If you’re the sort of person who gravitates toward diners, whose favorite restaurants serve breakfast all day (we are not talking about McDonald’s), who makes breakfast for dinner at home and whose idea of a good time is making frosted flakes from scratch, then here’s a cookbook for you. “Big Bad Breakfast” is the new book from John Currence, and it’s a big, bad book of a cookbook, as was clearly the author’s intent.
Currence is pretty big and bad himself, if you want to push the conceit: He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South in 2009, has appeared on “No Reservations” and “Top Chef Masters,” has a string of restaurants in Oxford, Miss. — including one called Big Bad Breakfast — and has written for the magazine Garden and Gun. Which seems only fitting for a guy who makes food for the folks of Oxford, home of both Ole Miss and William Faulkner.
“Big Bad Breakfast” is Currence’s second book, after his debut “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey,” and it is a happily irreverent ode to the meal. There are forewords by John Besh and David Chang (imprimatur for the irreverence genre), a funny introduction in which we are given the 10 Commandments of Breakfast, and then 75 fun recipes for all the omelets and hoecakes and scrambles and enchiladas and biscuits and gravy that you could hope for. There’s quite a range of breakfast styles, from arepas to pain perdu, pimento cheese to migas, Pop-Tarts to something called the Pylon: a Belgian waffle piled with hot dogs, chili, slaw, oyster crackers, etc. “Yes, people, this is miracle food,” Currence writes about it, saying he’s seen it revive many hungover students as well as David Chang himself.
Ed Anderson’s hunger-inducing photography includes repeating plates of pancakes, lots of cast-iron skillets and eggs in various compositions, pouring coffee, Elvis Presley tapestries, biscuit step-by-steps, shots of a baseball-hatted Currence at work in the kitchen or bellied up to a crowded counter. Flip through all this, read the chatty anecdotes (in praise of MSG, the emu egg in the parking lot), and the handy tips from someone who’s worked in many kitchens, both other people’s and his own, and you get a growing sense of comfort — and that’s not just because many of the recipes are for comfort food.
Unsurprisingly, the book concludes with a cocktail chapter. “There is little in the world that’s more fun than day drinking,” writes Currence. “If you take offense to this particular theory, well, we have very little to talk about.”
The point, of course, is that there is much to talk about — and much to cook, preferably for breakfast.
Cookbook of the Week: “Big Bad Breakfast,” by John Currence (Ten Speed Press, $30).
Black pepper buttermilk biscuit dough
In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper and pulse several times to combine. Add the frozen butter and lard and pulse several times again, just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Turn out the flour mixture into a stainless steel bowl, add the buttermilk and stir with a dinner fork until combined. Dust your hands generously with flour, gather the dough while it’s still in the bowl, and work it with your hands until it barely holds together.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, folding and turning the dough, until it becomes slightly smooth and homogeneous, about 4 or 5 turns of the dough. Wrap and refrigerate the dough until ready to add to the cobbler.
Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Core the slicing tomatoes and cut in half across the equator. Squeeze out the seeds and place the halves, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and sprinkle with half each of the thyme and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake, rotating the baking sheet every 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are golden and very soft, about 3 hours. Remove and cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large saute pan, warm the extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the onion and remaining garlic and saute until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the diced tomato, season lightly with salt and pepper, and stir well to combine. Stir in the rosemary, oregano and remaining thyme and bring to a simmer; cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
Butter a 9- by 9-inch casserole dish. Spread half of the simmered tomato mixture onto the bottom of the prepared dish, then sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of the flour, followed by half of the goat cheese. Place 6 of the roasted tomato halves on top of the goat cheese. Repeat the layers one more time, using the remaining tomato mixture, flour, goat cheese and roasted tomatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the cobbler begins to thicken, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a well-floured board, roll out the biscuit dough to 1/2-inch thick and cut into 3-inch rounds. Remove the cobbler from the oven, peel back the foil, and place the biscuits on top, covering as much of the surface as possible without overlapping. Brush the tops of the biscuits with clarified butter. Bake until the biscuits are golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
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