When I was a kid, hash browns were a treat. We only got them when we ate breakfast out. Although I learned as an adult that the hash browns in those meals were nothing special, at the time I savored them. Now that my tastes have evolved, I prefer homemade breakfasts and I’ve found an even better way to enjoy hash brown potatoes – Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests.
My beloved is Irish American. For him, and now for me, potatoes are essential. They’re practically a food group unto themselves. Whether it is Beer-Coated Tater Tots, Unscalloped Potatoes, No Fuss Potato Casserole, or Crusty Cheesy Potato Cups, potatoes are almost always on the menu here. They may not be a religion, but it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that my beloved worships them.
Given that background, it is easy to understand why frozen hash browns rocked my world. Using them as the base, these Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests come together quickly and easily. That means you can make them for breakfast even if you are barely conscious and not sufficiently caffeinated to think clearly.
The other part of this recipe is the baked or shirred eggs. Growing up, my egg choices were scrambled, fried, hard or soft-boiled. I never had a poached or baked/shirred egg. Now they are among my favorite foods. When I get fancy, I pair baked or shirred eggs with lots of vegetables and other “stuff.” (Check out my Tuscan Baked Eggs with Vegetables.) But here, the eggs take center stage.
By the way, although I love plain baked/shirred eggs, my beloved prefers scrambled, omelets and such. We’ve been married for decades and I have no intention of letting a cheesy hash brown egg nest stand between us and marital bliss. So I made this recipe with two different fillings – a plain baked/shirred egg version and one which is more like a mini-quiche. Take your pick or make some of each.
Here’s one of my plain ones cut open. The egg cup resembles a Scotch egg, but it’s vegetarian and much healthier.
Why Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests Should Be in Your Life
- They are fun to make and eat. Making these nests is like an art project, only you get to eat the results.
- Eggs are great when swaddled. Whether you put them in a hash brown muffin cup, an arepa, a piece of toast (egg-in-the-hole), or a taco, swaddled eggs rule!
- No flour required. The nests are vegetarian and gluten-free. And of course, if you keep Passover (coming up in April this year), Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests are perfect for you.
I checked out many egg nest recipes and made 3 batches before settling on my own version.
Before the recipe specifics, a few tips. Often the path to cooking success is littered with wrong turns, so I get disheartened by making mistakes. But they should at least be creative. In this respect at least, I hope that you’ll follow my path. Learn from my mistakes – don’t repeat them.
Tips for Making Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests
- Getting the potato to cheese ratio right. I wanted the nests to be cheesy. However, I soon learned not to go overboard in the cheese department – too much makes the potato nest droop. For one cup of tightly packed hash browns (about five ounces), use less than a half cup of grated cheese. Too much cheese may cause the nests to partially collapse when baking. It’s possible to perk up drooping nests by pressing the back of a spoon against the nest about halfway through cooking, but that’s not ideal and it doesn’t work all the time.
- The size of nest and eggs. Muffin cups vary in size. So the amount of nest “material” (i.e. hash browns and cheese) that you need to cover it may vary. And when it comes to filling the nest, if you’re using large eggs, make sure your muffin cups are generous. Otherwise, you’ll end up with egg spilling out onto your oven floor. Or at least put a sheet pan underneath the muffin pan to catch the drips. If you make the omelet-like alternative, remember that you use only half as many eggs (two for four muffins) because the add-ins take up space.
- Avoid over-salting the egg nests. If you use salty cheese (even cheddar can be salty), keep the salt to a minimum or let folks add it after tasting their nests. The first time I made these, I added a bit of salt to my hash browns, which did not have any salt in them. However, I hadn’t counted on the saltiness of the cheese. Once the nests cooked they were too salty. Read the label on your hash browns. If they contain salt, rinse and dry them to remove it. However, keep in mind even that may not eliminate all the salt.
- Re-heating a frozen egg nest. Yes, you can freeze these. They make wonderful grab-and-go breakfasts. Just be careful if you microwave them. Don’t do more than 30 seconds on high without checking them. Much more than that and they will disintegrate or worse yet, explode. I like microwaving them for 30 seconds on high, then putting them in the toaster oven at a high setting to crisp up the nest.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Each recipe in our menu this month features eggs and our host this month is Carol Borchardt at From A Chef’s Kitchen. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. The host chooses the month’s theme and members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party. You can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of these delicious dishes that feature eggs!
A Spring Eggstravaganza
- Avocado Toast with Bacon and Egg on Naan – Creative Culinary
- Akuri – Parsi Style Scrambled Eggs – Spice Roots
- Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests – Mother Would Know (you’re here!)
- Deviled Eggs with Gremolata – Sarahís Cucina Bella
- Raspberry Brioche Crescents – The Redhead Baker
- Huevos Rancheros – Karenís Kitchen Stories
- ProvenÁal Baked Eggs and Potatoes – The Heritage Cook
- Shakshuka – OMG Yummy
- Arugula Egg and Asparagus Salad with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette – From A Chefís Kitchen
- Double Baked Artichoke – Gruyere Souffle – The Wimpy Vegetarian
Cheesy Hash Brown Egg Nests
These delightful morsels are a full breakfast in an adorable nest shape. With cheesy hash browns on the outside and a baked/shirred egg or mini-quiche filling inside, they make a delicious breakfast, brunch, or snack. You can freeze and reheat them too!
- 1 cup frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted for about 1 hour, then pressed with a clean cloth or paper towel to dry About 5 ounces
- 1/2 cup shredded or grated cheese I like a combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan or romano
- freshly ground pepper
- 2-4 large eggs (for mini quiche use 2, while for baked/shirred eggs use 4 - see note)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter ( for mini quiche only)
- 1/2 cup diced onion, red/orange/yellow pepper (for mini quiche only)
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach (for mini quiche only), chopped
- kosher salt to taste (see note above recipe re saltiness of cheese)
- 1 scallion green part only, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray 4 muffin cups with oil or brush with butter.
Mix the dried off hash browns and about 1/3 cup of the cheese together with a couple of good turns of freshly ground pepper.
Divide the mixture equally among the 4 muffin cups and press into the shape of the cup using either your hands or the back of a teaspoon.
Cook for 30 minutes. The nests should crisp up at the top. If any start to droop, take the muffin tin out of the oven and press them up against the walls of the muffin cup with the back of a spoon.
If you are making the mini quiche version, while the nests are baking, warm the oil or butter in a small pan, add the onion and pepper. Saute for about 5-8 minutes, then add the chopped spinach and cook for about 2 minutes, just until the spinach is wilted. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the 2 eggs with a bit of water or milk.
Once the nests are set, lower the oven to 375. Then fill each nest with an egg cracked into it for the baked/shirred version, or with a quarter of the vegetables if doing the mini quiche, followed by the egg mixture. In either event, top with a bit more cheese and bake for an additional 13 minutes. (See note regarding baking time for plain eggs.)
Once the nests are done, take them out of the oven and let them sit for 2 minutes before running a sharp knife around the edges and gently removing them from the muffin cups.
Once plated, add the chopped scallion as a garnish and serve.
In the mini quiche version, half of the space in the muffin cups is taken up by the sauteed vegetables, so you use only half as much egg.
The Kitchn suggests that you bake the eggs for the baked/shirred version as follows depending on how you like them:
12-15 minutes for runny yolks,
15-18 minutes for soft cooked, and
- 20 minutes for hard cooked.
I found that 13 minutes followed by a 2 minute rest (while the egg still cooks a bit in the hot muffin cup) yields a yolk that is lightly set, not soft cooked.