Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Breakfast Begins With.....

Money's tight. No argument there.  Much as we'd like to be eating everything healthy, low fat and non-meat, the budget doesn't allow for a great deal of "extravagances."  I've found myself more and more in the marked-down sections of the store, watching like a hawk for my chance at the pickin's.   Most times I come home with a treasure or two...mind you, they need to be used that night.

Sometimes though, I don't come away with much and we make due with what we can get.  Sound familiar?

I'd love to be vegetarian, but have you seen the prices?  Broccoli, carrots, onions....the standards are going through the roof; God forbid ya try for anything fancy like a mushroom.  Tofu's even gone up, and with Jack's current medication regimen we have to use soy products sparingly. But we manage.

Today for breakfast I wanted something homey, comfy, tasty and filling.  I didn't want to have a lot of hot cereal or pancakes, but wanted us to have something substantial enough to keep us from extra snaking during the day.

With a quick scan of pantry and fridge, I produced the following:
            4 eggs,  mild Italian sausage (bulked not in skin),  1 small red apple,   dried grits,   margarine,   milk,
           whole wheat flour,   garlic,    2 slices of bread,    apple juice,     water
I immediately thought of a country breakfast!  Yum!
       Over Easy Egg, Sausage and Apples,  Grits and Gravy (made with pan drippings, apple juice, a little whole wheat flour, garlic and milk) and even a bit of Toast.  Sounded great!

Some may be shouting "but that was ITALIAN sausage!"  To which I reply "Italians eat breakfast too, besides when cooked with a bit of butter or margarine, some apple juice and apple slices, the flavor tones down a bit.

NOTE: Do not repeat DO NOT add cloves and cinnamon to the sausage and apples!  This is not that kind of dish! You want the sausage's personality to still be known, with the apple flavor as a compliment rather than an actual main feature.  Let it hint about itself with each bite.

Eggs, Sausage, Grits and Gravy Breakfast
I use a cast iron skillet that's been well seasoned through the years....heat it over medium flame. To this I add a tablespoon of water, letting it hiss for a moment.  Add the sausage pieces, cover for two minutes.  Turn and cover again.  After two more minutes, remove cover and turn the pieces again. They should start to brown.  At this point you can add 1/4 cup apple juice and stir it around. Sausage and juice will start cooking.....let meat brown for about 3 minutes (go by your senses though, sometimes it takes less sometimes more), turn again.

Add apple slices at this point...they should be small, bite sized pieces.  Add a dash more juice if pan is dry, cook uncovered, turning often until everything is browned on all sides and sausage is done.
Apples should be softer, but not mushy. NOTE: If you peel the apples, they'll cook quicker. I usually don't peel mine.

Remove sausage and apples from pan.....let drain. (a mesh strainer is good for this) to remove any grease, also a good idea to pat it off with a paper towel.

While that rests, we can prepare the other components.

Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 cup of cold milk. Use a wire whisk to make sure it's mixed well.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of margarine to the pan and bring to heat.  Add the milk mixture and whisk in skillet, bringing it back to slow bubbling. Lower the heat so it doesn't burn.  The mixture will be thickening at this point.

Add more apple juice if needed and adjust flavorings. Remember, you are going for sausage flavor NOT apple pie!  Garlic would be good in this, and I can recommend adding it to the sausage while it's cooking, too. Right along with the apples!

Some people even add a bit of coffee to the gravy....a "Red Eye Gravy" so to speak.  If you do so, adjust your seasonings again after adding it!  Coffee can lend a bitter dimension that can either play well with the other flavors, or not.  Use a judicious hand!

Grits (Hominy) are great as a cereal or as a substitute for mashed potatoes.   As part of breakfast, Jack likes 'em in a bowl with a little brown sugar, butter and milk.  I'm kinda partial to the old Grits N Gravy thingie.  A throw-back to my traveling days when I grew to appreciate fine Southern hospitality and cooking.

To satisfy both of us, I make the grits a bit on the firm side by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil, adding about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grits a bit at a time and a little margarine or butter.  Then when it comes back to a boil I reduce the heat, cover the pan and let it cook for the package recommended time.   Then the IMPORTANT thing is to remove it from the heat, keep it covered for five minutes in a warm place then open and stir it around.  Very similar to rice preparation....and why not?  It's a cereal grain, too!

The eggs are standard over-easy.....I cook the first side, flip then turn off the heat and let the pan cook the egg the rest of the way.  After a few moments of that, I remove the pan from the heat, wiggling it slightly to see if the yolks need more firming.  Most folks in this house like a medium-firm egg yolk, so the pan usually heats it well enough, but if not simply turn the heat back on the pan for a few more moments cooking time then they're done!

Toasters make toast great.  Each person likes it their own way, so I'm not going to go into it right now...other than to maybe recommend trying pan-toasting the bread once in a while.   There's an extra flavor that comes with pan toasting!

Back to the action.
Assembly is easy.    Toast, buttered.  Egg(s) placed on top.  Sausage and apples on plate,  Grits next to them.  Some folks like gravy on the side, me....want it on the grits and the sausage, too.

Jack's grits are served in a bowl on the side, eggs, toast and sausage on the plate.
Naturally I have some fresh fruit too, when we have it.

So that's one version of breakfast.  Workin' with what we got. 

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