An empty bowl

sweet potatoes and eggsOur Friday night dinner was not anything special. It was, instead, one of those meals that you turn to when you don’t really want to cook, because you don’t really want to do anything other than curl up in your nice cool sheets and sleep. I was felled by a back-to-school cold this week; usually my immune system is one of my greatest strengths, but I’ve been running on empty and this bug got the better of me.

However. I couldn’t just go to sleep Friday night, because kids – at least kids as little as mine – need someone else to make them dinner. Every night.

Every. Night.

On this particular night, my coparent was not due home until after the little ones’ usual dinner hour, and while I could hardly stand the thought of cooking, it trumped the thought of trying to keep them calm when they were tired and hungry.

veggies cooking in butter

It is nice, at times like this, to have a recipe that you know everyone will love. If it takes little to no time to prepare, feels nourishing and comforting and familiar, and gets veggies on the plate or in the bowl, all the better. This little recipe might not seem like much, but it meets all those criteria, and one more besides: when I make this, I know that each person at the table will have an empty bowl when we are done.

And so I guess maybe this is something special.

Buttery Sweet Potatoes, Carrots and Leeks

It’s no secret that leeks and potatoes love butter – and yet. I’m always surprised by how good this dish tastes. I put everything in the pot and then frown at it and think, this doesn’t look very promising.  But I scoop it into bowls, and top each bowl with a softly poached egg. A little grind salt and pepper, and for the grownups a good glug of the incredible vinegary Pique hot sauce that we buy by the gallon from Sol Food. And then – wow. It looks so unassuming, but it gets me every time. The buttery, soft vegetables are substantial and nourishing without being too dense or hearty. The egg over top makes it a meal – and the hot sauce mixes in the buttery juices in a way that actually carries the faintest echo of -buffalo wings. I mean it!

This meal is comforting without being dreary, perfect for a rainy afternoon or a quiet night in – or for any time, really, when you want something to heal you, and sustain you, and fill you back up.

1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons of butter
3-4 leeks, cleaned and sliced into thin rounds
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 large sweet potato (yellow not orange), peeled and 1/4 inch cubed

4 eggs, poached

Salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste
Marjoram leaves, for garnish (optional)

Heat a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over high heat until hot. Reduce heat to medium-high, and add oil and butter. Swirl together and let melt.

Once melted add leeks to the pan (they should sizzle a bit). Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until leeks start to soften (a little browning is ok). Add carrots and stir for a minute or two. Add sweet potatoes, stir it all together, and let it cook for two minutes more.

Add 1 1/4 cups of water to the pan, or enough to just almost cover. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, until potatoes have softened somewhat and liquid has thickened a bit.

Let stand on the stovetop for 15 minutes while you poach the eggs. Reheat over medium heat if the mixture has cooled too much – it should be fairly thick and stewy and warm but not too hot. Ladle into bowls, and top with a poached egg. Salt and pepper everything generously. A good vinegary hot sauce is really excellent here, and a piece of toast on the side is nice too. If I have marjoram on hand, I like to tear a few leaves over top.

10 thoughts on “An empty bowl

  1. We have several, simple “empty bowl” dishes for those times that nothing else works. I think that I’ll add this one to the list…….. with gratitude for your sharing it.

    • R – thanks to J your kids are genetically predisposed to regard cheerios as a separate food group. Mine meanwhile have taken to refusing day-old bread while demanding “fresh baked!” I’m feeling much better this morning, and I hope you are too. xo

  2. Ugh, I’ve got one of those back to school colds, too. And a traveling husband. However I don’t have sweet potato or leeks. But your bowl idea is a good one and I’ve long been in the habit of plopping a poached egg on top of something and calling it dinner. I appreciate the inspiration. Time to hit the pantry and see what I’ve got on hand that would like to co-star with a poached egg in tonight’s dinner drama (or comedy of errors, depending). Hope you’re feeling better.

    • Isn’t funny how an egg makes something a meal? It’s almost weird, really. But so true. We have been invaded by CSA leeks this summer … I don’t even really think of them as a summer vegetable, though in CA things get confusing in that regard. I hope your dinner was bowl-friendly and that you too are feeling better Tara!

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