Christmas breakfast must be the most neglected meal of the year. When the chocolates are open before noon, who wants Wheaties?
Our place is probably typical on the magic morning: I’m putting a dent in a big gift can of salty mixed nuts while my consort is plowing through a few tins of his mom’s cookies. If we run low, there’s always candy.
Luckily, one of us is mature enough to finally say, “We need to eat something real.”
Once I accede to the voice of reason, a regular breakfast doesn’t seem quite right. Even our Sunday best -- the omelets we usually eat, with great smoky bacon and artisanal toast -- seem too everyday on this day. When else do you get a chance to really indulge, to pull out all the stops on cheese and cream and pork products? As the ultimate enabler said, Christmas comes only once a year. Might as well make the most of it.
When I was growing up, our holiday breakfast usually was something from the oven: my mom’s sugared scones, or her coffeecake with cinnamon-streusel topping, or my dad’s biscuits, with or without peppery gravy. I still favor those ideas for Christmas but tend to embellish them, making the scones richer by using cream instead of milk, or turning the biscuits into almost a meat item with sausage baked right in.
Usually I convert our omelets into a dressier frittata, accessorized with red peppers and a green vegetable along with lots of melting cheese. It’s as easy as scrambled eggs, but finished in the oven so we get the bonus of a warm kitchen.
Break out the cream
It’s good, but an even more decadent Christmas breakfast is eggs Breton, a dish we discovered years ago at an inn run by a French couple who served it as a first course at dinner. The American name is shirred eggs, which doesn’t come close to describing what are essentially eggs poached in cream, with cheese added for good measure.
For each serving, you break an egg into a teaspoon of butter melted in a half-cup ramekin, aiming for the exact center for even cooking. This gets topped with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, then a good dusting of salt and pepper.
You then drizzle a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream over the egg and top it with a layer of grated cheese. You can use chives or basil for the herbs and add hot sauce to the cream, but the cheese should be a really good Gruyere, which melts oozily and has an almost nutty flavor.
After 15 minutes in a preheated 325-degree oven, the eggs should be just set and the cheese will be morphing into a sauce. A few chunks of a good baguette are all you need to sop up yolk and cream.
But it’s Christmas. You could serve the eggs with scones, made from a basic dough but cut into triangles rather than rounds. Or you can exercise real excess and team the cheesy eggs with sausage biscuits with more cheese.
Chocolate should not be the only breakfast of champions.