As I write this, it is raining again, and I am not complaining except that it is probably twenty degrees cooler than last week. Cool and rainy always conjures up visions of comfort foods, and in my family those visions often include breakfast foods — which we sometimes have for dinner too. Lately, that’s the only time we have for breakfast, as I am now at a market on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
I thought I would walk you through the market on an imaginary shopping trip for breakfast food. You can do a pretty good job of that at this time of year. Let’s start with eggs and sausage and bacon. You can buy fresh, free-range country eggs at all of our markets, though you may have to get there early; they have been flying off the tables since the salmonella scare, and with good reason. Heritage Farm and Kitchen and Windmill Meadows always have us covered at most of the markets; other vendors who bring eggs include Croftburn Farm, Smallwood’s Veggieporium, Herbal Avenues (a new product at their tent), and Holy Cow. All of those vendors are pledging to bring more eggs than they have been bringing, and we are seeking out new sources too to cover the winter demand.
And sausage — Heritage Farm and Windmill Meadows have great pork country breakfast sausage; Walnut Hill brings pork sausage; Doug Linton brings several varieties of all-beef sausage; and of course we have Simply Sausage, now appearing only at Reston but soon to be available at all of our winter markets. Stanley Feder brings a sausage selection that is wide in varietal reach and deep in the flavors of the freshly ground herbs and spices that he uses throughout. And any of those vendors who sell pork also sell bacon — both cured (with minimal chemical salts) and uncured, which is how the feds require naturally cured meats to be labeled.
If you like to make pancakes or waffles from scratch, may I suggest Moutoux’s whole-wheat flour to add some additional nutrition and local flavor. I will bring my own two favorite recipes for pancakes to the market — and don’t forget the buttermilk that you can buy at our markets. And of course, the syrup is supreme at Heritage Farm and Kitchen — maple syrup from Pennsylvania maples. This is real maple syrup.
Now abut those fried apples: They are really sauteed apples, and I think they are best cooked up in bacon fat. I like Staymans and/or Winesaps for this dish, but feel free to try your own favorite apples. My favorites hold their shape even as they soften up and cook down — you don’t end up with mush, just gently softened apples that have released enough juice to create a glistening glaze. And they are tart enough to accept the little bit of brown sugar or maple syrup to create that glaze without becoming too sweet. Just core and slice the apples into fairly thin wedges leaving the peel on. Toss them into the pan as they are prepped in order to give some of them a head start in the warmed bacon fat. You can hasten the cooking by covering them and cooking on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, but remove the lid when you add the sweetener of your choice and then cook them down to the desired consistency. You choose. For six apples I would add about three tablespoons of dark or light brown sugar or about the same amount of maple syrup. You choose again the amount you want.
At each of our markets you have a great selection of breads and muffins — and a little something sweet too if you need that. And of course there is always grits — or hominy — out there for another side dish. Which reminds me…
Twice in the early days of our marriage, my husband was flummoxed by the wealth of breakfast choices we have here in the South. On our road-trip honeymoon, we stopped off in Harrisonburg to stay with Nanna Mommy, my grandmother about whom I’ve written before. We were sitting at the table in that great kitchen with the high ceilings on a hot summer day, and Nanna Mommy was cooking up sausage and eggs for us. She was getting close to serving us when she asked if we wanted gravy! My Connecticut-born and raised husband looked at me with questioning eyes and made it clear he had no idea what that meant, but of course did not want to appear any more of a misplaced Northerner than necessary (more on that later).
I explained that you could make gravy out of sausage drippings just like you do out of fried-chicken drippings, and he decided to try it — and he did like it. That same scenario was replayed later on when we were seated in the same location and she asked us about frying up some hominy that was sitting in a big pot out on the back porch, which in winter was the backup refrigerator. He was full of himself by that time because he had become familiar with grits in our home, but once again he was thrown for the proverbial loop! Hominy he had never heard of. Who would have thought that breakfast could be such an adventure!
I admit it is hard to work in a veggie if you are making breakfast for dinner, but greens would be good — those too can be cooked up quickly using the drippings from the bacon or sausage. And some of Jamie’s beans would be a good addition too — just ask your nearest and dearest Brit. But if you are indulging in breakfast for dinner, then who needs vegetables to make it just right? It is comfort food after all — and it can begin to be a little uncomfortable working the full complement of nutrients into a great breakfast. Just leave it alone and enjoy!
See you at the market!