I wouldn’t have posted this if the comment thread on “The sad truth about toasters” hadn’t extended to an almost ridiculous length, but…
I dearly love classic American breakfast food. I delight in the kind of cheap hot breakfast you get at humble roadside diners. I think it’s one of the glories of our folk cuisine and will cheerfully eat it any time of the day or night.
I posted a fancy breakfast-for-two recipe a while back (Eggs a la ESR). What follows is the slightly plainer breakfast I make for myself almost every morning. It’s the stable result of a decades-long optimization process – I haven’t found a way to improve it in years.
* Two large eggs. Ideally from chickens fed with bugs, not grain; makes a difference.
* Four strips of lean, thick-cut bacon.
* A slice or three of onion (variation in amount doesn’t matter much).
* Half of a small lime.
* Tuscan garlic boule. Get it at your local Wegman’s; it’s a respectable supermarket imitation of Italian artisan sourdough bread. The garlic adds savor. If you can’t get this exact bread, make it some sort of sourdough.
* About an ounce of dark chocolate.
* Butter/olive-oil spread blend. Land-O-Lakes is a good one; there are others.
* One heavy 12.5-inch diameter non-stick skillet. (I’d use a real iron skillet, but cleaning and maintenance on those is a PITA so I reserve that for special occasions.)
* One non-crappy toaster set to golden-brown level.
* One 22-ounce pub mug.
* Generic cutlery (bread knife, chef’s knife).
* Wooden cutting board.
The reason I specify the step order I do is that this optimizes prep time. The whole prep and cleanup takes less than 6 minutes. But linger over the breakfast itself, it’s worth it.
Pull the buttery spread out of the fridge so it’ll have time to soften while you cook.
Lay the bacon in the skillet; start cooking it on low heat. I use one of those mesh grease-shield things over the skillet to contain spatter. It may also reflect enough heat to improve the bacon slightly.
Cut a generous slice of boule, cut it in half, and drop the half-slices in the toaster. Don’t start the toaster yet.
Haggle-cut the onions. Do this a little roughly so you get variation in texture; this gives a more interesting result than mathematically-precise dicing. Do this after cutting the bread, not before, as you don’t want moisture from the onions on the uncut part of the boule you’re going to put away.
While the bacon is cooking, fill the pub mug with cold filtered water and squeeze the half-lime into it. Don’t drop the lime in, otherwise you’ll get bitter oils from the lime rind in your water. A bit of this would be OK, but if you let the lime sit in the water too long the effect can be quite unpleasant.
Allow the bacon to cook until chewy and slightly crisp around the edges. Set it on a paper-towel-covered plate to drain. Either roll up the paper towel with the bacon inside it or put an inverted plate over it to slow down heat loss.
Put the onions in the skillet. Stir them around a bit so they pick up some bacon grease. Turn up the heat slightly. Push the onions aside to make room for the eggs.
Crack the eggs into the skillet and break the yolks. I like to keep them from running together to make later flipping easier.
Note that a bit of delay between adding onions and eggs is no bad thing when you’re not in a hurry. Giving the onions another 10 seconds on their own increases the odds that you’ll get some caramelization going.
Allow the eggs to cook until their top sides start to bubble just a bit. Flip them over; turn off the heat, the rest of the cooking is courtesy of the pan’s thermal inertia.
Now start the toast. Your objective is for it to pop just after you get the rest of the food on the table.
When the eggs look cooked, plate them and the onions and the bacon. If you timed things right, the onions have a bit of browning/caramelization around the edges.
Lightly salt the onions. Add hot-sauce of the day to the eggs. Most days this is plain old Tabasco, but I do vary it.
Your toast should pop about now. Butter and lightly salt it.
Bon appetit! Finish with the chocolate and the last of the limewater.
By the time you’re done eating the skillet will have cooled enough to make it easy to rinse out. I’m not fanatical about fully washing it; if the bacon-grease buildup is light and there isn’t obvious carbon, that’s just flavor for the next day.
I used to do fresh mushrooms rather than onions and would still prefer that, but gave it up because they left heavy carbon deposits even on a non-stick pan.
The dark chocolate isn’t just there because I like it; it’s a neuroprotective, a pleasant way to decrease my stroke risk. I think this more than offsets the risk from the sugar. A good winter alternative is to have a cup of hot chocolate with The Breakfast – I favor Godiva Dark.
Cheaping out on the bacon probably hurts this composition more than anything else you could do to it while leaving it recognizable. Don’t do that. Good meaty bacon anchors the whole thing.
On the other hand, using bottled lime juice is not a sin against this recipe. Fresh-squeezed is better but not the really dramatic improvement it would be with respect to orange or grapefruit juice; it might be that most people wouldn’t taste a difference.
The Breakfast is a sort of anchor ritual for my day. I frequently deal with a lot of challenge and novelty, by choice. It’s good to have a fixed point in my routine, and this is it.
If you are very lucky, consumption of The Breakfast will be regularly accompanied by leg stropping and purrs from a friendly orange Coon-cat who considers this an important part of his morning ritual.