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Diary of a Breakfast Outlaw

Searching for the savory in a sticky bun world.

March 10, 1999|JOHN THORNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just before the start of this year, I began to post a breakfast diary on my Web site to serve as encouragement to fellow savory breakfast lovers. And this it seems to have done. Visitors have sent me e-mail messages alive with a sense of release. "I have long been looked at with either wonder or disgust (sometimes both) for my choice of savory breakfasts, which started during my high school years with bologna and cheese sandwiches," and this--just in case you think that the savory breakfast is one of those weird men things--was written by a woman.

Here are some of my own entries.

New Year's Eve. Poached beef bone marrow on toast. Beautiful marrow bones at the supermarket. Brought home a large one and cut it into two 8-inch lengths with a hacksaw (an arduous process--next time have the butcher do it). Wrapped each half well in tinfoil, put them in a baking pan and baked them in a preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, opened foil and poured off rendered fat into a ramekin, then rewrapped bones in same foil and put them and ramekin in refrigerator. Next morning, reheated first bone (still in foil) in oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes while making coffee and toast from sourdough loaf. Unwrapped bone at the table and spread the marrow onto hot buttered toast, seasoning it generously with salt and black pepper. Utterly delicious.

Jan. 2. Cremini mushroom omelet. Sliced mushrooms and fried them in half the reserved bone marrow fat, then turned them into a small bowl. Discovered a small amount of marrow jelly under the fat and mixed this in with the mushrooms. Used remaining marrow fat to cook omelet in, filling it with the fried mushrooms. Ate with coffee and hot buttered toast.

Jan. 3. Finnan haddie. Several days ago I came across real wood-smoked finnan haddie (lightly salted and wood-smoked haddock) at our warehouse discount club. (The fake version is soaked in a smoke-flavored brine and appears to be stained an iridescent yellow.) I poached this gently in milk until it was soft enough to flake. Discarded skin and poaching liquid and put flaked fish in the refrigerator. This morning I heated half a cup of the flakes in a 9-inch nonstick skillet in half a tablespoon of bacon fat and then poured in two eggs whisked in a small bowl. Seasoned with salt, black pepper and hot sauce. Turned the heat down to lowest setting and cooked until the eggs were just set. My favorite way to eat finnan haddie is creamed in egg sauce, but this was very good and much easier.

Jan. 4. Corn bread and softened slices of smoked mozzarella. The corn bread is our personal melding of the Northern and Southern traditions, made with buttermilk, stone-ground cornmeal, flour, salt and an egg (but no sugar), leavened with a mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar. It has a soft but characterful texture and lots of crust. While the corn bread bakes, I slice part of a ball of smoked mozzarella--8 slices about 1/8 inch thick--and lay them out on a small plate. I then put this into the toaster oven, preheated to the lowest setting, and remove it when the corn bread is done, about 15 minutes later. The corn bread is baked in a loaf pan and is only about an inch high. I cut it into four slabs, two for Matt and two for me. I slice mine in half to make four pieces, butter the open sides and carefully top each with two of the molten but still intact slices of cheese. The smoky milky taste of the mozzarella is delicious on the buttery corn bread, and each bite melts in the mouth. It's warm, comforting bliss. I take the last bit of corn bread and use it to mop up the small puddle of whey that has leaked out of the cheese.

Jan. 6. Griddle cakes with sausage links and real maple syrup. After much experimenting we have come up with a griddle cake recipe that we love. The addition of a few breakfast sausages changes the weight of this meal from sweet to savory (as would some slices of bacon or ham), and this is one of the few things (layer cake is another) that makes milk taste the way I remember it as a child. So I have a mug of that with this breakfast, before hitting the java.

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