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The Most Important Meal of the Day is Copyright © 2004 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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Cooking breakfast, to me, is a far more formidable task than cooking dinner, because eggs and toast and hash browns wait for no man. Unlike most dinner dishes, which can be reduced to a simmer while you coordinate the other components of your meal (who cares if the gravy quietly bubbles in the skillet an extra ten minutes), you have to serve eggs fried in butter as soon as they're ready. No one wants to eat eggs cold, or served sunny-side down with a hard-boiled yellow center. Fortunately, all the breakfast dishes discussed here require very little juggling.

friends before food
the most important meal of the day

My father told me many things.

The two pieces of advice I remember most are both food related. If you're about to get into a fistfight, and you have food in your mouth, spit out the food before you start fighting, so you don't choke on it; and, always eat breakfast, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The two suggestions are fascinating to me still, so many decades later, because they present such contrasting views of the world.

In the first, our world is a hostile, unpredictable place, where a fistfight, as well as choking to death on food, and by extension any other calamity that leaves you bug-eyed and falling, could be around any red-brick corner.

In the second, the world is an ordered land in which one merely needs to sensibly prepare for one's day.

As I grew older, and got past the part of our lives where we think our fathers are fools, I realized both views were true. Yes, there is much you can do to control how your day will go, and yes, occasionally, chaos does take over, leaving you helpless, frightened, raising your fists, spitting.

Is breakfast in fact the most important meal of the day? I don't know. Probably not. If I eat a substantial breakfast, I don't want so much to take on the world as crawl back into bed, a bit bloated, and watch TV.

Breakfast though can be a great, fun repast.

What better way to start off your day, than celebrating it with a meal that uses up lots of pots and pans?

An elaborate breakfast, as opposed to the more sensible, I've got to go out the door in ten minutes cereal and sliced fruit breakfast, signals the day is owned by you. You don't have to go anywhere, certainly don't have to sit in rush hour traffic for an hour so you can be a puppet in an office chair.

So let's call these weekend breakfasts.

These are breakfasts to make on a day when your life is controlled by you, not by the man or woman down the carpeted hall sitting behind a big desk.

In that sense, an elaborate breakfast is a celebration of life, freedom, fucking.

And in fact, these dishes are most enjoyable if they're prepared just after you and your partner have made love, rolling around on the bedsheets in the bright cheerfulness of morning sunlight, both of you afterwards clomping out barefooted to the kitchen with that happy, sappy, I-just-got-fucked look in your eyes.

We're going to cover three different celebratory breakfasts:

Eggs Benedict
Quiche Lorraine
Breakfast Burritos

Since all three recipes call for eggs, let's talk a bit about the little brittle wonders.

Never buy a carton of eggs without opening it and revolving each egg in its pocket to make sure it isn't cracked. This is not just a matter of getting the dozen eggs you paid for-- it's also a question of making sure the intact eggs have not been exposed to the bacteria of a cracked egg.

Eggs come in two basic shell colors, white and brown. Although many people believe otherwise, brown-shelled eggs are not more nutritious than white-shelled eggs, nor are they more flavorful. The amount of nutrients in an egg, and the quality of its flavor, depends on the chicken laying the egg, regardless of whether that chicken is a white-shelled or brown-shelled layer, and how fresh the egg is. In the United States, brown-shelled eggs are generally found in the Northeast, white-shelled eggs elsewhere. Either type of egg may be used in these dishes.

Recipes usually call for rather precise measures of most ingredients (an eighth of a teaspoon of cumin, for example), but I've noticed nearly no recipes specify the size of the eggs to be used (and there's a significant difference, far more than an eighth of a teaspoon, between a jumbo egg and a medium egg.). For these recipes, please use jumbo or extra-large eggs.

Eggs come in different grades in the United States, the most popular being Grade AA, Grade A, and Grade B (the eggs are graded by the United States Department of Agriculture ). A Grade AA egg has slightly more flavor than a Grade A egg, which is slightly more flavorful than a Grade B egg, but all three grades have about the same nutritive value. The biggest difference in grades is that the higher the grade, the plumper the yolk will be, the thicker the egg white. Eggs Benedict, therefore, should be made with Grade AA eggs, since the eggs are presented whole. The appearance of the eggs for Quiche Lorraine and Breakfast Burritos is less important, since they're combined with other ingredients, so a lower grade may be used if desired.

Store eggs in the coldest part of your refrigerator-- definitely not in those egg-shaped recessed molds that are built into some refrigerator doors. Eggs will last longest if they're stored at about thirty degrees Fahrenheit, but no lower (Eggs freeze at twenty-nine degrees Fahrenheit). Store them in their original carton, wide end up (All eggs have an interior air pocket. You want to put as much distance between the air pocket and the yolk as possible, since the air pocket is where bacteria begins breeding, and the egg yolk is more susceptible to bacteria than the egg white).

Eggs Benedict calls for some of the egg yolks to be separated. This is best done when the eggs are fresh from the refrigerator. The egg white will more easily slide away from the egg yolk at a cold temperature because the white has more viscosity when it is chilled. The closer to room temperature an egg is, the more likely it is the egg yolk will tear during the separation process.


Eggs Benedict, to me, is the ultimate breakfast, elegant and absolutely delicious.

You'll need, for two servings (if you're in a ménage a trois, increase ingredients by one-half):

4 whole eggs
2 English muffins
4 slices of ham
3 egg yolks
1 stick of unsalted butter plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 tsp dry mustard
3 drips of Tabasco
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

Start off by heating water in a saucepan until it comes to a bubbling boil. Some recipes call for you to add vinegar, to help hold the cooking egg white around the yolk, but we've never found this to be necessary. And why flavor your eggs with vinegar?

Swirl the hot water in the saucepan so it creates a whirlpool, then drop a whole raw egg into that boiling eye. The circular motion you've created in the hot water will cause the egg white to form a shroud around its yolk. Quite a few ectoplasms of egg white might wander away from the yolk, but that's okay. You'll see the egg basically forms an oval of egg white, with a wobbly yellow yolk at its center.

Once the egg white oval has solidified, with the yolk still as soft as a bouncing, braless breast (I'm not being sexist, I'm being precise), lift the egg out of the maelstrom of bubbling water and lay it down in a bowl of cool water in which ice is floating. In other words, you want to cook the whole egg in the boiling water just long enough to set the oval of egg white, then stop the cooking by plunging the egg in ice cold water, before the yolk has had a chance to solidify.

Using a spoon and knife, trim off any trailing egg white from the egg submerged in the ice cold water, and flick those extraneous tendrils into the garbage can.

Repeat until all four whole eggs are done. Leave the pot of boiling water on the stove, but turn the heat down to a simmer.

Place the three egg yolks in a blender (to separate raw egg yolks from egg white, crack the hard white fragile egg shell on the rim of a bowl, open the egg into your left palm, then hold your fingers slightly apart, so that the raw egg white drips down into the sink between your fingers, while the raw orange yolk stays within your hand. Switch the yolk/egg white mess from palm to palm if that helps. Most cookbooks instruct you at this point to "save the egg white for future use", but who the hell is going to cook something in the next day or two for which they need egg whites? I say, Sayonara, baby.)

Add to the egg yolks in the blender the dry mustard, Tabasco, and lemon juice.

Place a small saucepan on a burner on low heat, and drop in an unwrapped stick of butter.

In a skillet, heat the two tablespoons of butter to where they yellowly slide across the skillet, bubbling and melting, then place the four ham slices atop the hot butter. Each ham slice should be about the same size as the circumference of an English muffin half, and about a half inch thick.

Put the four English muffin halves in a toaster, press the levers down.

Once the ham slices are cooked on one side, flip to cook them on the other side.

Remember the saucepan in which you cooked the four whole eggs? Increase the heat under it so it goes from a simmer to a light boil.

Once the English muffin halves pop up, steam rising from their curved tops, place two halves on each plate, side by side, just like you and your lover in bed.

With a fork, transfer a ham slice atop each English muffin half.

Using a spatula, transfer a cooked whole egg from the ice water bowl to the saucepan with lightly boiling water, leaving it in the light boil only long enough to heat it through (the whole egg should keep its bouncing breast). Lift the warmed whole egg out of the saucepan of lightly boiling water, and place it atop a ham slice.

Repeat with the other three whole eggs.

Put the white rubber lid on top of the blender, leaving off the clear plastic center of the lid, so that there's a hole in the rubber lid, and slowly pour the stick of melted butter into the blender, while the blender is on (it really doesn't matter what speed you use, as long as you pour slowly).

You'll see that the sauce in the blender, which is known as Hollandaise sauce, has thickened (an emulsification caused by the interaction of the oils in the butter with the acidity in the lemon juice, abetted by the egg yolks).

Pour the thickened sauce evenly over the four squat towers of egg, ham, muffin.


BONUS SIDE DISH: Eggs Benedict go really well with home fries, also known as cottage fries.

Use new potatoes for home fries (in other words, red or white waxy potatoes, as opposed to russet or Idaho potatoes).

Either put the potatoes in the microwave, and cook them on the "potato" setting, or boil them on top of the stove until they can be pierced with a little resistance.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise, put each half cut-side down, and slice down its length, about a half inch apart. Discard both rounded ends.

Heat a half inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat, adding two tablespoons of butter.

Place the cut potato pieces on their side in the skillet. Find something to do for about ten to fifteen minutes.

Lift some of the slices to see if they've started turning gold on the skillet side.

If so, flip them over onto their other side. If not, find something else to do.

Once they're golden on both sides, transfer them to a plate covered with paper towels, to absorb the grease. Salt and pepper them. Distribute them across the plate in a single layer (if you heap them on the plate, the steam rising from the lower layers will soften the crispiness of the upper-layered potatoes).

Assuming you prepared the potatoes first, before starting the Eggs Benedict, place the cooked home fries in a pre-heated two hundred and fifty degree oven until the Eggs Benedict are ready.

Serve the salted, peppered potatoes with ketchup on the side.


When cookbooks describe Quiche Lorraine, they generally say it's an "open-faced tart", which I think is probably one of the worse possible descriptions, since most people have no idea what a tart is, much less an "open-faced" tart.

Basically, Quiche Lorraine is a heavenly mixture of eggs, cream, swiss cheese and bacon cooked in a pie shell.

It's absolutely delicious.

There are variations which use cubed ham, a potato crust and all sorts of other modernizations, much like it's possible to walk into a pizza parlor in some areas of the city and order a pizza with teriyaki duck and pineapple toppings, but we're not going to concern ourselves with those degradations here. This is the classic Quiche recipe.

To make a Quiche Lorraine you'll need:

3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound bacon
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces aged swiss cheese
1 nine-inch frozen deep dish pie shell

Preheat the oven to three hundred and fifty degrees.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until it's as brown and crisp as you would want it to be for a BLT.

Using both hands, tear the bacon apart into stamp-sized pieces, dropping the pieces into the bottom of the frozen pie shell.

Cut the swiss cheese into squares approximately the same size as the bacon, and distribute the cheese across the top of the torn bacon, covering it.

In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, dry mustard, salt, black pepper.

Pour into the pie shell, over the bacon and cheese bottom.

Bake for approximately forty-five minutes.

The quiche is ready when the filling is firm, and the top is golden. The top will be puffed above the aluminum rim of the pie shell, although this puffed state will descend as the pie cools.

Allow it to cool for ten minutes, then cut out wedges for however many servings as you have hungry guests.

A modest serving is one-sixth of the quiche. But this dish is so delicious, your guests will probably want a wedge one-fourth of the pie.

Leftovers freeze extremely well. Leave any remainder of the pie in its aluminum plate, and place in a freezer bag once the pie has cooled, squeezing out any trapped air. To serve at a later date, defrost the quiche in the refrigerator, then reheat, in its original aluminum pan, but with the freezer bag removed, in a three hundred and fifty degree oven, for approximately thirty minutes.

Quiche is great served with a tossed green salad, with an oil and vinegar dressing, for dinner, or, for breakfast, with a fresh fruit salad, drizzled with Grand Mariner.

This recipe produces a quiche in which the primary flavor is the cream. To produce a more "eggy" quiche, substitute half and half for the heavy cream, and increase the salt to one teaspoon.


We like to hold food in our hand, rapturously guiding its hot flavor into our mouths.

Think hot dog, pizza slice, cheeseburger.

Maybe it's an echo of suckling at the breast, pudgy little feet kicking.

Until the breakfast burrito, there was no way to reproduce the suckling experience with a breakfast meal. Breakfast had always been something on a plate, to be eaten with fork and knife.

The breakfast burrito brings us back to childhood, and indeed, to infanthood.

To make two breakfast burritos, you'll need:

A quarter pound of breakfast sausage
One medium onion
Two eggs
Half a cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Two flour tortillas

Simple, right? Simple as mother's milk.

By "breakfast sausage", I don't mean sausage links, or sausage patties. I mean the fat, wide tubes of plastic-encased sausage meat sold by Jimmy Dean, and a few other suppliers, usually in one pound logs.

Cook the beige, pink and pearl sausage meat in a medium skillet, using the top of your wooden spoon to separate the meat into mini-bites, until the fat has been rendered and the meat has turned brown. Add the chopped-up onion. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Break two eggs into a bowl, remove any egg shell jags resulting from your clumsiness, then swirl the banana of egg yolk within the raw egg whites to create galaxies (If you've ever tried to remove an eggshell fragment from a bowl of shelled eggs with a finger or spoon tip, you know the fragment floats teasingly away. To get at the fragment, use a curved section of a broken eggshell, like a scoop. The broken eggshell scoop is more chemically compatible with the albumen (egg white) in the bowl, allowing you to get under the fragment and lift it away). Drop this mixture into the skillet with the cooked sausage and onion, and stir until the egg is cooked. (Don't drain the skillet before adding the eggs. Not that much fat will be rendered from the sausage, and what little fat is rendered, is good for your dish.)

In a skillet at least as large as each flour tortilla, heated to medium heat, place the first tortilla in the skillet, heat for twenty seconds, then flip and heat for an additional twenty seconds. Transfer to a serving plate.

Repeat with the other tortilla.

Place half the sausage and onion mixture in a fat line down the center of the first tortilla, keeping the mixture about two inches away from the top and bottom curved rims of the tortilla.

Sprinkle half the grated cheese down the steaming line.

Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the bottom of the fillings, then fold the right side of the tortilla over the fillings, continuing to roll leftwards until you have a hot cylinder.

Place the burrito in a microwave and heat on high for thirty seconds (to melt the grated cheese).

Repeat with the second burrito.

Place each burrito on a plate with a ramekin or small bowl of salsa beside the burrito, and a tablespoon.

To eat the burrito, each person gently unrolls the tortilla until he or she comes to the meat mixture, then ladles as much salsa along the delicious line of meat filling as they want.

Roll the burrito back up, lift it in your hands, aim it at your mouth.