“New” Egg Dishes

I’ve been thinking about eggs lately. Actually, I think about eggs a lot – you already knew that. But recently it seems that everywhere I look I see new articles on discoveries of new egg dishes. New to us, yes, but not to the millions of people who’ve been eating them in Sri Lanka or South America for years. Many of these new dishes have been staples in other countries for decades or even centuries. It’s a classic case of If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to hear it… Except in this case millions of people have been eating these dishes but we weren’t there to hear of it.

One of the dishes that’s begun to receive attention is the Egg Hopper. (Fun name, yes?) The vast majority of recipes, articles and research mentions for hoppers just began to show up in 2015/2016 so this one is definitely new to us. A plain hopper is a common Sri Lankan breakfast item, basically a deep, lacy basket made from a thin rice flour and coconut milk pancake. It can be eaten at any time of day, commonly with an egg filling, but also holding curries, chicken or veggies. An egg hopper is made by cracking an egg into the hopper as it cooks, and is usually eaten with spicy sambols, relishes or coconut gravy.

Look for Egg Hopper on the Chef’s Tasting Menu at 1601 Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco, or the Aappa (hoppers) on the menu at Sigiri in NYC. As for those of us in Chicago, we’ll wait impatiently to find hoppers farther inland.

2017-01-09 14:13:41

The most wonderful time of the year

Don’t you just love this time of year? It’s that wonderful season when we make guesses about things as yet unseen, things about which we have only an inkling. Then, finally, the day arrives when we open the first one, and the future begins to take form. I speak, of course, of the annual distribution of next year’s foodservice forecasts.

Every forecast arriving to our inboxes makes an interesting and valuable read, and adding them together creates a well-rounded picture of the future of our industry. One of my recent favorites comes from a group you may not know, Andrew Freeman & Company (AF&C). Not only is the report entertaining but it also dives deep into many trend details and highlights examples of each.

Their 2017 Trend Report continues to amuse and educate, this year spotlighting several big trends that are particularly egg-friendly. The 2017 Dish of the Year – drum roll please – is the breakfast sandwich, something you might have seen me mention once or twice. The report states that breakfast sandwiches are popping up on dinner menus like the bacon, egg and harissa sandwich at the 112 Eatery in Minneapolis, and at Michelin-starred restaurants like Pineapple and Pearls in D.C. The entry closes by thanking 2016 for bringing us the all-day breakfast menu.

AF&C named Filipino the Cuisine of the Year, using examples like Buffalo Theory in San Francisco with its Sisig and Grits, a pork medley with chilies, onions, poached egg, chicharrón and cheesy grits. The growing trend of grain bowls is also discussed, citing one at NYC’s Lexington Brass, made with farro, heirloom tomatoes, toasted sesame seeds, falafel, feta and sunny-side-up egg with sumac vinaigrette.

Put this one on your list of thought-provoking year-end reads.

2016-12-26 07:02:54

Put an egg on it?!

That’s the reaction I normally get when I mention the idea of eggs on oatmeal. Confused, incredulous, grimacing – I’ve seen it all. One friend even said, Okay, I get it, eggs are great. But that’s just wrong.

Well I disagree and so do a lot of others who love to explore foods. There even seems to be a movement afoot surrounding the idea and I feel downright vindicated in my discovery of savory oatmeal, or svoats, as a Huffington Post article called them. There are blogs aplenty espousing them and Martha Stewart has recipes for them, as do Real Simple, Food Network and Food52 to name only a few.

I encountered it on a menu a few years ago at a diner on a business trip and have been enjoying my own creations ever since. I admit, I had mixed feelings about the one I ordered at the diner. But the warm oatmeal mixed with herbs, shredded cheese, and something crunchy (nuts? seeds?) and topped with a poached egg was a festival for the taste buds.

You likely run with the masses, assuming oatmeal should be sweet, topped with fruit, brown sugar, cream and/or some kind of syrup. The beauty is that its neutral flavor makes a terrific base for many creative flavor combinations.

Consider the following ideas:

  • Crumbled crispy bacon, soft eggs, maple syrup ‒ maybe some butter?
  • Prosciutto, Cheddar, onion and poached egg
  • Avocado, salsa and soft egg ‒ like a deconstructed omelet
  • Kimchi, nuts and fried egg
  • Scallions, Italian herbs, parmesan and poached egg

Or how about mixing in some Sriracha, barbecued pork, garlic, salami or hollandaise sauce? The opportunities are endless and so is the potential for a great and easy-to-customize all-day menu item.

2016-12-12 14:50:44

No accounting for tastes

I think most Americans embrace being part of a demographic melting pot. It’s not always easy ‒ change rarely is. But making room for people from other cultures is part of what it means to be American, and a reward for that is being able to try cuisines others bring with them as they become part of that pot. Items like huevos rancheros have become common on menus everywhere, while many put Sriracha on their eggs and fish sauce on their breakfast bánh mì.

Considering the variety of ingredients specific to relatively small areas of the planet, it’s surprising how common the use of eggs is in diverse cuisines and applications. More interesting still is seeing Western-style eggs topping items like rice in Japan and fava beans in India, contrary to local tradition. Maybe we’re not the only melting pot after all.

Who would have imagined a few years ago that eggs poached in a stew of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions and cumin would land on American menus so quickly? It’s hardly a drive-thru item, but Shakshuka is found on menus across the country.

Which of these international uses of eggs will be next to influence U.S. morning menus?

  • Malaysia’s Nasi Lemak: coconut rice, cucumber, anchovies, roasted peanuts, hard-cooked eggs and sambal
  • Mexico’s Huevos Motuleños: two eggs on fried tostada with tomatoes, ham, peas or green beans, fried plantains, queso fresco and black beans
  • Sri Lanka’s Appam: bowl-shaped pancakes (hoppers) made with fermented rice flour and served with a spicy sauce, eggs and coconut cream or honey
  • Venezuela’s Arepas: corn cakes filled with butter and salty cheese, meats, eggs, chicken, avocado and/or beans
  • Japan’s Tamagoyaki: omelet made by tightly rolling together thin layers of cooked egg, rice vinegar and sugar or soy sauce

Any bets?

2016-11-28 14:43:24

Lettuce feed you breakfast

In Chicagoland there lives a prince of culinary cleverness known across the land for his wisdom in the launching of restaurant concepts. This prince rules the land known as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Since 1971 he has ruled well and truly, encouraging chefs and managers to be creative and bring their own special gifts to their places they plied their trades.

No, it’s not a fairy tale. In the past 45 years Rich Melman has developed and launched scores of concepts including Maggiano’s, Wildfire, Wow Bao, Big Bowl and Mon Ami Gabi, today totaling more than 100 operations nationwide.

But I think of him as a builder of lunch and dinner empires and it just recently struck me that he also serves breakfast in some locations. The following examples might inspire you with their creators’ insight:

  • Wow Bao (slogan is Hot Asian Buns) offers a range of stuffings for its hot steamed Asian-inspired buns including Spinach, Mushroom, Egg and Cheese; and Egg and BBQ Pork.
  • Café-Ba-Ba-Reeba! serves bocadillos (Spanish breakfast sandwiches), one of which is their Spanish Cubano Bocadillo with confit pork shoulder, manchego cheese, zucchini pickles and mustard aioli.
  • Beatrix makes the Pepper and Egg White Sandwich with shishito, jalapeño, pepper jack, organic kale and spinach; and the Braised Pot Roast & Egg Sandwich with aged white Cheddar and jalapeño relish.
  • Summer House Santa Monica makes their own homemade English muffins, one being their Original filled with scrambled eggs, tomato, Cheddar, spicy mayo and a choice of bacon, sausage or avocado.

Feeling the inspiration yet?

2016-11-17 17:42:53

Reimagined steak and eggs

Steak and eggs. Many begin to salivate just hearing the words, yet the dish is pretty basic: it’s steak… and eggs. But it’s that same simplicity that invites playing with the recipe. You’ll find steak and eggs morphing into sandwiches as well as steak and egg Benedicts. There are steak and egg salads adding greens into the mix and even vegetarian versions using thick veggie steaks made of eggplant, sweet potatoes, cauliflower or squash served with the eggs.

Looking for interesting examples in my home turf of Chicago I discovered a new fact about steak and eggs: a number of cuisines call an egg served on a piece of meat, on horseback, like the way eggs are sometimes served in steak and egg dishes. À cheval means on horseback in French, and the popular diner "Au Cheval" serves most dishes either topped with an egg or able to have it added. Ironically, they don’t serve steak!

The Spanish version of steak and eggs is called bistec a caballo (beefsteak with horse) and the one at Senor Pan, a Cuban restaurant, includes two thin sheets of marinated steak, a snarl of grilled onions, two carefully browned over-easy eggs, rice and plantains.

Miss Saigon serves a dish called Bo Ne, made with marinated beef and eggs served in a sizzling hot skillet like fajitas, with a spoonful of pate and mayonnaise. Served with a crunchy piece of Vietnamese-style baguette, guests drizzle on Sriracha, fish sauce and/or Maggi seasoning to raise the flavor ante sky high.

Steak and eggs is a frequent diner meal, and a very famous plate can be found at Valois Restaurant, where it is, apparently, a favorite of one Mr. Barack Obama. Valois offered steak and eggs for only $5 during both of his inaugurations.

2016-10-31 15:08:07

It just keeps going

You’ve read it here before and you’ll read it here again: breakfast is where the best potential for real growth is in foodservice. But you know we’re not the only ones saying it. Every trade pub and research group points out this on-going reality multiple times each year.

I keep a pretty keen eye on all things breakfast, so sometimes I forget not everyone in the industry gathers certain categories of information like I do. I recently ran across several articles that had published bits and pieces of recent research results from The National Restaurant Association, Technomic and NPD/CREST concerning the continuing importance of breakfast. Acting as your personal info aggregator, I share a few interesting numbers from those articles that support the lead-in statement above.

  • In a May article, the writer cites NPD/CREST data as showing the average annual number of breakfasts consumed per person in 2015 was 361. That’s an increase of 11/person from 2010 ‒ astounding!
  • Ethnic-inspired breakfast items are considered a hot trend by 68% of American Culinary Federation chefs answering the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 What’s Hot survey. That’s likely to get hotter if Millennials have anything to say about it.
  • Breakfast is becoming cool. 34% more younger consumers consider breakfast and brunch as a destination vs. a quick, convenient occasion, compared to two years ago. This will favor those operations with designs that welcome larger groups who want to linger. (Technomic’s 2015 Breakfast Consumer Trend report)
  • In a Restaurant Hospitality article, NPD/CREST data is quoted as having determined that in the year ending February 2016, breakfast and morning snack visits increased by 5 percent. And that was on top of a 3 percent increase during the same period between 2014/2015. Pretty unstoppable.

Hopefully, you found these bits and pieces tasty, interesting and actionable. 

2016-10-03 13:44:48

What’s a daypart?

When my son was younger he loved to listen to me talk about what the world was like when I was a boy and marvel at the idea of life before on-demand TV movies. But as time and social norms move along I’m thinking the day isn’t far off when his kids will sit on his lap and clamor for that funny story about those daypart things. Because dining dayparts seem to be going the way of payphones.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 72% of adults want operators to offer breakfast items throughout the day, and chains have been responding in a number of ways. Some operators top burgers and quinoa bowls with warm eggs, while McDonald’s made a landmark move in 2015 to offer a limited number of breakfast items all day. The chain has now announced the national rollout of an expanded roster of favorites, including the much-loved McGriddle and biscuit sandwiches.

In addition to McDonald’s, we see Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbuck’s, Sonic, White Castle, Golden Corral, Einstein Bros., and of course Denny’s, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, Tim Horton’s and a host of regional chains claiming their share of all-day breakfast (ADB) business. So the concept of "breakfast daypart" is losing its meaning at tens of thousands of operations.

And although Jack in the Box has offered ADB for years it’s been testing a new idea they call Brunchfast™ since at least April. The now trademarked name sets the stage for a more official move.

So what is Brunchfast? It appears to be a move toward hybrid breakfast/lunch items, like its Brunch Burger topped with bacon, Cheddar and a fried egg on a croissant, or the Bacon & Chicken Brunch Sandwich of a fried chicken patty also topped with bacon, Cheddar cheese and egg, this one made on an English muffin.

Bottom line: there is a definite operational movement afoot to eliminate what we’ve always called dayparts. How do you define a daypart when people eat whatever, whenever, around the clock?

So now my son has his own story to tell his kids. Daddy, tell us again ‒ what was a daypart?

2016-09-30 09:05:50

We would all eat them, Sam I am!

When I was at this summer’s School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference I frequently encountered green eggs and ham. Not physically you understand, but in anecdotes shared by attendees about how much their kids like them.

I got it. Just like Sam I Am, I wouldn’t have chosen my eggs to be of the green variety before reading the Dr. Seuss book to my kids, but now a smile comes to my face when I think of them. Beyond the fun food there’s an extra layer of comfort to the dish just because of the beloved author and his humor. So not only do kids think they’re fun to eat, so do their parents.

A quick survey of the types of green eggs available on menus shows the following:

  • Huckleberry Bakery & Café (Santa Monica) says it sells tons of Green Eggs & Ham, which is made with house-made English muffins topped with arugula, pesto, prosciutto and egg.
  • Asador (Dallas) has celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday with a brunch made of fanciful Seussian names, including, of course, Green Eggs and Ham Benedict with avocado hollandaise sauce.
  • Saus (Boston) has a Green Eggs (& Ham) on its snack menu, served in a box (but without a fox). The item is unique in its medley of Brussels sprouts tossed in a parsley vinaigrette, topped with a deep-fried egg, slices of pork belly and Bacon Parmesan.
  • Werkstatt (Brooklyn) makes a Green Eggs & Ham made of Viennese creamed spinach with rösti potatoes & fried eggs with ham. No connection to Seuss but the name, as it’s a favorite dish the chef grew up eating in his native Austria.
  • Peach & Green (Chicago) offers a kale, spinach and Cheddar egg scramble topped with a side of sliced avocado and ham. The chef says the Green Eggs & Ham name has certainly aided its popularity

Surprisingly, you won’t find green eggs on the menu at the Green Eggs Cafés in Philadelphia and Miami. But that’s okay, they serve plenty of other great egg dishes. And counter to Dr. Seuss’ book, eggs don’t have to be green to be terrific!

2016-09-19 13:24:29

I’d relish that

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m betting you haven’t encountered many breakfast sandwiches with tomato jam or even tomato relish on them. Don’t know exactly what tomato relish is? Take Bobby Flay’s recipe as a good example: along with the tomatoes there are finely diced Spanish onions, chopped parsley, red pepper flakes, red wine vinegar, olive oil and freshly ground pepper. Some recipes call for lemon juice and/or chilies, so the relish is a zippier cousin to the usually sweeter tomato jam.

But back to those breakfast sandwiches. Recently I’ve run across tomato relish or tomato jam as a savory component on a number of breakfast sandwiches and I’m wondering why it isn’t more common. Take for example the Australian McDonald’s national rollout of new breakfast sandwiches in May, one of which actually takes its name from the condiment. The Tomato Relish Roll combines a fried egg, bacon strips, baby spinach, tomato slice and tomato onion relish on a soft brioche-style bun. Then there’s The Artisan sandwich at Shoreline Sandwich Company in Corpus Christi, made with two eggs over easy, sharp Cheddar, fresh spinach and a thick layer of house made tomato jam on wheat. And the Biscuit Sandwich at Community Food & Juice in NYC, made of scrambled eggs, chicken-apple-rosemary sausage, Cabot Cheddar and tomato jam on a whole wheat biscuit. 

Am I missing something here? Both tomato concoctions sound like perfect complements to the combination of runny egg and salty Cheddar or feta. And as operators continually look for ways to distinguish their breakfast offerings from the throng of other menus, I’m going out on a limb and predicting we’ll see more of these condiments on the breakfast menu this year.


2016-08-22 13:11:19