Breakfast 101

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.

 

Doc Taylors Virginia BeachRay Lebuen

Doc Taylors, Virginia Beach

Breakfast/brunch offered seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A favorite breakfast memory?

My mom making: banana pancakes; corn beef you buy in a can, then sauté with fresh garlic and onions; Spam and garlic fried rice.

Favorite breakfasts?

I love to eat Loco Moco: garlic fried rice topped with hamburger patties, brown gravy and eggs. Yum yum.

Let’s talk omelets

I love cheese, cheese and more cheese in my omelet.

To make the lightest, fluffiest omelet, scramble the eggs real well so that it is all yellow; no white visible. Add a little cream, or milk, or both.

Tell me about pancakes.

Try not to stir the batter too much, and use very cold butter and milk.

Biscuits: The secret?

I use butter instead of shortening; it tenderizes the dough; plus it adds great flavor. I also use a combination of butter, milk and cream in the dough.

How do you make a perfect poached egg?

A drop or two of vinegar in the poaching liquid, and love.

Hollandaise for benedicts: Does it always have to break?

Use a blender, such as Cuisinart.

How do you get your bacon crispy?

Lay bacon on a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator; do not cover, and let it sit overnight. The next day, place it in a 500F oven until crisp.

Talk to me about French toast.

I use Hawaiian loaf bread with eggs, heavy cream, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. I love to top it with cream cheese folded with papaya, mango and macadamia nuts. I drizzle over some Grand Marnier-infused cream sauce, sprinkle with lots of powdered sugar, and garnish with fresh jackfruit.

Any other advice?

When you enter the culinary world, I think that breakfast is the best place to start. When you master breakfast, then there’s no stopping you because you’ve learned to pay attention to details. It’s about speed, accuracy and patience.

Read about Doc Taylors’ famous breakfast sandwich, “The Ray Ray” here.

 

Chad Martin Circa 1918Chad Martin

Circa 1918 Kitchen + Bar, Newport News

Breakfast/brunch offered on Easter and Mother’s Day

A favorite breakfast memory?

When I was a young boy and went camping with the whole family in the Mojave Desert in California, I would wake in the morning with the sound of motorcycles gearing up for a long fun day of riding, the slight smell of gasoline and the aroma of bacon starting to be cooked outside our motor home on the fire pit.

Favorite breakfasts?

I love eggs. You can cook them in countless ways. I love the sunny side up egg. I don’t have breakfast for dinner often, but, when I do, it’s a spinach and dried tomato frittata with crumbled goat cheese and bacon.

Let’s talk omelets

On my omelet, I love bacon, dried tomato, onions, parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.

To make a perfect omelet, whisk the eggs quite a bit to get some volume, then add some half-and-half. Add any other ingredients at this point, such as dried tomatoes and chives. With a nonstick pan over medium heat, place a pat of butter to the pan, then add the eggs and continue to stir for about 15 to 20 seconds or until they set. You can add cheese at this point, then place in a preheated oven. Placing it in the oven like this is a type of omelet that is traditionally served open faced called a frittata, so it cooks on the top from the baking and slides right out of the pan when cooked. At this point you can fold the fluffy omelet over to make an American-style omelet

Tell me about pancakes.

Separate your eggs into whites and yolks (make sure your eggs are at room temperature). Whip the egg whites until frothy, and then add the yolks back. Make sure you don’t mix the batter too much. You want your dry ingredients sifted smooth, but, you want the batter lumpy. Maintain a steady heat on your pan and do a couple of testers.

Biscuits: The secret?

Sift all dry ingredients. Place your butter in the freezer until frozen, then using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. It will make them lighter and fluffier. And lastly, do not over mix.

How do you make a perfect poached egg?

Maintain a constant temperature of the poaching liquid, add a splash of vinegar to the water, place egg in a small ramekin, and gently slide the egg into the water. Using something like a meat thermometer, swirl the water very gently around the egg for a second so the egg white stays together and poach for 3 minutes. Viola! If you’re not serving eggs right away, I suggest shocking the three-minute eggs in ice water to stop their cooking. When you are ready to serve, place eggs very gently back in warm water, remove when warm and serve immediately.

Hollandaise for benedicts: Does it always have to break?

Make it in a food processor, and make sure the eggs are at room temperature, organic and fresh.

How do you get your bacon crispy?

Baking it on a wire rack in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until crisp.

Talk to me about French toast.

I love to use brioche cut in a thick, Texas-style toast. I like to make vanilla custard for soaking my brioche. For the stuffing, I love grilled peaches added to cream cheese for some “peaches and cream” stuffing. Instead of using traditional syrup, I love warmed local honey spiked with some Grand Marnier.

Perfect oatmeal secrets?

Toast the oats first, and do not stir the oatmeal when you place the boiling water or milk, cover and let stand, then stir.

Any other advice?

Have it all with a Bloody Mary!

 

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.

 

ross riddle hashi food truckRoss Riddle

HASHi Food Truck

Breakfast/brunch offered seasonally

A favorite breakfast memory?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have fond Saturday morning memories of Cap’n Crunch, Golden Grahams or Fruit Loops cereal or cold pizza or leftover fried chicken and cartoons. When adults were in charge, biscuits with honey drizzle and country ham. Incidentally, my first-ever cooking lesson, with my Gran Gran, was scrambled eggs.

Favorite breakfasts?

Raised within the American culture, our cured meats, hams, smoked sausages, egg preparations, potatoes, and buttered toast come to mind.

Pushing other cultures in with that, I’ve come to love the addition of rice to breakfast, whether congee, steamed rice, or fried, in addition to hearty, more Latin-inspired accompaniments like beans/peas, chilies, as well as other seasonal veggies, and the pops of flavor from herbs, citrus, and pickles that really wake up the mind, and the palate.

Let’s talk omelets

The Japanese orchestrate an amazing hybrid omelet, omurice, that is essentially a ketchup-fried, rice-stuffed omelet, that on occasion, finds its way into the family breakfast, or dinner. 

In making omelets, I’ve seen milkshake whippers, whisks, forks and chopsticks all achieve nice fluff; the more mechanized, the more fluff can turn into stiff in my opinion. Some folks like adding a smidgen of water or dairy, flecks of butter. It’s all in the timing, pan heat and wrist!

Tell me about pancakes.

Don’t over work the batter, and have a solid recipe … it’s worth the extra steps of scoring quality flour, baking powder/soda, eggs, buttermilk and making them from scratch.

Biscuits: The secret?

Here again, don’t over work the dough; a little shag never hurt nobody. Fold a few times like closing a book, leave a fair amount of butter/shortening flecks to work their steaming and lipid-imparting magic in the layers.

How do you make a perfect poached egg?

Fresh eggs, room temp, a good amount of water at a lazy bubble/simmer, (salt and vinegar added if the extra assurance of aided coagulation is desired), have a slotted spoon nearby, crack the egg into a small bowl for easy tipping into the water, tip egg into the water holding the bowl right at or 1/4 inch above water’s surface. Only nudge/gently lift egg with slotted spoon, here or there to prevent eggs from sticking, you can use your spoon to create a slight water current, and then monitoring the time and water temperature to achieve desired doneness of your egg, 3–5 minutes.

Hollandaise for benedicts: Does it always have to break?

Don’t be scared or intimidated, and allow yourself the time and space for proper heat maintenance and emulsification of butter into your yolks … then eat! 

How do you get your bacon crispy?

I enjoy the time window supplied by: placing cold bacon in a cast iron skillet, then into a cold oven, and turning on to 425F. By the time your oven finishes preheat and the signal goes off, you can judge whether or not to add more time, five minutes, or flip the bacon depending on how evenly it’s browned, and then seeing it through until it crisps. It may still seem leathery while in the pan, but once it’s pulled, and allowed to rest on a towel, it’ll crisp up! Or you can deep fry it.

Talk to me about French toast.

Brioche or challah, brûlée or ice cream custard, some kind of salty meat element, to flank or top it, and then you take it from there on the frills!

Any other advice?

Don’t skip breakfast.  If you don’t want to cook, or think, just come find the truck, and we’ll get you fed.

Read about some of Hashi’s delicious offerings here.

 

No time to cook? Read about some of our favorite brunch spots in Hampton Roads.

Categories: Dish, Restaurants & Food

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