Thursday, September 17, 2009

Breakfasts: Passing Along the Tradition

The Kunst family, the four or us in Durham, North Carolina, had a long-standing tradition of Sunday breakfasts. On Saturday I would ask Ben and Franz what they would like to have the next morning. They would choose from a couple of coffee cakes, various muffins, biscuits, Irish soda bread, pancakes and waffles. I would get up the next morning and make what they had chosen, along with an omelet and maybe some bacon. Nothing, but nothing, got in the way of our Sunday breakfasts.

In June, Katherine and I drove south to visit Ben. We arrived at his house in the Santa Cruz mountains on a Sunday morning, just in time for brunch. What he fixed for us in his new kitchen was a good old-fashioned Kunst family breakfast. A mushroom, spinach, and cheese omelet, biscuits with jams, jellies and our favorite lemon curd, strawberries and blueberries, orange juice, the works. Among his friends, he has become known for his biscuit and omelet brunches. Just great. The tradition lives on.

Cheese Omelet

3 or 4 eggs
1 clove garlic, pressed
¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste
½ - ¾ cup grated cheese, cheddar works well
3 tablespoons fresh herbs, like dill, chopped or dried herbs in a pinch, optional
2 green onions, finely chopped, optional
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Stir together until they are well combined.
2. Heat the oil in a cast iron frying pan (or an omelet pan, of course) until the oil shimmers and is very hot—but not smoking.
3. Pour in the egg-garlic mixture. It should sizzle and immediately start bubbling around the edges. As the edges firm up, push them to the middle and tilt the pan so that the juicy egg moves to the outside. Keep pushing the sides to the middle until there is no more juicy part to run out. Shake the pan a couple of times to make sure the omelet isn’t sticking. If is it, carefully scoot your spatula underneath to loosen.
Note: I pick up the pan if it seems that the heat is too high. For me this is easier than changing the temp on the burner—but this may be a leftover from when I cooked on an electric stove which was slow to change.
4. Sprinkle the cheese and optional herbs and green onions evenly over the omelet. Fold one side of the omelet about a third across. Then fold over the next third, enclosing the filling. Let it sit for a few minutes with the heat off so that the cheese can melt and the herbs soften.

Note: If you are making omelets for a group, make multiple omelets rather than one or two giant ones. I think that dealing with more than 5 eggs at a time is really hard. When making multiple omelets, put the finished one on a plate in a 250ºF oven while you make the remaining.

2 servings
My own devising, but not original to me of course

Mother’s Home Biscuits

1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons butter, cut into roughly ½-inch squares
¾ - 1 cup milk

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.
2. Add ¾ cup milk and stir until the dough follows the stirring. If the mixture doesn’t hold together with ¾ cup milk, add a bit more. (It all depends on the dryness of the flour.)
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 7 or 8 times. Roll out to about ¾- inch thickness; cut into desired size with a floured glass or a biscuit cutter. Mush scraps together to make additional biscuits. (The boys vied for the misshapen ones.)
4. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450°F for 12-15 minutes.

5-7 2¾-inch biscuits
Adapted from Uncle John’s Original Bread Book by John Rahn Braue

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