Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Category: Breakfast

Savory Oatmeal with Soy Sauce & Scallions, Topped with a Fried Egg

Fried egg on oatmeal

I’ve come around to oatmeal again this winter, this blustery, late-bloomer of a winter that’s been littering feathery snow every other week, closing down school and work, painting the trees outside my window an elegant gray-white. Another snow flurry fest is supposedly on the radar, despite the official arrival of spring days ago. Jack Frost did not get the memo.

Winter snow, Charlottesville

So oatmeal. Oatmeal feels cozy, safe, consoling, like Goldilock’s porridge but with better marketing. I’d put it in the same family of comfort as rice and polenta, the same trend bucket as pomegrante and avocado. It’s both quick and forgiving: five minutes flat of simmering with water or milk, and an extra minute or two won’t hurt, a necessary buffer in the chaos of morning preparations.

I like oatmeal sweet: a tiny downpour of maple syrup, a dusting of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, a stir of fresh or frozen berries. If I have time, cooked apples or pears with cinnamon forms a sort of deconstructed breakfast pie.

But even better: savory oatmeal. A bit salty, with a fried egg on top, the golden yolk streaming into the oatmeal like a godly sauce. (I was skeptical, as you might be, but it meets the logic test. And, well, does not rice worth both ways? Rice pudding and rice with savory curry, say?) And, as with rice, a squirt or two or three of fish sauce adds an excellent umami punch, if you are fish-sauce inclined. (We are.)

Savory Oatmeal with Soy Sauce and Scallions

Oatmeal with scallions

Serves 1
Inspired by Mark Bittman & seriouseats.com

(doubles nicely, but you may need to simmer longer than 5 minutes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (quick cooking — not instant or steel cut)
  • 1-3 teaspoons soy sauce, to taste
  • 1 scallion, chopped (green parts, white parts if you like)
  • 1 egg
  • Bit of bacon grease, pat of butter, or drizzle of olive oil

Fried eggs in bacon grease

Add the oatmeal to boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer. Add scallions.

Simmer 5 minutes or until it reaches the consistency you like

Meanwhile, slick a frying pan with a bit of bacon grease (or butter or olive oil) on medium-high. (Yes, we’ve started saving our bacon grease; it’s delicious and thrifty! Once it cools just slightly, pour it into a jar and store in the fridge.) Crack in the egg and fry to your liking.

Stir soy sauce into the oatmeal. Scoop into bowl. Top with fried egg and dot with extra soy sauce, if you like. Stare out the window, sink your spoon in, and count the snowflakes drifting down.

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Salsa kiwi crepes

Salsa omelet

My dream breakfast these days: avocado, egg, spinach and loads of salsa

And now we bring you our Occasional Series on Random Food Combinations. Because sometimes we need the inspiration of a neophyte’s wild cooking more than an expert’s precise step-by-step recipe.

For example:

I’m on a crazy salsa kick.

I want it every day. Preferably inside a two-egg omelet for breakfast. Or, if not then, draped over something else, sometime else. Tortilla chips will suffice, but contrary to what the advertising gods would lead you to believe, they are not the ideal vehicle, too bland and curt.

At some point, when tomatoes emerge in season – and they are gorgeous humdingers here in Europe when they are ripe, deep red and fragrant and worthy of a Guy Friddell column – I’ll probably concoct salsa from scratch. But for now, I’ll take the jarred variety, medium-hot please, organic Newman’s Own if you can swing it.

During a recent weekend morning batch of crepes, my salsa hankering started edging out the Nutella.

Well, why not?

Crepes resemble a soft tortilla. I added cheese. Delicious.

Thinking a tropical vibe sounded nice, a la pineapple salsa, I sliced up a kiwi.

(No one knows what you do in your kitchen except you. Well, until you blog about it.)

sliced kiwis

Kiwis are happy to hang with salsa. Who knew?

And it was rather divine.

I’m not saying you need to try it.

I’m just saying, sometimes the best part of cooking is cooking for your own super-special tastebuds.

Close the cookbook and listen.

Your tastebuds might have a very bizarre, very unorthodox, very tasty idea.

The first crepe is always a disaster

The first crepe is always a disaster

Crepe, flipped

You need a sturdy, no-nonsense crepe recipe. I recommend the one in Mark Bittman’s “How to Cooking Everything.” I halve it.

Cheese on crepe

Pepperjack cheese. Did I mention that yet?

Crepe with salsa, kiwi

Okay. So this is the creative part. Kiwi. Salsa. Pepperjack cheese on a crepe. French-Caribbean-Mexican fusion?

Finished crepe

Seriously. It was pretty darn good.

Bite

One fork full of happiness.

American breakfast, Deutsch Frühstück

My favorite part of the morning is the cozy warmth under the covers, the haze of thought, the sleepy deliciousness of the body awakening, every synapse cloaked in soft woolen knit. I know some people spring from the bed alert as a crowing rooster, but I’ve never belonged to that kingdom.

Once I’m up, my second favorite part is breakfast.

American breakfast plate

Bacon, eggs, toast – as American as can be.

We live in Germany right now, and the breakfasts here – called Frühstück – are lovely in their own way. Freshly baked rolls, flaky croissants, jams and rich butters, gentle folds of salty ham, dense sheets of cheese. European breakfasts feel more like a picnic than a decadent celebration of a day anew. It’s rare to find French toast, pancakes or eggs any way but soft boiled on the menu.

Typical German breakfast

Typical German Frühstück, this one at a cafe in Heidelberg. I love the jam in the edible cup, like the base of a little ice cream cone.

In the States, we’ll have brunch routinely, but here in Germany, it took me awhile to realize that if I wanted an American breakfast, I needed to make it myself. Not that it’s hard, and it’s so much cheaper than eating breakfast out.

Jam and bread

Jam and bread

A hunk of baguette with a crackling skin, gooey marmalade with strips of citrus peel …

German eggs

German eggs

… and the eggs. Don’t get me started on the eggs. We’ll be here all day. Even the ones from the Rewe, the standard grocery store, are bright with flavor …

Toast in the oven

Warm and toasty in the oven.

… I toast the slices of baguette under the broiled, because we have no toaster right now. They are done in a jiffy …

bacon

Bacon.

… and bacon. Another thing you must do at home, because in Germany, the varieties of cured pork are all exquisite and nearly all sliced and cold. Brittle bacon must be an American invention.

milk

Coffee, please!

And then there’s the coffee, heaped with milk (the MinusL brand is lactose-free) and sugar.

Breakfast spead

One happy skillet of eggs for two.

Nothing complicated, but this breakfast tastes of home, an ocean away.