give it new life in tomorrow’s brunch hash special. Limited-time offers pique customers’ interest; if the skillets change frequently and they like what you have to offer, they’ll come back the following week to see what’s next. It’s also a good way for chefs to experiment with the menu without a major overhaul, engaging customers and building excitement at the same time.