When I was very young, before my mother started working, there was time for breakfast of eggs and bacon, biscuits, freshly squeezed orange juice. But even then it was never like in the sit-coms of the 1960s where everyone showed up dressed and ready for school or work, cheerful and ready to start the day. That was not my family.
Even now, in my own home with just the two of us, there is no one sashaying around the early-morning kitchen in a starched and ruffled apron setting the table with flowers, making waffles or pancakes, frying sausages or any of the sit-com staples. I have never fixed my husband that kind of idyllic weekday meal, bless his heart.
Instead, I am surly in the morning, and prefer to read the paper in quiet. My husband is much more disciplined, and exercises cheerfully while I am eating whatever I can find. When he is ready he doles out a bowl full of a rather unattractive and incredibly healthy concoction of oatmeal, wheat bran, raisins, pineapple, pecans, and yogurt, which he makes once every two weeks. He called it “breakfast stuff,” and I call it “semi-muesli” when I am feeling generous and “gloop” when I disparage it. He adds even more fruit before he starts to eat, such as a banana, reads the paper and drinks his cup of unsweetened black coffee. Bananas are the cat's favorite, as she doesn’t eat blueberries, and she cleans the bowl before he washes it.
But once every week or so we have a fabulous breakfast for supper. It seems much easier to make breakfast in the evening, when I am wide awake and cognizant of what I am doing.
I’m a great fan of eggs. If one can only keep a few things on hand, eggs are the crucial element, among the most nutritious and least expensive of the alternatives available to a family that would serve to start or end the day. I like them sunny side up or scrambled, in an omelette, poached or souffled in a custard or coddled in a china cup. Any way will do, but I’m inclined to scramble eggs most frequently. My husband is a fan of bacon, and when the subject of breakfast for supper comes up he speaks yearningly of bacon and grits. He doesn’t like looking an egg in the eye.
Some time ago I decided I would cook eggs in a nonstick pan whenever possible to avoid cleaning up stuck-on eggs. Many pans, like well-used iron skillets, have their own “seasoned surfaces” which prevent sticking as well. Know your pan when cooking eggs.
There are secret weapons for the times when we are rushing in the house at meal time, ready to eat as soon as possible. Oven-baking bacon is less messy than frying, and the whole package can be cooked in the oven at one time, unlike the microwave. And the bacon comes out crisp and straight, my preference. I refrigerate or freeze what we don’t eat and use for other purposes. Using foil sounds the best, but thin foil can sometimes stick and the grease can get under it, while the grease just sits on heavy foil, difficult to pour out when turning the bacon. I use instead treasured baking pans, tested through time, with scars to prove it. These pans will never be shiny again and are not shown to the public. They bring consistency to the process, however. I know just how much they will hold, and that the grease will not spill over.
Purchasing grated cheese is expensive, so I grate my own cheese and keep it refrigerated in a tight package, ready to be added to an omelet, scrambled egg, or even a bacon and onion tart. I’ve gotten in the habit of chopping several onions at one time and keeping them in a tight container or freezing them. (The store-bought chopped ones are a little larger than I like.) I also lightly cook onions ahead of time and keep them refrigerated if I know I have a busy week ahead.
I have no compunction about using store-bought pie crust, however. I do prefer the kind that comes rolled two to a package and I prefer the name-brand one rather than the store-named ones. I like making free-standing tarts and pies from them, such as bacon and onion pie (using the left-over cooked bacon of course, and pre-cooked onion if possible). Since sausages and apples are one of our favorite combinations for supper, along with a green vegetable or two, once again I cook all the sausages in a package at one time and use the leftovers in soup or a sausage and apple pie. We cut up whole melons and keep them refrigerated for use during the week.
Our breakfast for supper menus vary, serving waffles with bacon or sausage, cantaloupe alongside a scrambled egg, with a biscuit or an English muffin. They give us time to talk and eat in the kitchen, serving up from the pans, and less clean-up work for both of us.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While bacon is still in package, bend and flex the package several times to make the strips easier to separate.
Spread bacon out on a rimmed baking pan. Put pan in hot oven. After 10 minutes remove the pan and pour any excess grease into a heatproof container like a jar. Return the bacon to the oven and cook until the bacon is brown on the first side. Remove from oven, drain grease as before and turn the bacon to the second side. Return to oven and continue baking, usually about five minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Remove from oven and move to paper towels briefly to drain.
Another option is using a broiler pan with a rack, which allows the bacon grease to drain during baking and saves the cook from having to do it until time to clean up. Turning the bacon may or may not be necessary.
Bacon and Onion Tart
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie or tart
This can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated, and even frozen. Save drippings from bacon, sausage, and other flavorful meats and refrigerate to use later. If none are available, any fat such as butter or oil can be substituted in equal measure for the drippings. If the tart pan is larger than called for in the recipe, the tart will cook more quickly as the tart is more shallow. A smaller tart pan should be filled carefully, leaving at least 1/4-inch at the top of the crust. Pour excess filling into oiled ramekins and bake as a crustless pie.
1 pie crust
4 to 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled, drippings reserved
1 medium onion
2 cups grated Gruyère, cheddar, or goat cheese
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out the pie crust and fit into a 9-inch tart or pie pan. If time allows for pre-baking, prick the pie crust on the sides and bottom with a fork, refrigerate or freeze as long as time allows, and put into the hot oven. Check after 10 minutes, continuing to cook until light brown. Remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 350. Move to a rimmed baking sheet. (If time does not allow for pre-baking, ladle the mixture into the pie crust-filled tart or pie pan and bake at 350 degrees as above.)
Meanwhile, reheat 2 tablespoons drippings in a large skillet, add onion and saute until soft. Lightly beat the egg and egg yolk together; add milk, crumbled bacon, onions, and cheese and stir together. Ladle mixture into a partially pre-baked piecrust, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 to 10
Of all the things in my house, it seems my husband most highly values the heavy electric waffle iron he brought into the marriage. It has both griddle and waffle plates. He makes Elvis Presley’s grilled banana and peanut butter or grilled cheese and apple sandwiches when it is his time to cook — lunch on Saturday. On rare occasion, he will let me use the pan, or if I make the batter ahead of time and have it ready, even makes them himself. The iron plates crisp both waffles and sandwiches perfectly, delivering them burnished with color and easy to remove. Waffle batters, like pancake batters, are best made half an hour or more before cooking. This recipe also can be used for pancake batter.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter or oil, cook’s preference
2 eggs, beaten for mixing
Preheat waffle baker. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Sift or toss together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix buttermilk, melted butter and eggs. Whisk together both mixtures and beat until smooth.
When the waffle baker is hot enough for a bit of oil to sizzle, ladle or pour the batter directly into the center of the lower half until it spreads to one inch from the edges. Cover and bake as directed. Do not lift cover during baking. Steam will escape from the sides of the waffle baker, so take care not to get burned. When the steam subsides, the waffle is nearly ready.
When the waffle is done, lift the cover. Loosen waffle with a fork. Keep warm in oven as directed, or serve immediately. Meanwhile, close the waffle iron to reheat quickly. When ready, pour in the batter for the next waffle. Thin the batter as needed with more buttermilk.
- Self-rising flour may be substituted for the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- For “sweet” milk waffles, use 1 tablespoon of baking powder and substitute milk for the buttermilk.
Soft Scrambled Eggs
People can be very particular about their scrambled eggs. In fact, there are many ways to serve them. The traditional way is to scramble eggs in bacon or sausage grease over high heat until they are cooked hard in little pieces. Not for me. I’m a butter person. (But yes, feel free to substitute oil as well.) The following recipe is a method of producing creamy, big-curd scrambled eggs, terrific over buttered toast, English muffins or served with a hot biscuit.
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
7 large eggs, divided
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan (not a frying pan), the top of a double boiler, or a pan that will go into a water bath.
Whisk six eggs lightly in a small bowl. (The more they are whisked, the lighter they will be.) Tip them into the melted butter. Stir occasionally over low heat until they start to cook and thicken. Add the cream and continue stirring until eggs start to form large curds. (Some chefs do this up to half an hour.) When the eggs are still soft but nearly done, remove from the heat. Whisk to mix the last egg and mix it in gently. It will cook in the heat from the pan and keep the other eggs moist. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add 1/2 cup grated Gruyère halfway through. Continue stirring until the cheese is melted.
- Add chopped fresh herbs with the last egg.
- Add crumbled goat cheese with the last egg.
Variation: Hard Scrambled Eggs
After adding the eggs to the butter, turn up the heat a bit and, using a whisk, break up the curds and cook a minute or two more.
Sausage and Apples
This is my go-to meal when we need a quick supper. It is also the base for quiches, overnight casseroles, dressing, soups and other dishes. I use sweet Italian links but suit your own tastes.
2/3 pound sausage links
2 red or green cooking apples
Prick the sausage skins thoroughly with a fork before adding to a hot pan and cook until brown, turn, and repeat until browned. If more than 1/2-inch in diameter, add a bit of water to the pan after initial browning to keep links from burning until the sausage is cooked through.
Meanwhile, core the apples and slice into 1/2-inch wedges. Add the wedges to the pan of hot sausages and sauté in the sausage fat until the apples are brown and caramelized lightly, soft but not mushy.
Drain the sausage and apples on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot.
- If using ground sausage, break up as much as possible. Add to hot pan, reduce heat, and cook until light brown, stirring constantly.
- If using patties, add to hot pan, cook until desired brown, turn and cook on second side.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.