The Secret to the Perfect Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Isn’t the Ingredients

Editor’s Note: As more people are working from home, Bloomberg Pursuits is introducing a weekly “Lunch Break” column that will highlight a notable recipe from new cookbooks and the hack that makes them genius.

If there’s a dish that doesn’t need a recipe, it’s a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Even the most basic cook knows how to put one together—it’s the sum of its title ingredients. Its power to get Americans going in the morning is legendary, whether or not hangovers are part of the equation.

And yet some breakfast sandwiches outshine the rest. It isn’t a question of top-quality ingredients: It’s hard to improve on the original equation no matter which truffle cheese you try. Key, though, is including enough fat to anchor the parts together. What makes a BEC sandwich exceptional is the melding of the cheese into the soft scramble, with strips of bacon crushing into the eggs and a crusty, slightly greasy roll holding the whole thing together. (Many people argue for building the sandwich with fried eggs, but scrambled are better for tender, cohesive bites.) Don’t be stingy with the amount of cheese, or the butter used to coat the roll and cook the eggs.

There’s another, less obvious trick that is key to a great BEC, one that deli and bodega owners—knowingly or not—have employed for years. That’s wrapping the sandwich in foil before customers grab it and go. The foil causes the ingredients to steam together into a more wonderful, integrated whole by the time it’s unwrapped and devoured.

The team at Phoenicia Diner, in Phoenicia, N.Y., are wise to the foil trick. They call it out in the new Phoenicia Diner Cookbook: Dishes and Dispatches from the Catskill Mountains (Clarkson Potter, $32) by Mike Cioffi, Chris Bradley, and Sara Franklin. At the hip, all-day breakfast spot, which is currently serving takeout-only due to government-mandated coronavirus restrictions, the sandwich has been one of the bestsellers. When the restaurant is open, it’s served straight from the griddle, unwrapped. And the BEC continues to be one of the most ordered items on the current takeout menu: It’s always wrapped in foil.

This recipe is adapted from the Phoenicia Diner Cookbook. To make a vegetarian version of the sandwich, substitute tomato slices for bacon—sacrilege for purists but it works surprisingly well. The tomatoes are also good in the classic version itself.

Perfect Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich

Makes 2

6 bacon slices
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 kaiser rolls, split
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
Heaping ¼ cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Tomato slices (optional)
Hot sauce, ketchup, and/or mayo, for serving

In a skillet, cook the bacon to your liking. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then break each piece in half. Wipe out the skillet.

Spread each kaiser roll half with about 1 tbsp. of the butter, and toast in the skillet, butter-side down over moderate heat until golden. Remove and arrange the bacon on two of the halves. Wipe out the skillet, and heat half the remaining butter. Season the eggs with salt and pepper, add half to the skillet, and cook until the edges are set. Flip the eggs, sprinkle with half the cheese, and fold over to enclose the cheese like an omelet. Set on top of one roll and garnish with tomatoes, if using, and condiments of choice. Wrap in foil and let stand for about 1 minute. Make the second sandwich in the same manner.

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