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Quarantine Cuisine: Brunch edition

I had received some feedback recently that my Quarantine Cuisine series features a) entirely dinner items and b) entirely meat or seafood; i.e., no vegetarian options. I always take to heart what both of my loyal readers have to say, so this time around, I am giving you a twofold deviation from my normal posts––a vegetarian brunch option.

Better yet, I think this might be a dish that I invented, though I am sure others have done it from time to time. Perhaps we can elevate the Maestro's recipe to widespread fame and I can make a few bucks out of it...? Maybe? Hello, publishers/sugar daddies?

I have a sort of unspoken agreement with mama that I cook two meals per day for us (breakfast, dinner) and she cleans up the dishes. It has gotten so routine that if I don't make breakfast by around 10:30, Mom looks up from her phone and sort of helplessly cries out at random intervals "I'm hungry!" Sort of like the cats do around 5:30 AM and 3:30 PM.

One morning, mom made her hunger known to me a few too many times, and I begrudgingly peeled my lazy ass off the couch and looked for something easy to cook. We happened to have a very nice loaf of sourdough from the local food co-op that needed to be used, so I thought I'd make eggs in a frame, or as some call it, "eggs in a basket." I have never sought a recipe for eggs in a frame––the only reason I'm even aware of the dish is a scene in the movie Moonstruck where Olympia Dukakis is cooking them for Cher––so it is entirely possible I have no idea what I'm doing.

I also noticed that morning that sitting on the counter was an avocado I intended to use the night before. It was quite ripe, and needed to be consumed and not wasted. I had already made holes in the bread, however, for the eggs, so avocado toast wasn't really an option. Then the wheels in my head began turning...

Why not COMBINE avocado toast with eggs in a frame?

I created the avocado toast spread and put it on top of the finished eggs in a frame, effectively concealing the egg inside. When mom cut into the toast, she didn't realize there was an egg imbedded, and when the glorious yolk came leaking out, she was overjoyed, and absolutely inhaled the food. I hadn't started eating my piece yet, but the praise from the kitchen table was incessant. Her new favorite breakfast, I'd made, she said.

So, I took a bite. It was absolutely as good as she said. Seems I was on to something!

And now, I bring it to you, my loyal readership. To make this joyful meal at home, you'll first need to buy (or make!) some really good sourdough bread. The particular bread I used the first time had a lovely seeded crust which added an additional flavorful element to the toast; this time, the seeded bread wasn't available, so the regular sourdough would have to suffice. I would normally use a center slice from the loaf, and cut it in half, hollowing out the very center of the bread for the egg. This time, we'd used much of the center for French toast a couple of days prior, so we used two whole, smaller slices toward the end of the loaf. Eat the bread you remove from the slice with some good butter while you prepare the meal.

Before cooking the toast and eggs, I recommend making the avocado topping. A whole Haas avocado is about perfect size for two people. Scoop out a ripe avocado, and add a bit of pepper and lemon juice. Mash the avocado with the juice and seasoning. You can include numerous other things in the avocado spread, such as hot sauce, red pepper flakes, dill, etc., or you can add them as toppings later if you'd like. Today, I included some habanero hot sauce from Yellowbird, an import from my time in Austin.

Heat butter or olive oil, or a combo, over medium heat in a skillet or sauté pan. We use the electric skillet for this for minimal dishware and easy cleanup. Once melted and shimmering, place the bread in the pan. Then, crack a single egg into the hole in the bread. After a few minutes, when the toast is golden brown on the one side, carefully flip the bread to cook the other side. If the hole wasn't big enough, the albumen will be spilling out of the hole in the bread––this is acceptable; just give it a light press so the white comes into contact with the pan and cooks. You can also use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs if you can find them for a particularly decadent, rich treat.

After a few minutes, the egg white should be cooked through and the toast buttery golden on both sides. Remove and plate each slice, topping liberally with the avocado spread. Drizzle the spread with good olive oil, and sprinkle some sea salt. We use Maldon salt flakes, which is some of the best sea salt out there.

This is also the time to add any additional toppings you want to include with your toast. My favorites for avocado toast include fresh dill, red pepper flakes, thinly-sliced radishes, or hot sauce––plenty of options to make your brunch your own. Today, I included a beautiful baby arugula salad with a simple dressing of olive oil, Dijon, and lemon juice, and a few shavings of manchego cheese.

I love the element of surprise of this dish. If you're serving others, they might not know an egg is inside until they cut into it, and it's a delightful little gift. Who doesn't love a runny yolk into which they can dip their toast?

This is delicious, versatile, healthy, and screams "brunch." What more could you need?

* * *

We are combining the Quarantine Cuisine and Quarantini Series today in order to bring you a full brunch experience, since what is brunch without a cocktail?

When I visit Salt Lake City, my dear friends Melia and JR often join me for Sunday brunch at the wonderful Provisions in the Millcreek area, just minutes from my first childhood home, and we would live like heathens, downing brunch cocktails and devouring their magnificent "Green eggs and ham" brunch entrée.

My favorite cocktail from this place is the Corpse Reviver no. 2, a drink that is perfectly named for brunch. The legend is that a Corpse Reviver was so potent, it could revive a dead person, or perhaps a person ailing from a Saturday night of drinking. Hair of the dog, if you will. Moreover, the drink is boozy but delightfully refreshing. I can think of no better cocktail for a springtime Sunday brunch, preferably out on the porch!

It also so happened that we had a bottle of Pernod handy, which is a good sub for the absinthe required in this recipe.

To prepare the drink, chill a martini or coupé glass for a bit in the freezer. Then, "rinse" the glass with Pernod or absinthe by pouring a bit into the bottom and spinning/turning the glass to let it cover the entire interior of the glass. If you're feeling plucky, you can put the anise spirit in a small spray bottle for easy rinsing of the glass.

One ounce each of gin, orange liqueur (a curaçao such as Cointreau or Combier is best), Lillet blanc or other dry, white vermouth, and freshly-squeezed lemon juice are then combined in a shaker with ice, shaken vigorously, and strained into the chilled and anise spirit-washed glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

The anise spirit provides an undertone of bite and bitterness, and an unmistakable aroma, while the fresh, bright cocktail refreshes and relaxes. A perfect brunch cocktail, and one easy to remember how to make when you've had a few of them, given the equal ingredient proportions!

There you have it, kiddos––a perfect brunch. You can add any number of things to the side of this brunch, such as fresh fruit, a simple green salad, a few slices of bacon... the sky is the limit!

Well, tomorrow is Sunday, so you have your marching orders! Go forth (er... stay home) and brunch!

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