My top ten sandwich list elicited some good conversation so let’s follow it up with another conversation about another divisive subject – breakfast.
While it is called the most important meal of the day, some people ignore it. Some people even drink it. But, more importantly, what is your ideal breakfast?
While you think about that, here are my top ten breakfasts.
10. Cracklin’ Oat Bran
This stuff is truly the Tiffany’s of breakfast cereal. Not only does it come in a tiny blue box but it also is inevitably twice the price as everything else around that. All that said, it’s still the best. Our grandma used to have this around (at the time, our family couldn’t afford it) and it was one of the best parts of visiting New Haven. (Well, that and Moderna Pizza, but that’s for another time). It’s slightly sweet, has a great crunchy texture, and flavors the milk a bit. (Always a good breakfast cereal bonus). If I had to seed my breakfast cereals like the NCAA basketball tournament, Cracklin’ Oat Bran would be No. 1-seeded Duke – small, ridiculously expensive, and still more than likely to be better than all the other more likable, “proletarian” cereals around it.
9. Belgian Waffle
Still a classic even after all these years, a well-made and well-assembled Belgian Waffle is a truly great thing. A good waffle should have a nice egg, bready, flavor that serves as the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, but hopefully not-too-sweet fruit flavor. And please, purveyors of waffles everywhere, please understand that there is something as “too-sweet fruit topping.” Waffle toppings should taste like fruit, not like the fruit goo that inhabits the inside of a Hostess pie. Of course there are good toppings beyond fruit. Maple syrup and butter are always good, so are pecans. For a good discussion on waffle toppings (a subject deserving of a separate discussion) see this from The Sporkful.
8. Cold Pizza
Is there anything better after a long night of drinking than some of the leftover pizza from the prior night? It tastes great, and the refrigeration process (and congealing, if we’re honest) has firmed the pizza up and made it far easier to eat, especially if you’re dealing with the barely functioning dehydrated and undernourished brain of a hangover victim. I don’t know why, but I tend think black olives are the best cold pizza topping, but let’s be honest, they all work. Cheese works. Meat works. In my opinion, white pizza doesn’t work quite as well, for some reason. Maybe tomatoes have some kind of special restorative power.
7. Huevos Rancheros
Another oldie but goodie, these hit a whole new level if you’re at the kind of good Tex/Mex place that actually makes its red or green chile sauce homemade. If so, you’re in for a real treat. The richness of the eggs goes perfectly with the spiciness and smokiness of the sauce.
6. French Toast, especially if made with challah
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a usable picture of challah french toast but let me make clear, there is no better bread with which you can make french toast. Not brioche. Not baguette. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is as good french toast made with the moist, eggy goodness that is challah. Many a great Saturday morning was had with this as our breakfast. If you can’t get your hands on challah, get a nice dense bread, that can stand-up to the temperature. I’ve heard that some folks make this with croissant, but that just sounds too rich, doesn’t it?
I had to include this because, finally, I’ve been able to successfully get an omelette to flip without it turning into an ugly plate of unevenly scrambled eggs. Omelettes are great, and unlike my more strident beliefs on french toast bread selections, I’m very flexible when it comes to omelettes. Cheese? Good. Veggies? Also good. Meat? Certainly. Sauces? Super. In fact, just this week, I covered my omelette with some puttanesca sauce left over from a prior dinner.
Now this is less unconventional than it sounds. For one, many Vietnamese eat pho for breakfast or brunch. That’s why many pho restaurants open at 9 or 10 in the morning. If you go to a pho place at that hour, it won’t empty, it’ll just be filled with Vietnamese folks and well, me. I love pho for breakfast, especially on a cold day. It’s as warming as oatmeal, without that “by eating this, I feel 85 years old” feeling. Also, if you use enough Sriracha, you can even make it spicy, which sometimes is just what I crave.
3. Dim Sum
I’ve written about dim sum before, but in general, if you’re in the mood for a breakfast adventure, you can’t do much better than dim sum. Is it relaxing? No, a good dim sum place should be a complete zoo when you arrive, with the aisles filled with steaming carts, the air filled with amazing aromas, and your ears filled with the din of happy Chinese diners and the mandatory 2-3 crying infants. That’s a dim sum place. No, it won’t be a “relaxing” breakfast, but the endless array of buns, dumplings, roasted meats, seafood nibbles, and stuff you can’t even identify but are going to try anyway just because it smells good makes it all worth it.
2. Bagel and Lox
There comes that point in every Jewish person’s life when a young person truly becomes an adult. I’m sure you’re thinking that this is the person’s bar mitzvah, but you would be wrong. In fact, it’s the moment that individual finds their taste for bagels and lox. (I’ll grant that developing a taste for pickled herring is more like post-bar mitzvah confirmation). One key thing is that you don’t skimp on the salmon. This isn’t an item I eat very often (salmon has gotten very expensive), so when I do, I make sure I have plenty on there. The cream cheese is sort of a cooling glue keeping the salmon and bagel connected, but that’s all. This is all about the bagel (not too soft) and the salmon (not too grainy). This is truly the epiphany of Jewish cuisine’s breakfast options…. or is it?
1. Fried Matzah
Nope, it’s not. The true Jewish breakfast pinnacle is fried matzah, or “matzo brei” to use its Yiddish name. Fried matzah at its most basic level is just eggs scrambled with slightly moistened matzahs. But, like almost everything in Jewish cooking, it can be made with as many variations as there were shtetels that made it. Some people add onions. Some people use milk. Some people fry it in rendered chicken fat for that truly “old world” flavor. Some form it up into a cake and some keep it broken up more like scrambled eggs. And all that is before we even get into the topping questions. I prefer keeping it savory with just a bit of salt and pepper. Others though, make it sweet by using apple sauce, jam, or maple syrup. While it’s enjoyed primarily during Passover, those truly in the know understand that fried matzah can be enjoyed all year and not just for breakfast. I remember my family arriving to my grandma’s house in the middle of night after a long drive and being greeted by a big bowl of fresh fried matzah. Truly, there’s nothing better.
So there is my top 10. I put the question of what is your favorite breakfast out to my friends earlier today and here are some of the answers.
Stuffed French toast!!
Pumpkin pancakes or french toast at home.
Nana’s Belgian waffles (That’s from Sam, the co-proprietor of this site)
Everything bagel with lox and cream cheese although my cardiologist won’t let me have the cream cheese
Pancakes with butterscotch morsels and granola inside them and topped with caramel sauce
Whole wheat Belgian waffles with blueberries in the batter! Awesome…made at home. Joy of Cooking recipe that I tweaked.
What is your favorite breakfast food? Let me and my brother know in the comments.