I’ve always enjoyed eating breakfast foods at odd times of the day. I was the kid who wanted cereal for an after-school snack, and my mom’s pancake suppers (made in the electric skillet, of course) were high on my list of favorite meals.
Likewise, I will eat just about anything for breakfast itself, much to my husband’s bemusement. I don’t typically care for sweet things in the morning, though, preferring savory fare like scrambled tofu and vegetables or eggs with hearty grains and sauteed greens. In a pinch, any dinner leftovers will do (including a cold slice of pizza).
When I was part of the worker-owned restaurant called Casa Nueva in my hometown of Athens, Ohio in the 1990s, I spent a lot of my time in the kitchen. As the primary line cook for most of my dinner shifts, I had the opportunity to plan specials and eventually became known for the “breakfast at night” menu I would typically present on Wednesdays.
Our restaurant had an extensive breakfast menu, but back then, it was only served until 2 p.m. After that, we’d use the grills for dinner entrees like the quesadillas that featured our house-made flour tortillas.
A lot of diners regularly expressed their longing for us to serve breakfast all day (our loyal customers never hesitated to let us know what they thought, and I’m sure it’s still the case today), and while we weren’t prepared to go that far, I figured I could handle some weekly breakfast specials.
We had but a single computer, tucked into our so-called office (a cluttered corner of the cold-prep area), and I’d type up special menus for the wait staff to distribute with the water and silverware.
When I moved to Chicago and got a corporate job, I took printed copies of my menus with me, a reminder of a time in my life that was so meaningful, inspirational, and influential that I still dream (and daydream) about it decades later.
The menus are a time machine. Navigating my everyday world, I remember that young woman well (I was not quite 22 when I joined the cooperative and barely 28 when I left in 2000), but I tend to forget how she felt, the way she was fearless in the kitchen, in so many aspects of her life, because she hadn’t regularly experienced the sting of failure that becomes inevitable the longer we live.
These meals bring the memory of that confidence rushing back.
But back to breakfast at night.
Breakfast at night checks all the boxes — it’s comforting, tasty, simple, and just different enough to make you feel like you’re getting away with something.
Here are a few ideas for incorporating breakfast concepts into your dinner rotation:
- Omelets are a blank slate. Keep it classic with cheese and herbs, or get creative with roasted potatoes, smoked salmon, or almost any vegetable (I love spinach, asparagus, and/or peppers and onions.)
- Frittatas are like omelets with slightly less effort. Use the same fillings, start it on the stovetop, then leave it open-faced and pop it in the oven to finish cooking (be sure you’re using an oven-safe skillet!).
- When I’m really feeling lazy, I forego the stovetop altogether and make what I call an “oven omelet”. Put your fillings into a greased rectangular casserole dish. Sprinkle with half your grated cheese. Beat eggs with salt, pepper, and a little cream if desired; pour over the cheese and fillings. Top with additional cheese and bake at 375 F until eggs are set. Cut into squares and serve warm or room temperature.
- Crepes are fun to make and can be prepared ahead of time (place wax paper between crepes and refrigerate in a gallon Ziploc), then quickly reheated with savory or sweet fillings.
- We’re all familiar with shrimp and grits, but that tasty cornmeal porridge can be a canvas for other toppings like sauteed peppers, onions, and cherry tomatoes with crumbled soft goat cheese.
- A traditional pancake dinner brings out the kid in all of us (I just wish I still had my mom’s old electric skillet!).
- Breakfast burritos can be made ahead and even frozen and reheated. Fold scrambled eggs, vegetables, cheese, and meat into flour tortillas. Wrap in plastic wrap and place several into Ziploc bags in the freezer until ready to use.
- Scrambled tofu is easy, healthy, and delicious with sauteed onions, peppers, and asparagus. I like to season mine with chili powder, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano and then top it with a small dollop of chipotle mayonnaise.
- As you can tell from my old menus, I tended to serve a breakfast-type entree with more traditional dinner sides, like a small green salad or a cup of soup. Roasted potatoes or fruit are always welcome too!