I’m hearing a lot of complaints about brunch lately, and about the people who eat it: They are food-fetishizing hipsters who languish in cafes, lubing their grease with mimosas and lattes.
I’m really not sure what’s wrong with any of that, or what “hipsters” even are. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure what brunch is.
Luckily, I found a guy named Walker Hunter who knows a thing or two about this hybrid meal. Hunter’s business, Burns St. Bistro in Missoula, Montana, was supposed to be a mobile food service, but when the equipment delivery got delayed in 2012, he and his partners had to figure out how to pay for their newly leased commercial kitchen. They opened a sandwich shop, which did OK, but things really took off when they added weekend brunch.
“We had noticed the rise in popularity of brunch elsewhere, in other cities,” said Hunter. “In Portland you can’t swing a dead cat without getting brunch on it. My co-workers and I loved brunch. We would try to go out for brunch around here, but nobody was doing much more than just late breakfast, except on holidays.”
So they started serving brunch on weekends, following a simple formula:
Cook what you want, and put an egg on it.
“Our idea was that brunch could be whatever you wanted — haute cuisine, casual, fine dining, irreverent takes — all bets are off,” he said. “We aren’t limited to omelets and pancakes and waffles. This weekend we are doing rabbit and lamb. With eggs.”
Any kind of egg, he says. Soft-boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Deviled. Salt-cured.
“A sunny-side-up egg is the simplest, prettiest way to prepare an egg.”
One fun way to go this time of year, when the tomatoes are dripping ripe, is a BLT with an egg on it. I assume you know how to make a BLT. But here is my one, all-important trick for BLTs and every other sandwich:
Toast two pieces of bread, pressed together as one single slice. This will result in one side of each piece of bread being toasted. Orient the slices so the toasted sides face the inside of the sandwich; they’ll handle the mayo and tomato juice without getting soggy. The soft sides face out, cushioning your mouth and preventing the scraping that can occur when a sandwich is too delicious, too big and too toasted.
More morning goodness
It’s worth remembering that any cereal can be used to make a morning porridge. Rice can be made into congee. Wheat grains can be ground or boiled whole. Big grains. Small grains. Ancient grains. Hybrid grains.
What oats really have going, nutritionally, is soluble fiber, which other grains don’t have in such amounts. It’s the gooey factor in oatmeal, and really does a number on your bowels, in terms of getting them in line.
Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel recently made a compelling case for oats, arguing they are not only good for you, quick and easy to make, but they only cost about 10 cents a bowl.
In addition to telling us to put an egg on it, Hunter was also kind enough to share another trade secret: the house steel-cut oats recipe. I had it the other day with crème fraîche and a pear poached in sweetened, spiced rose wine, and it was just how I like it: prepared earlier and allowed to set.
If you want it more risotto-like, by all means eat it when it’s hot. If you don’t have steel-cut oats, use whatever you’ve got.
• 2 cups steel-cut oats
• 4 cups water
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 2 tsp salt
Cook until oats are tender and the desired consistency. Finish with innumerable applications.
“You could take it in any direction,” Hunter says. “I come from New Hampshire. Some homegrown maple syrup, and a little bit of sea salt, pretty much takes care of it.”
— Ari LeVaux writes Flash in the Pan, a syndicated weekly food column that’s appeared in more than 50 newspapers in 25 states. Ari lives in Montana and New Mexico and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.