Don’t you just hate it when mom is wrong? Take breakfast. For generations, it was the most important meal of the day. We had that drummed into our consciousness.
Turns out, breakfast is not as vital as we were led to believe.
In fact, plenty of new science suggests you can skip the first meal of the day occasionally or consistently and get through your morning just fine, if not clearheaded and thriving.
But if you exercise in the mornings, have a physically demanding job or simply love the social aspect of breakfast, we have some ideas and tips to take your home cooking to new heights.
To get pro-caliber insights, we went right to the top – Billy Zoellin of Bacon & Butter and Evan Elsberry of Evan’s Kitchen. Both eateries are widely considered to have some of the best breakfast dishes going.
And if you don’t believe us, just show up at either place on a weekend morning. Bacon & Butter routinely opens to a long line out front; and by 9:30 a.m., the wait for a table at Evan’s Kitchen can take up to 90 minutes.
If you don’t have that kind of time or patience, you’re in luck. The chefs have hooked us up with some terrific recipes, including Zoellin’s superb pancakes.
Elsberry has gone through a personal transformation in the past year, slimming down dramatically after his doctor hit him with the news that he was pre-diabetic. He started eating mostly plant-based/vegan meals, with occasional servings of meat, and he felt compelled to expand the menu to better reflect his personal journey.
“I just wasn’t in good shape,” said Elsberry, 53. “I switched up my diet. I knocked out a lot of gluten – I used to eat a lot of bread. I knocked out a lot of meat. I’m even growing food in my backyard.”
Aside from the superb food, how does Elsberry explain the popularity of breakfast at his restaurant?
“It’s a routine. I think breakfast is a comfort for people. I have a couple in their 70s who found my restaurant 13 years ago. They both ordered the Monte Cristo for breakfast every time for five years,” he said, referring to the egg-dipped ham-and-cheese sandwich. “Finally, I walked out to their table one day and told them we have a lot of other great things on the menu and if they order something different, it’s on me.
“A few minutes later, the order came back to the kitchen: two Monte Cristos.”
Zoellin has his own devoted fan base. After four years in business, including the last two in Tahoe Park, regulars know to get there well before the doors open at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Referring to the widespread popularity of his breakfasts and the pressure to maintain Bacon & Butter’s reputation, Zoellin said, “We don’t take that lightly.”
His advice for home chefs is to be willing to take risks in the kitchen and learn from mistakes. When cooking, “don’t touch your food too much whether it’s in the frying pan or about to go on the plate. Sometimes you have to trust it and be willing to make mistakes.”
The same goes for eggs. If you want to cook like a pro, “you should be able to flip (fried) eggs with your left or right hand without a spatula,” Zoellin said.
He makes scrambled eggs and omelets with a touch of half-and-half and water, taking care to cook with low heat, use a neutral oil instead of butter and not overcook – there shouldn’t be any browning. He seasons with salt only after cooking.
“It definitely take practice,” the chef said with a laugh. “The good thing about cooking at home, there’s no Yelp to review your work.”
Corned beef hash from Evan’s Kitchen
2 pounds corned beef (uncooked)
½ cup pickling spice
1 pound red potatoes
2 cups diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Boil the corned beef and pickling spice in a pot large enough to cover with at least 2 inches of water at a boil for 2 ½ hours. When the meat is done, you should be able to pull a string of it off with your fingers. Let cool.
Boil potatoes until fork tender. Do not overcook. Drain and let cool.
Sauté the onion until translucent.
In a food processor, place two parts corned beef to one part potatoes and a spoonful of onion. Pulse in batches until roughly chopped. Mix finished mixture thoroughly in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Heat a griddle to high and grill hash on both sides until golden brown and crispy; or pan fry.
Evan Elsberry’s vegan scramble
About a year about, Elsberry, 53, weighed nearly 250 pounds at 6 foot 1 inches and was, he says, “not long for this earth.” His doctor told him he was pre-diabetic. So he started eating a mostly vegan diet and, wanting to practice what he preached, added vegan items to his breakfast, lunch and dinner menus at his restaurant. One of the most popular dishes is the robust vegan scramble.
Here’s how you can pull it off at home.
One 18-ounce package of firm tofu
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of salt
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms of your choosing, sliced
2 potatoes cubed, parboiled
Handful of washed spinach leaves, optional
2 ounces Follow Your Heart cheese (vegan)
Cover numerous cloves of garlic in oil and roast in oven at 350 degree for 40 minutes.In a medium bowl, take four or five of the garlic cloves and the tofu and smash down with fork.
In a hot skillet over medium heat with neutral oil, sauté bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and potatoes for a couple of minutes. Add tofu with garlic and cook over medium-low heat. Add spinach and remove from heat so spinach is slightly wilted. Then add vegan cheese.
Overnight oatmeal with chia seeds
This is a quick breakfast I have adapted from various sources. When you’re pressed for time in the morning and need to be at your best for work or a workout, this is a great bet. When you wake up, it’s ready to eat. The recipe is flexible. Add more or less of any of the ingredients until you get it to your liking.
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup or more of plant-based milk
1 cup water
2 to 3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons date sugar, optional maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Assorted berries or other fruit, fresh or frozen (thawed)
Add the dry ingredients, except nuts and fruit, to a large bowl and whisk or stir to combine thoroughly. Add the liquids and stir to combine. Cover tightly and store in fridge overnight. In the morning, stir ingredients, divide into four servings, then add nuts and fruit.
Bacon & Butter’s flapjacks
Many consider the eye-catching flapjacks at Bacon & Butter to be some of the best anywhere – large, light, fluffy and stacked high on the plate. The only challenge with this straight-from-the-restaurant recipe, says owner/chef Billy Zoellin, is that it is all by weight and some home cooks may not have a scale. Zoellin and many others say it’s the most accurate way to measure dry ingredients.
Note: The dry mix will last up to four months if stored properly in an air tight bag or container out of direct sunlight.
5 pounds all-purpose flour
31 grams kosher salt
42 grams white sugar
13 grams baking soda
9 grams baking powder
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store for later use.
1 cup buttermilk
1 ounce butter (melted)
When ready to make breakfast: Melt your butter. In a bowl or measuring cup, mix egg and buttermilk together until well incorporated.
Add melted butter slowly while stirring. You don’t want your butter to get cold and become lumpy. Small lumps of butter are just fine; big chunks are bad.
To make batter: For every 1 cup of dry mix, add one recipe of wet mix.
Mix ingredients in a bowl with a spoon or rubber spatula until well incorporated but not smooth. You want small lumps in your batter and it should be rather thick.
If desired, for thinner flapjacks add less dry mix. For thicker flapjacks add more dry mix.
Batter will last 4-5 hours refrigerated without any problems.
To cook: On a lightly oiled, preheated (medium-low heat) griddle or pan, using an ice cream scoop (pro tip), scoop the batter onto the griddle. The first one should be considered a tester, checking for proper heat. Three minutes later, flip the tester flapjack. If it is too brown, turn heat down; if pale, turn up the heat slightly.
After you've got your griddle/pan heat where you want it, start cooking your flapjacks. Be careful not to crowd your pan. It will minimize mess and cleanup.
Each pancake should take 6-7 minutes of total cook time.
Serve with room temperature butter and warm syrup.
When serving large crowds, turn your oven on warm or very low temperature and hold your flapjacks in the oven until ready to serve.
Pro tip: Leftover flapjacks make great afternoon snacks. Peanut butter on one side jelly on the other, fold in half and enjoy.