BREAKFAST standout sides
Breakfast side dishes are giving
entrees a run for their money.
By Rob Benes
There’s tremendous opportunity to make a breakfast menu stand out by turning common side dishes into craveable menu choices. “Restaurants do not give
morning side dishes enough thought in preparation and enough credit for how much
they can elevate the breakfast or brunch dining experience, as well as raise check
averages,” says Shane Graybeal, executive chef at Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago.
Side dishes also allow chefs to take risks on a small item rather than committing
to making an entree-size item. “People sometimes are more adventurous and
willing to take a risk in ordering an unknown side dish rather than an entree,” says
Roger Waysok, executive chef at South Water Kitchen, Chicago. “Many times,
too, a popular side dish can make a transition to an entree.”
Success at breakfast means besting the competition with unique choices and
staying on top of consumer demand and food trends, but there’s no need to reengineer
the entire menu. Why not introduce new items as individual or shared side dishes?
Danny Serfer, executive chef/owner at Blue Collar and two Mignonette
locations in Miami, offers 20-30 breakfast side dishes each day, with more added
for weekend brunch. “We don’t look at sides to be moneymakers, especially when
many entree items include a side choice,” he says. “We look at sides as helping
to distinguish our restaurants from other restaurants, because we offer so many
options, all with different flavor profiles, textures and presentations.”
Bacon is a true American breakfast staple, and not many people can resist the
taste. Although bacon is rarely terrible, spectacular bacon is hard to find.
“Pan-frying or oven-roasting are OK ways to cook bacon,” says Stephen Wambach, executive chef at Juniper Table, Palm Springs,
California. “But there are better ways to prepare it to achieve something special.”
Wambach makes crispy braised slab bacon by cryovacing slabs of skinless smoked bacon with maple syrup and cooking in a
circulator until soft. The cooked bacon is cooled in the bag until it solidifies. At service, it’s removed and excess syrup is wiped off.
The bacon is sliced into portions and slowly cooked on the flattop until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp. The reserved maple
syrup is reduced and drizzled over the bacon, and it’s garnished with toasted spices.
Traditional boudin balls are a breaded, deep-fried rice/sausage mixture served with Creole mustard dipping sauce. Juan Carlos
Gonzalez, executive chef at SoBou in New Orleans, serves crispy boudin balls.
He rough-chops pork butt, mixes it with 10 different spices and smokes it for five hours. The smoked meat is put in a pot with
white onion, green bell pepper and celery to caramelize. Chicken livers and garlic are added, and the mixture cooks until combined.
It’s deglazed with Abita amber beer, white rice is added and it cooks for 30 minutes. Then, it’s put through a grinder and formed into
golf ball-size portions that are breaded and deep-fried. The dish is topped with pickled okra mustard sauce.