Though the potato was cultivated in South America as far back as 7,000 years ago, it first came to North America in the same way that the custom of eating a big, hearty breakfast did: with the British. And though potatoes are now eaten around the world, most potato dishes designed expressly as morning fare belong to the illustrious transatlantic fried-breakfast tradition. It's no wonder potatoes have become such a fixture: inexpensive, versatile, and substantial, they are the ballast of the breakfast plate and an amenable medium for different flavors. Here are six of our favorite preparations.
1. Legend has it that potatoes o'brien was the brainchild of an early-20th-century New York City restaurant owner who went by the name Beefstew O'Brien. His idea was to give color and kick to a skillet of fried potatoes by adding a handful of diced bell peppers and pimentos. With all due respect to Beefstew, our preferred rendition takes a few liberties with his original: cubed potatoes are sauteed with peppers, chopped onions, and heavy cream; the last ingredient, when cooked down, loosely binds all of the other ingredients together to form a golden brown patty.
2. Though many people confuse hash browns with home fries, we, like the spatula-wielding cooks at the Waffle House restaurants(see Welcome Home), stand firmly by the notion that proper hash browns begin as raw or partially cooked shredded potatoes and should be pressed into a cast-iron skillet or onto a well-greased griddle, where they'll develop a crisp crust and a creamy interior as they cook.
3. Home fries are the customary companion of "two eggs any style" in coffee shops, diners, and truck stops across America; our favorite version is a golden brown heap of cubed potatoes and sliced onions crisped in bacon fat and dusted with cumin and paprika (ketchup optional).
4. In South India, vibrant yellow urulikazhangu masala, whose name loosely translates as spiced potatoes, is a robust and fragrant combination of potatoes and onions cooked with coriander, cumin, and turmeric as well as fresh curry leaves, green chiles, and peas. Although it's eaten throughout the day and isn't part of the same tradition as the other dishes pictured, urulikazhangu masala nevertheless makes delicious and portable morning fare when folded inside a crepelike dosa. It's also served, minus the dosa, as a morning-meal side dish in many restaurants in India.
5. A close cousin of home fries, cottage fries are typically sliced into rounds and draw some of their savory depth from a long sizzle in a skillet with rendered salt pork or the fatty strips of bacon called streak o' lean.
6. The recipe for the English specialty known as bubble and squeak, pan-fried mashed potatoes and boiled cabbage often formed into cakes, is an invention born of thrift. It consists, like many other versions of breakfast potatoes, including hash, of leftovers from the previous evening's dinner put to good use. It dates to the 18th century and takes its name from what the ingredients were observed to do as they cooked in a pot over a fire. An infinitely expansive dish, bubble and squeak has been known to feature all sorts of odds and ends, such as peas, parsnips, carrots, onions, and brussels sprouts. What ingredient other than potatoes can be said to pair so well with others?