31 January 2011

Breakfast for Dinner

For longtime friends and dinner companions, I'm happy to take requests or menu ideas. Sometimes it's to fix a favorite dish, or sometimes it's because I need some external inspiration to break out of a rut. A while back Lady A had requested breakfast for dinner, and I finally got the chance to put it in action.

The concept isn't that unusual, and I make omelets for dinner all the time. And brunch is an elaborate affair with tons of different dishes. But putting together a few courses is a little tougher. You can't go too heavy on various breads, and you can't just keep trucking out various egg preparations. And no, I wasn't going to serve an amuse-bouche of Froot Loops in a large spoon.

For the first course, I chose a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. Very simple, just baby spinach leaves, crumbled bacon, sliced button mushrooms, walnuts, and a red wine vinaigrette mixed with hot bacon grease. Right before serving, toss everything together until the leaves just start to wilt and the mushrooms get just barely cooked.

It's hearty, but not too filling, and while not typically associated with breakfast, it was a fun way to fulfill the bacon requirement. Since this was a dinner thing, I skipped the traditional breakfast beverages in favor of wine. Here a crisp Chilean Sauvignon Blanc cut through the savory bacon grease. (I'm saving the full wine notes for a separate post.)

Next up, fruit and cheese to clear the palate...

I've served something like this in the past--pears with a disc of soft goat cheese, drizzled with honey. Here I served the thinly sliced d'Anjou pears with a mix of ricotta, honey, sea salt, and topped it all off with a dusting of grated nutmeg. It's sweet, creamy, and a little rich, but not too filling. Again, my goal was to avoid a lumberjack-style breakfast. That kind of cooking is a lot better for large groups, where you can keep things warm in the oven and let people serve themselves.

The main course was the show stopper: Eggs Hussarde. It's a variation of Eggs Benedict developed at the legendary Brennan's in New Orleans, and I mostly followed their recipe. The main difference is the addition of marchand de vin sauce, a savory beef and wine sauce that gives it a deeper, earthier flavor. Making two classic French sauces for one course is a lot of work, but fortunately the marchand de vin holds pretty well when covered and set over the lowest setting on the stove.

From there it's pretty standard: poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and Hollandaise. I used English muffins instead of Holland rusks, and I put the marchand de vin directly on top of the toasted muffin slices. (If you pour it on top of the ham, it will run off onto the plate. Purely an aesthetic choice, because once you pierce the poached egg everything starts to run together anyway.) When I make Hollandaise I almost always make asparagus. You've already got a pot of water going for the double boiler, and the two taste great together, so why not? Eggs Hussarde is also traditionally paired with grilled tomatoes (sometimes tucked under the ham). The end result was amazing, but I can't imagine making it first thing in the morning. I paired this course with a Chilean Pinot Noir, which was a good balance, and since I used some of it to make the marchand de vin, it was nice to layer those flavors.

A couple of hours later we'd recovered enough for dessert, some delicious cinnamon rolls that Lady A brought along with her. All in all a success, and a fun change of pace. I think next time I might try something like frittata and stuffed crepes, or a lighter, more elegant version of the Full English breakfast.

10 comments:

fredric koeppel said...

you truly are a generous host. eggs Hussard is a lot of work.

Benito said...

Fredric,

It's nice to challenge yourself once in a while. The tricky part is timing everything properly so that you've got poached eggs, a rich brown sauce, and a delicate egg and butter sauce all ready to go at the same time.

Even more fun when you're cooking, serving, eating, wine tasting, and entertaining during the lead time. Fortunately, sauces don't provide a lot of opportunity for accidental knife wounds.

Cheers,
Benito

John said...

That all looks very good brother.

Benito said...

John,

I have to offer you an apology--in a previous post I talked about how I would make you Eggs Benedict and give you a kidney, but I wouldn't make you Eggs Hussarde. Let's just say that it's different when the ladies are involved, and one of these days I'll whip up a batch of marchand de vin for you.

Cheers,
Ben

Thomas said...

Benito,

This morning I read Palate Press's commentary on Wine Miles and the copyright issue, and over at Wine Miles, I find this post featured this morning.

Hope you share in their ad revenue...

Benito said...

Thomas,

Thanks for the note--I never gave permission for that site to syndicate my content. The author of the piece at Palate Press contacted me a few weeks ago and we discussed it over e-mail.

Cheers,
Benito

Samantha Dugan said...

Damn, I'm starving now. I find most breakfast items way too rich to take down in the morning so I have always been a breakfast for dinner girl. Steak, eggs, hashbrowns (hey you didn't have any taters) and a martini is my current obsession.

Benito said...

Sam,

Sounds delicious, and I do love hash browns. I intentionally left the potatoes out to avoid making things too heavy. As it was we were groaning at the end of the main course.

I really wanted to include some oysters or shrimp, but my dinner companion doesn't dig the shellfish.

Cheers,
Benito

Mark said...

What a terrific dinner idea Benito! Totally love the balance of the meal. Would have never thought to mix red wine vinaigrette with hot bacon grease. Will definitely try that soon. I make a similar spinach salad topped with fresh rasberries and a sprinkle of crumbled feta or bleu cheese.

And the Eggs Hussarde - brilliant my friend!

Benito said...

Mark,

There's lots of recipes out there for the hot bacon salad--some incorporate chopped hardboiled eggs and all sorts of other things. You can make it a pretty substantial dinner salad if you want.

Cheers,
Benito