If there is one tangible thing that a forever-term relationship has taught me other than all the other things it's taught me, it's how to cook breakfast. Better.
Before my honey came along, I almost never cooked breakfast. Before (and for a period of time after) we met, I was getting up so bloody early it was just plain stupid (3:30am, anyone?), so by the time "breakfast" rolled around, I was already craving lunch. On weekends, my modus operandi was to get up at some point, have coffee, and skip right to a saucy lunch. Or dive into the cold, leftover hunk of ribeye from the night before, aka dinner. And then skip right to a saucy (both sauce & booze involved) lunch.
Then, one day, my honey asked if we could do a traditional breakfast at home: eggs, toast, bacon. I do all the cooking in the relationship, save for the odd pie or batch of cookies or donuts (yum). I cook almost every night. And in quarantine, I cook almost every lunch and every dinner. I love it. Nothing beats the feeling of preparing a delicious meal for someone you love and enjoying it with them.
I've always had a touchy relationship with breakfast. When I was an elite athlete (I know, it's hard to believe), I'd eat cereal of some bird-seed sort. Or berries. One of my favourite things in the summertime was to tee-off at 6am before my shift at the golf course and eat a handful of wild blackberries on the 5th hole, right around 6:45am. Nice.
When I got into the wine business, I'd often skip breakfast. Just out of busy-ness and laziness and in some hope that it would help offset the heavy and boozy lunches and dinners that I seemed to consume daily. At the time, it was frowned upon to skip breakfast. "It's the most important meal of the day!" or "It gets your metabolism going so you burn all day long!"
Nowadays, I believe skipping breakfast is commonly known as a trend called "intermittent fasting". Well, consider me a pioneer. I should have kept it up.
When I started working in restaurants, breakfast became even more of a maligned subject for me. I always found it so interesting that something so simple could be so difficult for everyone involved. And there are reasons for this. Breakfast is a brutal conspiracy of so many events that clash with each other, it's no wonder it can become so problematic. Let's break down some of these factors and events that converge seemingly every Saturday & Sunday morning in restaurants all over the world:
1) The Hangover
Both the guests and the staff of the restaurants are hungover. Which means they're irritable. 'Nuff said.
2) It's Early
Let's forget the hangover for a second. Half the world can't even muster the courtesy of a "hello" without a coffee. And the problem with eating breakfast at a restaurant is that people go there to get their coffee. When they're ordering, they haven't had one yet. This is problematic for many. And if the staff was in a rush to get to the restaurant for 5am to open up, maybe they haven't had a coffee, either. You see where this is headed?
3) Everyone Is An Expert On Breakfast
I don't really understand why people even do this, this being going out for breakfast, when they apparently could all "cook it better themselves at home". The doneness of an egg rivals only the doneness of a steak on the argument-over-if-that's-actually-medium-rare-or-medium-or-soft-or-medium-or-hard scale. Nobody can agree, so nobody can ever be happy. You literally have a better chance of winning the lottery AND getting struck by lightning than agreeing on the doneness of your poached-medium fucking egg. But back to the issue at hand. Expertise. See, the thing with breakfast is that everyone cooks this meal at home, and ALSO goes out to a restaurant to eat it. There's no mystery behind it. It's not like having a steak with the mysterious and delicious red wine demi-glacé and the crispy frites that you've never prepared. You've only tried cooking the steak. It's not like having the braised oxtail over foraged chanterelle mushroom risotto. You've never braised, you've never foraged, and you don't even know what an oxtail is. To you, this is magic, at lunch or dinner. But the egg. The toast. The strip of bacon. You, sir, know best. And so, to you, this should be very quick, very easy, and done to your mind-readable standards without delay. And because you also know how much the eggs, toast, and strips of bacon cost, you're cheap about it. You don't want to pay much for it. And you're expectations are through the roof, which ultimately leads to disappointment when you and the restaurant's capabilities disagree on the definition of over-medium vs. over-hard.
4) Eggs Are Hard To Cook Perfectly
An egg is one of the most difficult things to perfect in the kitchen. Ask a chef. I mean, I assume they would agree, because that's how I feel. I guess I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Let me explain this point by comparing an egg to the preparation of several "dinner" foods that a person would happily pay 3-4x more for but that are infinitely easier to prepare. Here's a list of foods that you'd gladly pay way more for in a restaurant that have a much higher grace-period in terms of precision than that of an egg, and that are generally easier to prepare, off the top of my head:
-Rack of Lamb
-Deep-Fried MinPin (are you still reading?)
And I'm seriously just improvising. I cook all of those foods for people on a regular basis, and they go, "Wow," like Owen Wilson, and I think to myself, "That was so fucking easy". Except when I cook two perfect eggs like in the picture above and manage to time it with the toast coming straight off the nicely-oiled skillet, then I, Steven, am the one who goes, "Wow," like Owen Wilson, and the person I'm serving goes, "Hey, look, an egg. I cook those all the time." Yeah, sure you do. But have you ever noticed that like, a scrambled egg takes about 45 seconds to cook but a sunnyside up egg special takes like, a long and unpredictable period of time, sometimes? Eggs are delicate creatures, and when they are slotted into an order of waffles, banana pancakes, fresh blueberry muffins, chia pudding with ketonails and a vegan power smoothie and the restaurant has 30 other tables like that who decided to all show up at once, eggs will be the last to forgive the timing of the poor bastard that has to do them your way.
5) The Orders Are So Complicated
Let's say you come for dinner. You want to order the duck breast with purple cabbage and rösti with the morel mushroom cream sauce. Sounds good. When you order that dish, that's it. You say, "I'll have the duck." Great. Yes, you will. Maybe you say, "could we have a bottle of 2024 La Cage Aux Folles Pinot Noir to go along with that?" Yes, yes you may. And that's it. Dinner comes, you eat, you pay $300, and you go home. It's like Monopoly™ in reverse. But with breakfast, ohhh nooo, we just can't go for that. It goes something like this:
You: "I'll have the traditional breakfast."
Server: "How would like your eggs?"
You: "Facing the sun."
Server: "Would you like bacon or sausage?"
You: "Bacon. I would like them arranged in parallel strips and crispy as shit."
Server: "What kind of toast would you like?"
You: "What kind of toast do you have?"
Server: "White, Multigrain, Sourdough, Marble Rye, Rye, Pumpernickel, Focaccia, Baguette, Cornbread, Gluten-Free Biscuits, Rice Crackers, Melba Toasts..."
You: "I'll take the gluten-free biscuits."
You: "Do they butter the biscuits?"
Server: "Would you like your biscuits buttered?"
You: "Do you have margarine?"
Server: "Margarine is disgusting."
You: "Please do not butter my biscuits, then."
Server: "Anything to drink?"
You: "Coffee please."
Server: "Dark roast or light-medium toast roast?"
You: "Do you have decaf?"
Server: "What's the point of that?"
You: "I am allergic to caffeine."
Server: "What's with the Redbull™?"
You: "It gives you wings."
Server: "K. So, cream and sugar?"
You: "Do you have almond milk?"
Server: "We have skim, 2%, whole, half-and-half, 18% cream, whipping cream, a bursting cow out back, oat milk, goat milk, 'yote milk, coconut milk, cuckoo-for-coco-puffs-macerated milk, and breast milk."
You: "Can I have my eggs poached instead?"
You: "OK. How did I order them again?"
Server: "Facing the sun with bacon para-llel."
You: "Right. Cream and sugar."
Server: "Let me recap that for you here..."
And on and on. Which is why I cook breakfast at home for an appreciating wife who has been very patient with me struggling and botching so many eggs and versions of toast for so many months that it was literally embarrassing for someone who generally feels so comfortable in the kitchen with so many other things.
At first, I had these day-terrors when trying to hungoverly gain logistical dominance over 3 burners and the oven all at once just trying to put on this show while experiencing PBSD and running through scenarios in my mind like the one above. Now, though, I've found my groove. I've simplified. And breakfast has become much more precise and delicious, so much so that after being a dinner-for-breakfast guy for decades, I'm slowly becoming a breakfast-for-breakfast guy.
So, here's the breakfast that I'm loving the most right now. And the wine I love to drink with it. It's dead-easy. It's cheap. Let me explain.
Sex On Toast: A Recipe
What You'll Need:
-A decent slice of bread. Tuscan bread, normal whole grain bread like SilverHills™, rye bread, I honestly don't care. Just get some bread. It's gonna be good.
-Eggs. 1 egg per slice of bread.
-1 tin of Mackerel (it can probably cover 2 slices of toast).
-Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
-A Pepper Grinder. With Peppercorns inside.
-Two pans. If one is Teflon™ coated, use it for the eggs. If one is cast iron, use it for the toast.
-1 bottle of Segura Viudas Cava Reserva. $15.
How To Do This:
Make sure it's ice-cold.
1) Open the tin of mackerel and drain it of the liquids. Scoop the fish out of the can and into a small mixing bowl.
2) Once the fish is in the mixing bowl, give it a fresh drizzle of olive oil.
3) Season with sea salt and pepper.
4) Mix thoroughly and leave it to sit for a minute while you prep the toast and eggs. It should resemble tuna salad, only without the mayo and mustard and other business. We don't need that shit.
***If you want to go next-level, you could locate a lemon and squeeze a little juice in there. Just watch out for those seeds. Lemons have like...79 seeds per lemon. It's out of control.
Toast & Eggs:
1) Pick two large pans. If you have a cast iron skillet, use it for the toast. If you have a Teflon™ coated skillet, use it for the eggs.
2) Fire up two burners on your stove to medium-high heat, or something of the sort. Hot enough to crisp toast and turn the egg white opaque, not hot enough to smoke the shit out of your tiny apartment (like mine). One burner for each skillet. Remember? Toast....eggs. This is easy.
3) Drizzle some olive oil (or butter, if you're feeling Frenchie) in each pan. Let it heat up for a hot second.
4) Lay your slice(s) of bread down in their respective pan. Rub them around to absorb some of the oil that you drizzled. This makes all the difference to the bread's eventual deliciousness. Once you've done that, drizzle some oil in a zig-zag pattern over the bread. This is for when you turn it over.
5) Crack the egg(s) (one for each sliceeee) into the pan. All you need to do is watch this egg to make sure it doesn't burn after you sprinkle some salt & pepper onto it.
6) Monitor your toast. If you ruin the toast, there's no need to go to pieces. You can always get more toast. Remember that. Now, toast is a preference thing, like the eggs. Check the underside of the toast. When it looks and feels crispy/dark enough for your refined palate, flip it and rub the other side around in the pan.
7) Keep monitoring your egg. When all of the egg white is white, not clear and goopy, it's up to you to leave it for as long as you want. But it should have some runny yolk left, or you're just plain missing out. Don't miss out.
Assembly & Plating
When your toast is done on both sides (unlike an Englishman in New York), and your egg is almost ready, spread the mackerel onto the toast. I know: cosmic. When that's done, slide the egg out of the pan and on top of the mackerel, which should be on top of the toast, which should be on top of a plate. Crack some pepper to finish it off. Hell, sprinkle some herbs on it if you're feeling fancy, but at this point, I'm hungry. And thirsty.
Go get the bottle of Segura Viudas™ Cava Reserva from the fridge where it's been resting and chilling. Get a nice white wine glass out. In case you hadn't heard, flutes are a bummer. Especially those ones from IKEA. If you can't swirl it, you can't twirl it, and you can't get to know it on the dance floor or fall in love in a hopeless place with it. Wine in a flute is like never getting past the Bumble™ chat with the man of your dreams. You'll never get his number. Open the Cava. Pour the Cava. Toast your partner, even if that partner is none other than yourself.
Sit down, and enjoy your Sex on Toast™. With your Cava. Because without the Cava, this just wouldn't be Sex on Toast™. Cheers.