Breakfast 101

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It’s called the most important meal of the day. It can be quick, grab-and-go, or it can be leisurely and sit-down. It can be healthy, or it can be decadent. It can be intimate and romantic with the one you love, or a bustling affair with tons of family and friends sitting around the table.

It’s breakfast, and even if we don’t splurge on a daily basis, we do love to every now and then.

We grabbed a cup of joe and talked about some of the most important aspects of this meal with five top Hampton Roads chefs, and here’s what they had to say:

Harpers TableHarper Bradshaw

Harper’s Table, Suffolk

Brunch offered on special occasions like Mother’s Day

A favorite breakfast memory?

I remember riding my bike with my dad to Fred’s restaurant growing up in Franklin. We would eat fried salt herring and fried trout almost every Saturday. Union Camp, the paper mill (now International Paper) was in its prime, and I remember groups of men who had gotten finished with the night shift eating breakfast and drinking pitchers of beer. That always fascinated me as a young boy.

Favorite breakfasts?

I love over-easy eggs cooked in copious amounts of butter. Really good grits and smoked sausage links. You always know you are starting off a good day when you can enjoy a Bloody Mary to accompany.

Let’s talk omelets

I love a perfectly made farm egg omelet in the spring topped with peas, asparagus, herbs and country ham. Hollandaise if I’m real lucky.

For a perfect omelet, use really good eggs, lots of butter, medium heat and stir them with a spatula until just before they set.

Cheese or butter in your grits?

Lots of both.

Tell me about pancakes.

Make them from scratch, don’t over mix the batter, and let the batter rest a bit before hitting the skillet. I always use a little extra baking powder/soda to give them lift. I love some cornmeal in my pancakes, too.

Biscuits: The secret?

I could write a book about this. I’m very passionate about biscuits, and you don’t find good ones very often. The key is lard, a really hot oven with a little water splashed on the bottom as the biscuits enter it, and lots and lots of butter.

How do you make a perfect poached egg?

Use an immersion circulator.

Hollandaise for benedicts: Does it always have to break?

Whip your egg yolks over simmering water until really light and fluffy, then emulsify warm, clarified butter into them one drop at a time. Don’t let it get too cool or you’re screwed.

Talk to me about French toast.

I use brioche for the bread. For the batter, a simple custard of heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla bean. For the topping, only fresh strawberries in season and some simple whipped cream, lightly seasoned.

Perfect oatmeal secrets?

Really good oats.

Get a recipe for Overnight Steel Cut Oats here.

Any other advice?

Source the ingredients for your Southern pantry from small, Southern producers, and buy the best you can afford.

Read about Harper’s Table Pork Belly Biscuits here.

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