I have been keeping a BIG secret from everyone, including my family. I am letting you in on it now. January 28, 2011; wet, cold and grey. Another wintry morning in San Francisco. Nothing out of the ordinary. Worked out, got ready for work, made a latte, and sat down to enjoy the last moments of solitude before my day began. I really cherish those 30 minutes of “me time”. Sipping coffee, watching the day unfold, and reading a few emails. Normally, I glance through my inbox, delete the crap, and put the email with names of people I know aside, so I can answer them once I get into the office. This day was different, and this Pork Breakfast Sandwich was about to make my day!
Helen. This name really caught my eye, because, I don’t normally meet many Helens. As well it was my grandmother’s name. I glanced at the name for awhile, processing, who it could be. I didn’t really pay attention to the subject line. It was all slow motion. Like opening a letter, one would receive in the mail. Slowly, opening the envelope, as not to rip it. Removing the folded piece of paper. Unfolding it, and reading the words. It was rather surreal. Why? This was an ordinary morning, after all. I pondered on the name, and once I realized I did not know a “Helen”, I read the subject line, The SAVEUR Sandwich Photo Contest. I thought about it. Then I unfolded the piece of paper, and read the words that Helen wrote to me.
Thanks so much for submitting a picture of your absolutely extraordinary breakfast sandwich to the SAVEUR Sandwich Photo Contest – I’m very excited to let you know that you’ve won! It was a near-unanimous vote – you really bowled the edit team over with that egg yolk-stuffed pork patty. Per the terms of the contest, your photo will be featured in the April issue of the magazine with full credit – but if you’re interested, we’d like to take it a step further and run the recipe for the sandwich alongside the picture. Would you be willing to share it with us?
Thanks so much – and congratulations again!
All the best,
It took a good 30 seconds to really hit me. Then crowing like a morning rooster; I bellowed, “OMG!” As I ran through the apartment, to share the news with Lenny.
” I won.”
I am sure he was wondering, what the hell is she yelling about at this hour. Won? Won, what? I plopped on the bed, and re-read the sweet words, and then it all made sense to him. I was excited. I wanted to tell everyone. But …..
I took a step back. To pinch me. Was I dreaming? I have always dreamt of this from the first day I held a camera. The only difference, was, that I thought my photos would include travels to far away places, shooting people, and animals (I read too many National Geographic issues as a kid). This was the next best thing, sort of the National Geographic of food.
The next 48 hours were a blur. I could not stop smiling. Or re-reading that email. I know, a bit corny, but, I was proud. It was one thing that the photo was picked. Another, that they wanted to print the recipe. My photo. Our recipe.
Once reality took hold, it was all clear. Deadlines needed to be met. We had to perfect this recipe, write it out, and get it back to Helen. By Monday! This recipe was in our heads. Nothing had been written about it; we had never shared it, except with the lucky few who got to put it into their bellies. We had work to do.
A bit about the “breakfast sandwich”. This was Lenny’s creation, as he has a deep love for all runny eggs. Wouldn’t it be fun to put a runny egg in the middle of a burger? No one is doing it. Sure, people are stuffing them with cheese; but a runny egg? The premise behind the “breakfast sandwich” deliciousness, was to create a sausage patty, with the egg hidden inside. Topped with some hollandaise sauce to create a mixed up Eggs Benedict. We had the flavors down. The pork was to be simply seasoned. The hollandaise buttery, and tart. The English muffin was to be pan grilled, not just toasted. And the egg. It had to be nestled inside and cooked just enough to still be runny. A surprise, when you cut through the hollandaise drenched patty.
We spent the next 48 hours, playing with 8 pounds of pork, three dozen eggs, 2 avocados, 6 Meyer lemons, 1/2 pound of spinach, and a dozen English muffins. The hardest part was getting the thickness of the patty, just right. You want it to cook, but not overcook the egg. We used cookie cutters to stabilize it. We covered it. We baked it. We pan-fried it. Stove-top grilled it. You name it; we probably did it. Finally, after two days of cooking, and eating pork, we had it. It was ready for the final taste test from our trusty taste tester, Ella. The patty was perfect, crispy sides, slightly spicy, slightly salty. The hollandaise was tart, and buttery. The muffin was crispy. The sauteed spinach and creamy avocado wrapped it all together. And the surprise egg in the middle …………. was runny. We had done it, not only created the perfect breakfast sandwich but, also the perfect photo to capture the moment.
I would like to thank a few people who made all possible:
Lenny. Thank you for being creative. You may not be hands-on in the kitchen, but the ideas are always flowing, and I love that about you. Thank you for always being supportive and for putting up with me, while I chase these wild, crazy dreams. Thank you for believing in me, that means the world to me.
Ella. Thank you for being the best 7-year-old taste-taster ever. I admire your adventure, at such a young age, and hope the curiosity for new and exciting food lives with you forever. Thank you for getting me to try crispy pig’s ears, which were delicious!
Penny. Thank you for lighting the fire, that had been put to sleep, some years ago. Your words of experience have resonated in me. The impossible is only impossible if we don’t reach for it. I am reaching.
Helen, and the team at Saveur. This would have never happened, without all of you. I am forever grateful and appreciative. THANK YOU for this wonderful opportunity, and the recognition. Humbling.
Tim. Thank You for your constructive criticism, and pushing me to keep at it, all the way from across the pond. You are an inspiring mentor, and becoming a great friend. I look forward to what lies ahead. Thank You.
We both thank you, our readers, for your continued readership! Let us know when you try this recipe, and what you think.
Check out the piece on the Saveur site as well.
Pork Breakfast Sandwich
Make the spinach and the hollandaise: Heat 3 tsp. oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until soft, about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring often, until just wilted, 2–3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set aside and keep warm. Place 3 egg yolks, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in a blender; at medium speed, slowly drizzle in butter, to make a smooth, thick hollandaise. Cover and set aside.
Combine pork, bread crumbs, thyme, piment d’Espelette, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl, and half mixture. Working with one half at a time, take ⅔ of pork mixture, and in the palm of your hand, form a flat disk with a well in the center; place 1 yolk inside. Form a thin patty with the remaining ⅓ of the mixture, place over the yolk, and gently pinch together the two portions, to seal.
Heat remaining oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat, and add pork patties. Cover skillet with a lid and cook, turning once until pork is cooked through and yolks are still runny about 10 minutes.
Place spinach mixture on bottom halves of English muffins, top each with avocado and a pork patty and cover with hollandaise. Add muffin tops, and serve.