12 July 2012

The Breakfast Book

Who knows what sends us down the path to obsession?   I do know that one of the first cookbooks I bought with my own money was Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book.  I have vivid memories of the book because it is one of those "go to" books that I consult often.  I cannot help thinking of that book today upon hearing the new that Cunningham died.  

Marion Cunningham  New York Times obituary
 The best tribute I have ever read of Marion Cunningham came from her friend, David Lebovitz.  In 2006 he easily summed up what made her special.

Readers of Cookbook Of The Day know of our abiding love the egg.  One of my favorite egg dishes came from The Breakfast Book.  It is Marion Cunningham's Featherbed Eggs.  I always referred to them as "feathered" eggs.   This may well be the greatest recipe that any cook can have in their cooking repertoire.  First, it is incredibility easy.  Any man, woman, or child can assemble it with little effort.  Secondly, it can be customized to make it your own by adding virtually anything under the sun.  My particular favorite is sausage!  Finally, it is a "make ahead" dish and perfect for company.  

When you have guests staying over and you are dreading being the breakfast short order cook, simply whip this up in the final minutes of dinner prep.  Now is the perfect time to add your own touches.  Sausage, as I said before, steamed cauliflower, apple slices, use your imagination.   Cover the pan and set it in the refrigerator.   While the coffee is brewing, set your dish in a cold oven and in less than an hour you will have a glorious breakfast with little fuss and big rewards.

Featherbed  Eggs

6 slices white bread
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar, Gouda, provolone or Montery Jack cheese, or a combination
1 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the slices of bread in the dish, trimming the edges, if necessary. Sprinkle the bread with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the bread.

Combine the milk and eggs in a bowl and briskly stir until the mixture is all one color and completely blended. Pour the milk mixture over the bread and cheese. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

Baking the Featherbed Eggs: Because the dish will be chilled when you are ready to bake it, start it in a cold oven and turn the thermostat to 350 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, or until the bread custard is puffy and lightly golden. Check at 45 minutes, in case your oven is a little hotter. 

My favorite picture of Marion Cunningham was taken in 1987.  She is seated across from another cooking legend, Edna Lewis.  Oh to have been a fly on the wall, or the garden chair.

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