Monday, March 1, 2010

Breakfast in five minutes or less

A lot of breakfast items can be prepared really quickly. Fast-paced lives demand fast-paced foods, I guess. Cereal, probably the most frequently eaten breakfast food around our house, falls into the "breakfast in one minute or less" category. It's not a very complicated recipe: pour some Honey Bunches of Oats into a bowl, top with fruit, add a splash of milk, et voila! The eating certainly takes longer than the preparing.

However, in the way that I nearly always prefer a hot lunch to a cold one, I'm often in the mood for something hot for breakfast. This can take the form of scones, or popovers, or pancakes, but the first two of that list take about an hour from start to finish. That's OK for the weekend, but that time commitment isn't really practical for the week. (And you know that I'm all about a practical kitchen.)

It was in this hot-breakfast-mindset, then, that I first became intrigued by RK's version of a breakfast egg sandwich. She told us about it a couple of months ago. She cracks an egg into a mug, breaks up the yolk with a fork, puts the mug in the microwave for a minute, and then eases the cooked egg out onto an English muffin.

The egg comes out of the mug, she said, in the perfect shape for an egg sandwich on an English muffin. That it most definitely does.

What RK didn't share with us, though, was that the egg sometimes makes little exploding noises before a full minute has elapsed in the microwave. Those exploding noises are generally accompanied by corresponding exploding bits of egg. All over the microwave. A kitchen explosion (and the subsequent clean-up) doesn't seem like the best way to start the day, especially for a recipe that's supposed to be quick and easy.

I really, really wanted this one-minute technique to work, though, so I've played around with it a few times. I think everyone's microwave is a little bit different, and I can cut down on the exploding significantly by taking my egg mug out after only fifty seconds. Also, the choice of mug seems to make a big difference, which may relate to something about the composition of the ceramic.

A few days ago, still obsessed with minimizing the exploding mess, I thought I had the most brilliant inspiration of all: I would rip off a piece of aluminum foil, and lightly cover the mug with that before placing it in the microwave. Any errant egg bits would be captured by the foil. As I placed the foil on the mug, though, I (thankfully) remembered the small Microfridge fire I'd started sophomore year of college. Back then, I had put a small paper take-out container of leftover Chinese food, complete with a metal handle, straight into the microwave. It didn't take more than 30 seconds for the paper to light on fire where the metal inserted into the sides of the container! Oops. With that memory as my guide, I took the foil off the mug, and resigned myself to a few small explosions.

If you're scared of errant egg bits, and you have a few extra minutes, you can also pan-fry the eggs overeasy to make a really satisfying egg sandwich. That's how B and I used to do it before we heard about the microwave technique (and how we still do it when making more than one sandwich at a time, which is frequently, since B often eats three in a row). Either way, make sure to put some cheddar or Jack cheese on top. With the mug technique, sprinkle slivers of cheese over the egg right after it comes out of the microwave, while it's still hot; for the eggs in the frying pan, put cheese over the eggs right after you flip them. Melty, gooey cheese is the absolute best.

I like my English muffin toasted, which you can do while the eggs are cooking, and I also love avocado on top. You can add a splash of hot sauce if you like, but the sandwiches are also great with any salsa you might have lying around in the fridge.

Quick, easy, and flavorful; just what I like in any meal! I'll admit that these egg sandwiches are a relatively frequent post-call lunch for me, when I arrive home after thirty hours in the hospital. I think you'll like them too, whether for breakfast or for a breakfast-y lunch. Brave the explosions if you dare, or just go for overeasy eggs in the frying pan. The recipe below includes options for both. Let me know if you experiment with the microwave technique and find a way to minimize the exploding egg bits...without causing sparks or fire in the microwave, of course. Enjoy!

Egg Sandwich

Serves: one
Time: 5 minutes active and total

1 English muffin, split
butter (for greasing the skillet, if pan-frying)
1 egg
slivers of Jack or cheddar cheese
salt, to taste
several slices of avocado (optional)
dollop of salsa (optional)
hot sauce, to taste (optional)

First, start toasting the English muffin (if desired). Then, cook the egg.

For the microwaved egg: crack the egg in a mug, break up the yolk with a fork, and place in the microwave for 45 to 60 seconds, until white is not runny. Place cheese slivers over the hot egg in the mug.

For the pan-fried egg: heat a small skillet over medium heat; swirl the butter until melted, and then crack the egg into the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook the egg until the white is mostly set (approximately two minutes); then flip and cover with cheese. Cook until cheese is melted, approximately one to two minutes more.

Ease the egg onto the English muffin. Top with salt, avocado, salsa, and hot sauce to taste. Serve immediately.


  1. Perhaps you could try covering the mug w/ some waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap. An even better option would be a silicone pink pig lid from Japan! ;)

  2. mb did NOT tell me about the foil idea. also, we don't like eating polymers, so we keep the wrap AND the metal out of the microwave.

  3. The 55 second microw-egg has been my go-to technique for years! I add just a splash of water before cooking the egg.