Breakfast 101

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Sydney Meers Stove the RestaurantSydney Meers

Stove, The Restaurant, Portsmouth

Breakfast/brunch offered the first Sunday of each month

A favorite breakfast memory?

One morning in the late ’50s my dad made me some pig brains and eggs for breakfast. He said, ‘Come here, boy; you’re gonna love this.’ I didn’t even ask; I dove in, and man what a great flavor. After eating I asked him what it was. He said, “Remember that hog your granddaddy and I let you pick out for us? Well, this is his brains,” and I asked, ‘Dad, will I get smart?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Boy, eat your eggs.’

Favorite breakfasts?

I love offal of any kind: brains and eggs, scrapple, fried lamb or hog nuts with sausage and fried eggs are great. I love cornmeal pan fried in an iron skillet with sweetbreads and with sunny side up, crisp-edge eggs with a sausage gravy over them—m damn good.  It’s really hard for me to pick cause I just eat it all—hoe cakes, cornmeal pancakes. I mean just all of it.

Let’s talk omelets

Smoked tomato, fresh chopped herbs, triple-cream cheeses like St. André, pimento cheese and the holy trinity all go into my omelets.

I use three to four eggs in my omelet. I beat them with a wide balloon whisk and whisk them for about a good two minutes so they’ll be full of air and will puff up big once in a 400F to 500F oven.

Hashbrowns or homefries?

I’m not a big fan of potatoes. Instead I do a fresh rutabaga griddle fried, but if I had to choose I would do homefries.

Cheese or butter in your grits?

Ok, look, I’m no snob, but if you put cheese in your grits you’ll get shot in northern Mississippi. Butter—tons. Where I grew up in the hills we had dairies everywhere, and butter was plentiful.

Tell me about pancakes.

For the fluffiest you need to use milk, not buttermilk, and make the batter just before you want to serve them. Whip the eggs real light, and aerate them a bit, then aerate your milk in with the eggs, fold in the flour in fourths, and for really fluffy, fold a couple of soft whipped egg whites.

Biscuits: The secret?

For biscuits to be flaky and light, I use two-thirds milk and one-third buttermilk. I use a mixture of lard I make and shortening, whip these together to mix well and lighten the fat a bit and sift the flour using three-fourths all-purpose flour and one-fourth  cake flour folding them in gently and then cutting the fat in gently as you can and use baking powder and baking soda.

How do you make a perfect poached egg?

Get a small pan and put in three inches of water at 180F to 185F and a cap full of vinegar. Stir, and then lay a coffee cup into the hot water, and let the eggs coagulate.  After two or three eggs you’ll have to change the water again and start over. You can do these ahead, and once done lay into an ice bath to stop cooking, then re-heat in hot water just before serving.

Hollandaise for benedicts: Does it always have to break?

To make hollandaise that doesn’t break it is simple: don’t make it. If you insist on making it, once made keep it in a warm, not hot, part of your kitchen, and make enough to get you through an hour or less. It’s an oil egg product and will naturally break down.

How do you get your bacon crispy?

I use pork belly cut one-eighth-inch thick. I crisp it up on each side, leaving a wonderful soft fat center. When I use sliced bacon, which I don’t often, I will lay them on the griddle, place a lid for about three minutes, then turn over and repeat. It comes out nice and crisp but not hard as a brick. Keep in mind on all these foods you need a really good product to start with, not cheap food.

Talk to me about French toast.

I just happen to make the ultimate French toast. I make brioche a day ahead, cut it into big cubes and the same with leftover artisan bread; it’s nice and spongy, giving some texture. Mix this together, soak it with a pound of butter melted, tossing until I don’t see any liquid butter left.

Now I make a custard and toss the breads into the custard with some of my milk, buttermilk and housemade vanilla with a little more melted butter. After a few minutes soaking I add tart apples, peaches, figs, depending on what fruit I can get in season, then I place in a lined loaf pan, filling it to the top. I bake it off, and once cooled I slice it, then I grill or griddle it, and damn—it’s so good. 

I make jelly from grapes Jon Chatham let me pick just before his harvest at Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore; that grape is so much better than plain grapes, just saying. I top them only with dark sorghum, as local as I can get of course, and a little butter.

Perfect oatmeal secrets?

I love oatmeal. The secret is a real stone ground, not instant crap. Soak half of them in warm, not hot, water for about an hour, then mix with the same amount of non-soaked, add two parts liquid to one part oatmeal, and bring to boil. Then pour over the oatmeal and stir, add sugar if you wish and butter, then finish with milk and you’ve got a full meal, baby.

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