Category Archives: Breakfast

Duck Hunt

Easter was a casual affair, with some simple but decadent food. A friend brought over a tin of duck confit (thank you very much!) which was promptly shredded and crisped and served alongside potatoes sautéed in a ladleful of duck fat, then topped it with runny-yolked fried eggs. It was salty, crisp, starchy happiness. The salad, the mesclun greens with grapefruit suprêmes, shaved endive, and paper-thin pear slices, lightened the meal a bit, but I still think all that richness gave me a touch of gout.

For dessert, I made waffles that were supposed to be crispy, but turned out to be tough. Insert blush of embarrassment: I hope my guest of honor didn’t crack any teeth! Some important rules to live by: don’t get a haircut prior to an important event, and don’t experiment with recipes when you’re entertaining. The pineapple compote-goat’s milk dulce de leche topping were fabulous though, so hopefully that makes up for the waffle failure. Similar to how some great shoes and glam accessories will spruce up your so-last-season frock…

Healthy Start

Yesterday I realized I had a little bit of “love” squeezing out from under my apron strings. Inspired by the athletes in town for Head of the Charles, I made a healthy start this morning.

Serves 1

½ cup oatmeal
½ cup apple juice or cider
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
Maple syrup to taste

– Combine oatmeal, apple juice, apple, cranberries, cinnamon, and salt in a cereal or soup bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave 3 to 4 minutes until apples are tender.

– Stir in milk (more or less according to desired consistency) and maple syrup.

How To… Scramble Eggs

It was a plain wooden table, rectangular, and filled most of the kitchen. She sat at its head, owning it with her large, meaty body. Her bulbous knees were spread apart, butting into the table’s legs, her own legs anchored by thick ankles that ended in feet solidly packed into white canvas sneakers. It would’ve been a humorous sight but for the fact that we were starving and this she-troll was ruler of the pantry, fridge, and stovetop. She yawned, stretching ham-like arms that strained against the fabric of her sleeves, and asked if we would like breakfast. It didn’t sound inviting, so my mother and I, terrified and slightly embarrassed at trespassing on this woman’s turf and morning, mumbled that we could manage on our own. Her mood changed suddenly to solicitousness (seasoned with sass) and she ordered us to sit as she’d just made a whole pot of scrambled eggs. Meek as mice we took our place at her table and waited. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her dishing out a pile of dried out yellow curds onto our plates. We swallowed hard and knew we had to comply.

Unless you find yourself forced to play the role of grateful guest (or compliant hostage), never, never, never eat a reheated egg of any sort, especially scrambled. Scrambled eggs are meant to be a moist, creamy cloud of small curds, not hard, dried out, crusty lumps of sponge.

Serves 1

2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk or cream
Salt and pepper
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

– Crack eggs into medium bowl. (Note: to avoid shells falling into your eggs, tap the eggs on a flat surface rather than the edge of your bowl or sink. If a bit of shell does make it into the bowl, scoop it out with the edge of an egg shell – it’s more efficient than chasing it about with your fingers or a spoon). Season with salt and pepper and add milk. Whisk until the mixture is frothy and pale yellow, 1 to 2 minutes.

– Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Once melted, pour in the eggs and start stirring in small concentric circles all around the pan with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape up and incorporate eggs on the bottom and sides of pan.

– Small curds will start to develop; keep stirring. Once most of the egg mixture is set, drop in the remaining ½ tablespoon butter and turn off heat. Keep stirring to incorporate the butter and serve. Eat immediately.

Breakfast in Bed

I don’t make pancakes. I always want a tall stack, but I fall short each time I try to make them. Diners, Denny’s, and IHOPs around the country are responsible for my ever having a pancake. I just can’t flip. My last attempt put me in a murderous rage, and all I had to show was a lousy pile of amoeba-shaped cakes.

I do make waffles, though. My mom gave me a two-waffle iron a few years ago and I use it frequently. Plain waffles, whole wheat waffles, cornmeal waffles. Blueberry syrup, hot buttered maple syrup and pecans, fresh fruit and powdered sugar. For a new twist on the sweet standards, I snuck in smoked cheddar. Go ahead, it’s a holiday – a perfect excuse to have breakfast in bed.


Makes 8 waffles
Special equipment: Waffle iron

For the Waffles:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 ounces smoked gouda or cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
1 3/4 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled

-Preheat oven to 200˚F. Have a baking sheet on hand. Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.

– In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cheese. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and butter.  Pour egg mixture into flour mixture, and with a few strokes, whisk just until ingredients are combined.

– Pour batter into waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron manufacturer’s instructions. Place waffles on baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining batter.

For the Eggs:
Serves 2

5 large eggs
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper
3 slices Black Forest ham, chopped

– Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Whisk in chives and season with salt and pepper.

– Melt butter over medium heat in small nonstick skillet. Add ham and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Pour in eggs and stir constantly until cooked through. Serve with waffles.

How to… Fry an Egg

I was in New York last weekend and went to brunch at a restaurant where I’ve had consistently good food on every single one of my many visits. Sadly, this time around the stars were not in alignment. The meal got off to a bad start when I saw that the bread basket wasn’t on the menu. “Only on Sundays,” I was informed. What? Why can’t the public have baked goods on a Saturday? I was annoyed, but moved on. More room for the huge plate of beef, hash, and eggs I wanted. Not on the menu either. “Seasonal menu,” was the explanation. Apparently cows aren’t in season. Who knew.

Since this was my favorite brunch place when I lived in New York, I let both offenses slide and ordered the special: a breakfast sandwich with spicy merguez sausage, horseradish cream, and my favorite, fried eggs. I settled back into the booth and sipped my coffee. Things were going to be just fine.

And then my food arrived. The eggs – quel horreur! – were completely overcooked. The yolks were firm and the whites were crunchy. I don’t know how you like your eggs, but I like mine over-easy, i.e. firm but not crispy whites and yolks that run when pricked with a fork tine. I don’t usually send things back, but I was revolted and just had to get rid of them. I politely asked for a replacement (I even offered to keep the rest of the dish) and in good faith saw them off. But when the second batch of eggs showed up, I knew it was all over. This pair was raw. No question about it. The whites were not white, but unsettlingly mucous-y and clear, and the yolks bright marigold instead of delicately hidden under a thin, shell pink skin.

Step 3 of my previous post explains how to make eggs over easy, but after last weekend’s debacle it occurred to me that perhaps the frying of an egg – or at least my version of the method – deserved a post all of its own. If you hate this recipe, e-mail me and I’ll tell you where to go in New York for a well done egg.

1 egg
1 pat of butter
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon water

Crack the egg into a teacup or cereal bowl.


openerI wish I could say I’d been off summering somewhere fabulous and glitzy, but the reason behind my long absence is much more plebeian and pedestrian: I started working and have been acclimating to my new situation. That being done, I am now back and ready to start feeding the blog – it’s looking a bit gaunt at the moment.

To ease into things, a simple recipe of French toast – quick and comforting for those Sunday mornings when the promise of Monday starts looming ominously in the distance:

For 4 (or 2 with roomy stomachs)

1 C. milk
3 whole eggs
½ C. plus 1 TBSP. granulated sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 TBSP. butter
8 tsp. cinnamon
8 slices hearty bread
¼ C. toasted pecans or walnuts, toasted
2 bananas, sliced into ¼”-thick rounds

-In a pie plate or shallow bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, 1 TBSP. sugar, salt, and vanilla.

-Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 ½ TBSP. butter. When the butter begins to foam, sprinkle the skillet with 2 TBSP. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

sugarpan-One at a time (or two, if they fit) dip 4 bread slices in the egg mixture, turning to coat (don’t let the bread just sit there unless you want mush for breakfast). Arrange the dipped slices on the sugared’n’cinnamoned skillet and cook till nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

placebreadonskillet-While that first side is cooking, sprinkle the soggy side facing you with 2 TBSP. sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Flip bread and cook opposite side. You should have a lovely crunchy crust on your toast.
Repeat dipping, buttering, sugaring’n’cinnamoning, and cooking with remaining bread slices.

-Arrange French toast on plates and top with pecans and sliced banana. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup, if desired.

finishedproductNOTES: Under no circumstances should you use flimsy sliced white bread for French toast. It’ll soak up all the liquid and be a hopeless wet mop of a thing. Stick to heartier stuff like challah or those so-called Italian loaves… I like a croissant now and then (but then I top it with whipped cream and berries), but only if it’s a sub-par one – no sense in using a perfect specimen for this.



If you played a word association game and the term “bran” was thrown at you, chances are you’d blurt out responses like, “constipation!” “old people!” “laxatives!” Whenever I’m in the cereal aisle and I see that box with the big, bold All-Bran logo, cheap and very literal toilet humor comes to mind. Note to Kellogg’s: making John McEnroe the star of your 10-Day Challenge commercials isn’t going to increase cereal sales. If you were to wake up to find John McEnroe perched at your bedside, wouldn’t you just go right then and there, thereby negating the need to have a bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran?

Let’s turn our attention now to bran in its baked incarnation: the bran muffin. It’s the ugly duckling of the breakfast breads with its dung brown color and lack of accessories in the form of streusel topping and/or chocolate chips. If you’re a late morning arrival at the office cafeteria, it’s usually only crumbs and bran muffins that remain.

But despite the fault-finding I’ve been doing, I do like bran cereal and muffins. I do! Sliced bananas and a handful of blueberries make those dry doodles agreeable, and a great bran muffin is nutty, tasty, and won’t sit like an undigested rock in your stomach. I hadn’t baked any in years, and was happily surprised with the results I got from this recipe. These muffins are moist and light and can be eaten plain, spread with butter and good preserves, or my favorite, split in half and grilled a day later. P.S. to Kellogg’s: These are a far better advertisement than Mr. McEnroe.

Adapted from “The Art of Quick Breads” by Beth Hensperger
Yields about 1 dozen standard muffins.

1 ½ C. cultured buttermilk or plain low-fat yogurt
2 eggs
¼ C. (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ C. vegetable oil
¼ C. pure maple syrup
1 ½ C. All-Bran cereal
1 ½ C. fresh or unthawed blueberries
1 C. unbleached all-purpose flour
½ C. wheat or oat bran flakes
¼ C. light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

-Preheat the oven to 400˚F with rack in the center.

-Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

-In a large bowl, whisk together: yogurt or buttermilk + eggs + melted butter + oil + maple syrup + All Bran.
Stir in the blueberries and allow to stand at room temperature 5 – 10 minutes.

-In a different bowl, combine the remaining (dry) ingredients.

-Once the All Bran mix has rested, add the dry ingredients mix and stir briskly with a large spatula or spoon till evenly moistened, using no more than 15 strokes.

-Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling till nearly level with the top of the pan.

-Bake 20 – 25 minutes until browned and a cake tester comes out clean.

-Allow muffins to rest in tin about 5 minutes before turning out on rack to cool. Serve warm.

-To freeze leftovers: Cool completely and wrap muffins individually in wax paper and store in plastic baggies.

-To serve frozen muffins: Warm in a 350˚F oven, microwave 20 – 30 seconds, or split in half horizontally, butter both sides of each half and grill over medium heat till golden and hot.
2leftoversGrilled muffins served with fruit salad and honey-laced yogurt.


Señor O was away on business and poor thing had to catch a 6:00am flight back home. I thought it would be nice to surprise him with a so-perfect-you’ll-want-to-take-the-red eye-more-often treat. I set my own alarm to 6:00am, ran to the supermarket because I’d run out of milk, and returned to start on these extra-sticky, ultra-decadent rolls. Make them for someone you love…or for someone you want to love you.


Makes 12 buns*

NOTE: I made half the recipe and would suggest you do the same if you have a standard mixer, as it is all it can handle. Besides, a half batch will yield 6 enormous buns. You’ll notice I excluded the pecans and currants- I wanted a really basic roll, but I’m sure the original is delicious. Add raisins, walnuts, or whatever dried fruits and/or nuts strike your fancy. Lastly, if using nuts, I suggest toasting them on a baking sheet for 7 – 10 minutes in a 350˚F oven prior to incorporating in recipe.

1 ½ C. warm milk (105˚F – 115˚F)
2 packages (1/4 oz. or 2 ½ tsp. each) active dry yeast
1/3 C. granulated sugar
5 ¼ C. all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ stick (4 TBSP.) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 C. packed dark brown sugar
2/3 C. dried currants
2/3 C. chopped pecans
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ stick (4 TBSP.) unsalted butter, softened

1 stick (8 TBSP.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ C. packed dark brown sugar
½ C. granulated sugar
2 TBSP. light corn syrup (*I went with dark)
¼ C. heavy cream

A heavy duty standard mixer with dough hook; 2 muffin pans with 6 large (1-cup) cups each. (*As you’ll see in the photos below, I used a standard ½-cup muffin tin and the buns surpassed the edges – they turned out successfully, in spite..).

-Stir together ½ cup warm milk + yeast + pinch of sugar in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 5 minutes, till foamy. If the mix doesn’t foam, discard and start with new yeast.


Good yeast.

-Put flour + sugar + salt in your mixer and mix with dough hook on low speed until combined. Whisk together remaining 1 cup of milk + 2 eggs, then add to flour mix. Add foamy yeast as well. Mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes, till a soft dough forms.

-Add the softened butter and continue mixing, about 4 minutes.

-Rinse a large bowl with hot water, then put dough in wet bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place (microwave / oven) until doubled in bulk, about 1 ¼ hours.

-Stir together all ingredients except butter.

-Butter muffin tins. In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together butter + dark brown sugar + granulated sugar + corn syrup + cream till butter is melted. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes, still stirring. Spray Pam on a tablespoon (this helps sticky stuff like syrups and honey slide right off the spoon) and spoon 2 TBSP. of warm syrup in each buttered tin. Set tin aside.


Syrup ingredients.

Pour while hot: Two tablespoons syrup per muffin tin.

-Turn dough out onto a well-floured, clean surface and dust with flour. Rub flour on a rolling pin and extend dough into a 16” x 12” rectangle. With a pastry brush, brush off excess flour, then spread evenly with softened butter. Sprinkle filling evenly over dough.

This dough is sticky – don’t skimp when you flour your work area.

-Beginning with the long side nearest you, roll up the dough to form a 16” –long log. (*As you roll, brush off excess flour). Cut log crosswise into 12 rounds. Place buns cut-side up in tins. Cover with oiled (*or Pam-sprayed) plastic wrap and allow to rise once more, about 1 hour.


Remember to brush off excess flour as you roll.


-Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350˚F.

-Bake buns until puffed and golden, 30 – 35 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then invert and serve warm. (*To avoid sticky syrup overflowing and sticking in the oven, I placed my muffin tin atop a foil-lined baking sheet).
Flip slightly cooled buns over to release cascade of super-sticky topping.




Sorry for the sensory overload — but they were too good.



Count-worthy sandwich.

My first restaurant meal as a resident of Massachusetts took place at a popular spot in Cambridge. It was, regrettably, only so-so. Had it not been for the fantastic people we brunched with, the experience would have rated slightly lower.

The menu had the usual eggs Benedict, steak and eggs, French toast, etc. I went for the Monte Cristo and this is where the cucumber begins to turn into a pickle. When the waiter took my order, I said, “Just to be clear, this sandwich is egg-battered and fried like French toast, yeah?” And he said, “No, it’s grilled ham and cheese, topped with a fried egg.” To which I replied, “Well then, that’s more of a croque madame than a Monte Cristo, isn’t it?” Waiter: “No, it’s a Monte Cristo.” I’d already decided on having the sandwich, despite its inaccurate handle, but the Hermione Granger in me really wanted to let this man know that Monte Cristos and croque madames are like the proverbial apples and oranges: “Sorry, but those are two totally different sandwiches.” Mercifully, the waiter didn’t kick me out of the restaurant, and just shrugged his shoulders and continued taking orders.

Right then and there I decided I needed to set the record straight in my own kitchen and create a semantically and anatomically correct Monte Cristo. I did some online research and was surprised at the scanty results that turned up, and even more surprised that no one could agree on the true origins of the that sandwich. I had secretly hoped that Alexander Dumas had snacked on them while writing his novels and liked them so much that he’d named one of his most beloved characters after them…

The fact is there are a variety of versions out there, the majority calling for turkey and Swiss, others ham or chicken and Swiss, and one recipe, from Bennigan’s Grill and Tavern incorporated both turkey and ham, as well as Swiss and American cheeses. The one common thread among these was that the sandwiches were egg-battered and fried, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and served alongside fruit or fruit compote. I consulted Joy of Cooking as well but found that they go batter-free, which with all due respect, is unacceptable. Given the range of interpretations, I decided I had free rein to assemble a Monte Cristo of my own design, and I was deeply satisfied with it.

Serves 2

4 slices firm bread (Pullman, pain de mie, or challah – please, no Wonder et al, unless you want a soggy mess for brunch)
4 oz. ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/3 C. milk
pinch salt

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Maple syrup

1. Butter one side of each bread slice.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs + milk + pinch salt.

3. Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and add vegetable oil (you’ll have to eyeball this – there should be enough to lightly fry the bread).

4. Dip the buttered side of two bread slices in the egg mixture and allow to soak, about 15 seconds. Place the battered side in the oil and immediately top one slice with cheese and ham. Make sure the heat is not too high: the bread should brown slowly to allow the cheese to melt; there is nothing worse than a hot sandwich with a cold filling. Cover the ham and cheese with the second slice, and flip to continue browning.

5. Cut sandwich in half, sift powdered sugar over it, and serve with warm maple syrup.


Cheese first, ham second!





Since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with biscuits. My goal and acme was the biscuits sold at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, the Colonel was my inspiration for years of research and dedicated early-morning baking. At age 8 I started collecting recipes for all manner of biscuits – quick, drop, spoon, cream, baking soda, lard, etc. etc. etc. If I saw a biscuit recipe somewhere I’d copy it down and try out. As a result of my curiosity and quest for the ultimate recipe, I have numerous notebooks and scraps of paper proclaiming “Best biscuits ever!” in a wide variety of handwriting styles – from big, loopy third grade script to mature, all-caps block letters. Regrettably, I’ve moved around quite a bit (I’ve lived in at least 23 different homes – no joke!) and my belongings and personal effects are somewhat scattered. I wish I could go back and compare all of my biscuit recipes to confirm that my current one really is the best ever, but I can’t, so my exclamation points and scribbled assurances will just have to do. Rest assured, though, this recipe totally kicks Colonel butt.

Here are, without further ado, THE BEST BISCUITS EVER.
…At least for the time being.
Yields about 6 biscuits.

1 ½ C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ stick butter, cut into 1” pieces
¾ C. buttermilk or plain yogurt

-Sift dry ingredients twice.

-Blend in butter with fingertips.

-Add buttermilk & stir in with fork just till combined.

-Knead 6 times, gently.

-Pat into an 8” x 5 ½” rectangle and cut into half lengthwise, then into thirds crosswise, or use a biscuit cutter.

-Bake 12 – 15 minutes at 425°F with rack in middle position.

-Serve warm with good butter and preserves.
-Add 2 TBSP. of granulated sugar to the dry ingredients and proceed with recipe as directed.
-For a sparkly top, sprinkle a bit of sugar on the shaped biscuits before popping them in the oven.

-Prepare recipe as directed, but rather than placing biscuits in oven, cover loosely with plastic wrap and slide into the freezer.
-Once solid, individually wrap each biscuit and store in a Ziploc bag.
-Ready to eat? Preheat oven to 400˚F and bake biscuits about 20 minutes.


These were actually a variation of the standard recipe, utilizing whole-grain flour, which is why they’re brownish in color. Great (and a good source of fiber!), but I much prefer the original version.