Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Sunday Brunch Ritual

Sunday brunch with Marcie was always a treat. The meal was elaborate and dressed up in every possible way. As we were both cooks, it could get a bit excessive, but it was always delicious.

Marcie would cook up meat, whether ham, bacon, leftover Saturday steak, or sausage. She or I would whip up eggs or omelette's, to order. Then the potatos.

Marcie was a potato queen. From a potato, she could summon baked (included twice and thrice variations), fried, french fried, mashed, hashed, homestyle and scalloped goodness at will. Sundays were a potato bonanza of potential, all from scratch.

By far my favorite tater from Marcie's kitchen was the broiler homestyle roasted breakfast potato. This flavorful and somewhat healthful treat was always dressed up just right. Marcie would bake the potato, red or russet, for just a little time, then chop it up, still firm, toss it in oil and broil or bake it to crispy goodness as she made everything else.

It was delicious. We not only used variants of it for breakfast, but also to side along our roasts and various dinners. The potatoes were always delicious reheated, too. A recipe for you all to reproduce them with:

Marcie's Roasted Breakfast Potato

1 potato per person (two if of the small rose variety)
2 mushrooms per potato
1 tsp per potato dried onions
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
cayenne pepper*
black pepper*
Sea salt*
dash of sage*
*(use what you like!)

Bake or microwave the potatoes until about halfway cooked. Chop them into small disks or wedges, as you prefer. Heat the broiler to 500 degrees or 450 if roasting, and toss the potato slices with the chopped mushrooms and dried onions and oil in a small bowl. Arrange it all on aluminum foil on broiler or cookie sheet. Broil for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned or crisp. Roast for 25-40 minutes, or until browned as above.

To this we would sometimes add special breads, from waffles to pancakes, toast to cinnamon rolls from Hob Nob Hill. But by far Marcie's favorite was my French toast. I took pride in whipping up fluffy, light and well-flavored French toast for her.

Another recipe I hope you will enjoy:

Frank's French Toast

2 pieces of soda/sweet bread per person
1 egg (or equivalent egg substitute) per person or 2 pieces of bread
1 tbsp heavy cream or half and half (milk okay, too) per egg
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp powdered or confectioner's sugar
dash of nutmeg for each slice of bread
syrup and butter (to taste)
slice of apple (garnish)
mint leaves (garnish)

Combine the egg, cream/milk, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix it well. Heat some vegetable or canola oil in a pan (butter is okay, too) big enough for two pieces of bread (at least) to lay flat. Prepare some syrup , either by heating it in second pan or in the microwave. If making roasted or broiled potatoes, a steel bowl in the oven will also do. You can add the nutmeg to the syrup.

When the pan is hot (about medium heat to high-medium will do), quickly dip the soda or sweet bread into the egg mixture and then flip it, coating both faces lightly. Do not let the bread sit in the mix. Place the egg-washed bread on the pan and cook until just brown on each side.

Add a pat of butter if desired to the hot syrup. As soon as you finish cooking the French toast, garnish the bread with apple slices and pour syrup over it all. Top with the mint leaf garnish and a dash of nutmeg if it is not in your syrup.

This was the core of our best breakfasts, our anchoring repasts for calm and luxurious Sundays in our mutual company. Occasionally, I would make Marcie a screwdriver or a mimosa, taking one myself. That almost always fueled a wonderful after-breakfast treat or languid make-out session on the couch.

I replicated it all today for old time's sake, changing out healthy options for everything as I could, and sighing that I would not be kissing her or taking a contented nap in her lap. But it was nice to do something I know she would be happy to see me do what I grew fond of distinctly under her influence.

But it was not always joy on Sunday mornings for my sweetie and I. Marcie and I had one nearly unresolvable difference. It concerned when we ate, and it could get heated at times. Marcie could not eat a heavy breakfast too early in the morning. I was starved from the moment I awoke.

Mind you, it is hard for a person who eats breakfast early when he eats it at all, usually some cereal or fruit or a combo thereof, to wait on food. Adding in sloooooowwwwlyyyy cooked bacon, home fries and other wonderful-smelling items, and you have one impatient eater.

"You need to let me cook how I know how to and go do something else," I remember her saying after I urged Marcie to turn up the heat.

Marcie took an hour each Sunday to cook bacon, slowly bubbling it in its own juice and fat, spreading a pork smell all over the neighborhood. Ditto for ham. She took her time.

Maddening! I pushed a lot, and too far at times. She booted me out of the house once over it, and tossed all the food away twice aside from that after I groused about it not being ready yet.

"Why don't you just go down to Denny's and eat their breakfast food if you can't wait for me to cook for you?" she said, torqued at me just too far. She dumped the food into the trash can and hauled it out to the dumpster, infuriated.

I learned eventually. I left and went surfing or walking when she started cooking, and I tried to have a cup of coffee to hold down my hunger until she was ready to eat. Still, I would find myself going crazy with hunger when I got home.

Which I think she rather enjoyed, as long as I kept my mouth shut and ate gratefully, which I alwats did eventually.

This little meal, this ritual, was just one that Marcie and I shared. Many other meals we cooked were also cooperative efforts, complementary dishes put together on a whim with indulgent details. I do not hold out much hope of finding anything like it ever again, but at least we had it, and eventually got it right.