Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eggs and Corned Beef Hash - Brookside Diner, Whippany NJ

The classic diner breakfast is an integral part of the local culture in the state of New Jersey. New Jersey has more diners per capita than any other place on the planet- and just about all of them take special pride in their breakfast offerings. It had been a while since I've been to any of the Garden State's many diners. My travels took me back to an area near where I once worked, so I took the opportunity to stop and have a little breakfast at one of the places  I used to eat at from time to time- the Brookside Diner in Whippany, New Jersey.

What I consider to be the classic Jersey Diner breakfast are two eggs with fried potatoes and a breakfast meat- usually with a bottomless cup of coffee and some toast on the side. The part that, I think, makes it a "New Jersey" thing is the healthy portion of potatoes. Just about every diner has their own way of preparing them- some shredded and served as hash browns, some in chunks, and some with a some chopped vegetables, such as onion and/or peppers. At the Brookside, they do something a little different- the potatoes are sliced, then piled together, and seared on the outside. Judgine from how soft the interior is, I'd guess that the potatoes may be parboiled first before hitting the grill.

The outside of this pile of potato has a nice crispy crust, and a very soft, starchy interior, providing a nice contrast of textures. I'll usually top them off with a little salt and pepper when they arrive at the table, and have a little ketchup for dipping on the side. This is the part of the meal that appeals the most to the "hangover" crowd that shows up around 2 or 3 am - the big starchy pile is the ideal medium for soaking up excess alcohol- so it tends to be popular among youg adults on a bender. The older crowd may feel a bit of nostaligia for their younger, wilder days when they tuck into their potatoes as well.

Just about every diner will make your eggs however you like them. Personally, I almost always go with over-easy. To me, haveing that yolk run all over the place and mix with the rest of the food is my favorite part of the experience. Runny yolk also influences my choice of meat as well.

Bacon- yes I love bacon. I also love sausage. What I prefer in my diner breakfast is something that's not as easy to make at home- corned beef hash. Yes, I can always buy it in a can and heat some up, but it takes time to develop that nice crust that adds a little crunch and flavor. More importantly, when you cut into that runny, over easy egg, the yolk mingles with the corned beef has, and acts like a rich and gooey sauce. There's something about a runny yolk that just screasm "food porn" - it not only tastes great, but it looks great too- and is completely decadent in the best of ways.

Like many New Jersey Diners, the Brookside has been around for many years, and has a local following. In my short time there, I saw a good percentage of people who were obviously regulars come in- and the staff knew them all by name. The staff was very attentive, and super-friendly - and most importantly, provided great service. That's something you can only find in one of these older diners that have been around for ages- a wait staff that's been working their most of their lives, who are extremely freindly, and who go about their jobs with a casual ease, even in the midst of a heavy dinner rush. If you want to find wait staff that are truly great at tehir jobs, you don't have to look to a fine dining establishment- just try a few old diners, chances are you'll find exactly what I'm describing very quickly.

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