Pros: Versatile and delicious!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book (published 2009) courtesy of Chronicle Books.
I just looove breakfast foods. They’re so versatile and delicious, and they certainly don’t have to be restricted to breakfast-time! I was highly enthusiastic about checking out the Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast cookbook, and it didn’t disappoint in the least.
I think my favorite aspect of this cookbook is that it doesn’t try to be an exhaustive catalog of a zillion omelets, pancakes, etc. There are already plenty of cookbooks that do that. Instead, it gives one or two of each main type of thing, with plenty of hints and tips for variations, customizing to your own tastes, etc. It’s more of a book of alterable patterns than it is a book of specific recipes, and for cooks who enjoy experimenting, that’s as good as gold.
Like most Chronicle cookbooks, the table of contents lists out individual recipes, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. The paper is reasonably glossy and thick, able to withstand regular kitchen use. The photographs are gorgeous, and the layout is clean, clear, and easy to read.
Chapter 1 delves into muffins, scones, and coffee cake, with such delights as carrot cake muffins with cream cheese-walnut spread. These are fairly non-sweet, and surprisingly delicious. I was dubious about the unsweetened spread, but it complemented the muffins perfectly. If carrot cake isn’t your thing, however, there are savory options (such as basil and goat cheese muffins) and other sweet possibilities (such as coconut-orange-pecan coffee cake).
Chapter 2, fruit dishes, looks awfully skimpy with its mere two recipes (berry salad with mint syrup, and breakfast fruit smoothies). However, given the wide range of variations we’ve created out of the basic smoothie building blocks, this has actually turned out to be one of the most useful chapters in this book for us. Heck, we make the smoothies for dessert, since it’s a lot healthier than something like ice cream! Chapter 3 is similarly small, with a recipe for granola and granola bars, but again, it’s a basic building block that you can create infinite variations from.
Chapter 4 provides a surprising variety of egg dishes. There’s a smoked salmon scramble, huevos rancheros, eggs baked in pancetta cups (which are most excellent, by the way, as well as being shockingly simple to make!), baked eggs, poached eggs, omelet, frittata, a crustless quiche, a strata (with greens, sausage, and cheddar), a lobster recipe(!), and even breakfast crab cakes. Each of these starts off with a version that includes delicious flavors such as spinach, feta, and tomato, or linguica and chard, but again, it’s easy to play around from there and use the provided recipe as a starting point. This chapter also lets me point out another great aspect of this cookbook: it strikes a wonderful balance between making recipes that are easy to fix the night before (or put together quickly in the morning) so you can use them on weekdays, such as the crustless quiche, and fancy recipes you can trot out for company (Lobster Benedict with Meyer Lemon-Scallion Butter, anyone?).
Next there’s a chapter of breakfast sandwiches, salads, and pizzas. These are things we don’t tend to think of for breakfast, but why not? There’s really no good reason. And if you don’t believe me, I have a feeling the recipe for bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches with tarragon-lemon mayo will convince you.
The section on pancakes, french toast, and waffles is, of course, one of the highlights of the book! I was particularly pleased with the chocolate waffles with chocolate-maple sauce. They aren’t nearly as sweet as most chocolate waffle or pancake recipes, but they have a whole lot of flavor. It was perfect. There are also breakfast corn fritters, silver dollar potato pancakes, whole grain blueberry pancakes, walnut pancakes with maple-glazed apples, and more.
The side dish chapter is hard to pass up—how could I not want roasted sweet potato home fries, or blood-orange glazed sausages? There are also other spud dishes, meat dishes, hashes, flavored cream cheeses, flavored butters and fruit butters.
Finally, there are a few drinks to go with: a double-chocolate cocoa, “Stonewall Bloodys,” and a blood orange mimosa.
The recipes are imaginative and creative without being too wild. They give you great ideas for ways in which you can jazz up traditional basic dishes, but by only giving you a few examples and suggestions they also encourage and support your own improvisation and creativity. The collection strikes a fantastic balance between simple, quick, easy recipes, and impressive recipes that’ll make your guests drool (but that, frankly, really aren’t all that complicated either). And the results? Oh, my, the results! They’re consistently delicious, with nary an error that we could detect.