Roche Harbor’s Lime Kiln Café, built in 1995, serves hearty country breakfasts and boardwalk style lunches, but the big star of the show is the freshly made cake donuts served every morning. From the moment you enter the doors, the comforting aroma of freshly cooked donuts with a hint of nutmeg fills the air. If you get there early, you can catch the little donut robot turning out crispy golden donuts at a rate of 140 per hour. Our hardworking little robot will make over 100,000 donuts in a year with only Thanksgiving and Christmas off. While the donut robot may be an amazing piece of equipment, the heart and soul of any breakfast house is the short-order hash slinger; The Breakfast Cook.
Breakfast cooks are a rare breed, as they are born and not made. They are the mercenaries of the kitchen who love a brand-new egg pan more than their dog, leave their work in the clothes hamper with their dirty apron, prefer to work alone, and get off work early enough to play eight holes of golf. The Lime Kiln Café has three of the best in the country.
The egg is the most amazing ingredient in your kitchen. It can be fried, poached, scrambled, soft boiled, hard-boiled, baked, or turned into an amazing French omelet. It can thicken your meatloaf or make your breading stick to your chicken fried steak. The dense proteins thicken custards, crème brulee, mousse, and hollandaise. Eggs are essential in creating a good aioli and even the mayonnaise in your refrigerator. All of this from a little oval package that a hen that will lay 250-300 times in her life.
In 1993, I was fortunate to learn about cooking eggs from a true egg cook guru. He taught me that eggs do not like to be rushed and prefer to be cooked low and slow. No matter how busy the restaurant gets, I never rush the eggs. Cooking eggs on heat that’s too high makes them rubbery and browns the whites. No thanks!
Any chef will tell you that it takes someone very special to take a simple egg and create 100 dishes with it, let alone scramble, poach, fry, baste, flip it over easy, or leave the egg sunny-side up. I can fake it for a shift or two, but these guys sling eggs with perfection every day. I have the greatest respect for these culinary soldiers and for the work they do.
This month, I’m featuring a few sweet and savory breakfast recipes from the Lime Kiln Café so you can wake up to a taste of the San Juans wherever you set anchor.
Grand Marnier French Toast with Fresh Strawberries
Directions: Slice strawberries into quarters from stem to tip and place in a non-reactive bowl. Add sugar and orange liqueur then stir to combine. Allow sugar and liqueur to infuse with berries for 30 minutes. In a medium sized bowl, add eggs, milk, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined.
Slice bread in 1” thick slices. If using baguette, slice on the bias. In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Soak bread in egg mixture to absorb custard. Place soaked bread slices in pan until browned, then turn and repeat. Place completed toast in center of plate overlapping each other then drizzle with maple syrup followed by sweetened strawberries. Serve with whipped cream.
Braised Pork and Sweet Potato Hash
When poaching eggs, the water temperature of the poaching liquid is critical. Eggs are best when cooked at around 180˚ degrees. Cooking eggs at higher temperatures gives them a rubbery mouth feel. Adding the vinegar to the water helps the egg form a tight ball when poaching, and while this is hotly contested in the breakfast cook community, I chose to add it to this recipe. A good egg person is patient with the eggs and maintains his or her pans at a medium temperature to avoid browning. Never rush the eggs and let them cook themselves.
Sadly, many breakfast houses do not use clarified butter to cook with, and to save money have replaced the golden nectar from the cow with an artificially flavored margarine product called Whirl®. At the Lime Kiln Café, we use the good stuff to cook our eggs and especially, our crispy hash browns.
Directions: In a 2-quart sauce pan, fill with 1 quart of salted water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and cook until they are cooked through but firm to the bite (cooking them too long will make them turn mush). Drain and rinse with cold water, then place in refrigerator until next step.
I prefer to use braised pork shoulder in this recipe but if you have leftover pork chops or a pork roast, they will work as well. To create the pulled pork, cut the meat into 1” thick slices then using your hands tear the meat into ¾” chunks.
Add apple juice and chicken stock to hash and continue to stir until all the liquid is absorbed. At this point, our breakfast hero would be flipping the hash in the pan to brown and crisp up the outside edges. If you are not comfortable with the flip, simply continue stirring the hash and crisping up the edges.
While the hash is resting, prepare the eggs. Traditional hash is served with poached eggs but if you prefer your eggs cooked another way, go for it! I like to serve my hash with sunny-side up eggs.
To poach eggs, fill a sauce pan with 2” of water and bring to a simmer. Wait for small bubbles of air to start accumulating on the bottom of the pan and begin rushing to the top. Add about a tablespoon of white vinegar to the simmering water. Carefully crack the eggs into the water and allow them to cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
Place the hash in the center of a heated plate. Using a soup spoon, drizzle the hollandaise over the hash in a striping pattern, then top with poached egg and garnish with chopped parsley, serve immediately.
Kitchen Tools: 3-quart sauce pan, 3-quart stainless steel bowl, and wire whip
Let the warm butter stand for a few minutes until you see three distinct layers. The bottom layer is a milky substance, the center layer is a clear yellow color, and the top layer is clear with white salty foam. The center yellow layer is what we are after, the top layer must be poured off and discarded. Don’t worry if you discard some of the yellow oil, it is important the top layer is completely removed.
The next step is to slowly pour off the yellow oil into a dish without any of the bottom milky layer contaminating it. Once this is done, discard the bottom layer and your dish containing the yellow oil can now be called clarified butter. Once clarified, the butter has a higher burn point and is an excellent oil for cooking your eggs and hash browns.
Once the clarified butter is made, hold it in a warm place. Fill a 3-quart sauce pan with a 1” of water over medium heat. Add the egg yolks and lemon juice to a stainless-steel bowl and whisk vigorously until the eggs have doubled. Place the bowl over the barely boiling water and continue whisking, do not allow the water to touch the bowl to avoid making scrambled eggs while slowly drizzling the clarified butter into the egg and lemon mixture until all the butter is added, the sauce has doubled in size, and is thick and creamy. Remove from heat and season with Tabasco, salt and white pepper. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to serve.