A Mother and Child Reunion

When Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” topped the charts in 1971, many people (me among them) assumed that he got the title from a chicken and egg sandwich—which in diner lingo is known as a Mother and Child reunion.

But in fact the title came from a meal he had at the Say Eng Look Restaurant in New York City. In a 1972 Rolling Stone interview, Simon said, “I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called ‘Mother and Child Reunion.’ It’s chicken and eggs.”

Known as “mother/child/daughter,” variations of this combination  are common menu items at Asian restaurants. Another version—oyakodon: mother/daughter bowl—has been described as Japanese “soul food.” As with any basic dish, the reunion is made in as many ways as there are cooks to make it. Here’s my version, which varies with available ingredients.

Cube a boneless breast of chicken, dust with fresh pepper, and fry in vegetable oil with a a clove of garlic until browned. Poach  in chicken broth until tender; doesn’t take long. Drain chicken, reserving the broth, and stir-fry/saute with sliced onions, and whatever else you’re adding. I’ll throw in things like thinly sliced mushrooms, celery, carrots, and cabbage or kale of some kind cut in some form or fashion.

Add enough broth to cover the chicken by half, bring to a simmer, and dribble in two or three beaten eggs in sort of a figure 8. Stir gently, cover, and steam until the eggs have firmed and blossomed. Thicken slightly with a thin slurry of water and corn starch. Ladle into a bowl of rice, and top with chopped green onions..

A Savory Dutch Baby

More often served as a sweet breakfast dish, a Dutch baby/German pancake can easily provide a savory platform for any number of toppings. This version is seasoned with salt and pepper mixed with a scattering of shaved onion, topped with more onion, and peppered ham.

Whip two large eggs and a half cup each flour and whole milk into a froth. Pour into a hot, well-buttered skillet and pop into a very hot oven until puffed and browned. Serve with grated hard cheese and sour cream. Chives are nice.

Egg Salad Angst

Egg salad screams of ladies’ luncheons and soda fountain sandwiches.

Pimento and cheese once simpered in such situations, but thanks to a Southern machismo ethic that makes eating a white bread Vidalia onion sandwich dribbling Duke’s mayo over the kitchen sink a valid display of white collar masculinity, P&C is even found served at golf tournaments and in micro-breweries paired with an unassuming yet authoritative amber larger and baked parsnip chips.

Still and all, the South is nothing if not traditional, and while egg salad might certainly be served on pumpernickel at some happy hour buffet in a Pensacola leather bar, for the most part it endures as a staple on occasions with a heavy distaff attendance such as christenings, weddings, and those endless, inevitable funerals.

Though I’m certain some misguided, unbalanced, and potentially violent individuals make egg salad with scrambled eggs, the rest of us use whole boiled eggs peeled and mashed (swear to God I knew a gal who used a baby food jar) with mayonnaise to bind.

I like it on the chunky side. Add chopped black olives, finely-chopped celery, and green onion. A dash of vinegar gives it bite, and a little olive oil is a nice touch.

Top with ground black pepper, and serve on rye toast with Pilsner, not lager, you knuckle-dragging Philistines.

The Naked Quiche

At the old Bean Blossom in Oxford, we worked with a limited inventory and a short menu, but this was no ball-and-chain for our spontaneity. One morning we decided on quiches for lunch, and with no time to make crusts, we made beautiful naked quiches.

These are called frittatas. Most frittatas are just fried potatoes and eggs, the most basic dish imaginable. It’s also heavy; a little goes a long way. I always add cheese, usually that Italian blend, but anything will do in a pinch. This recipe is best made in a 9-in. skillet.

Peel and dice two waxy potatoes; you want about two cups. You can either pan fry these in hot olive oil with a minced clove of garlic or parboil, drain, and then fry. Either way, you want potato chunks that are cooked through and a bit crusty.

Beat four eggs quite well, add to oiled skillet, and when eggs begin to bubble, sprinkle in the potatoes, stirring gently. At this point, add the cheese. Keep fiddling about until everything is well mixed, then pop in a hot oven until browned.

Hangtown Fry

Crisp three slices thick bacon in a 8-in. skillet. Remove, drain and crumble. Beat four eggs very well, add a half dozen shucked, drained oysters with chopped onions and mild peppers. Helps to stir it a bit. Reheat skillet, and add another tablespoon or two of oil. When sizzling, add egg/oyster mix, and pop into a hot oven until lightly browned. Top with bacon, chopped scallions, and/or grated hard cheese. Serve with sourdough toast.

Egg foo young

In my (unpublished) book, weekends are occasions for egg dishes–quiches, omelets, Benedicts and their ilk–which in general are light, versatile, and easily prepared. This old fusion dish fits the bill.

For each serving, beat two large eggs, pour into a pool of hot oil and–working quickly with a fork–add ingredients, and pull the eggs apart as they cook. I like shrimp and bean sprouts, but others like ham, chicken, cabbage, and mushrooms. Scallions seem requisite, and garlic chives are a nice touch.

When eggs are firm, flip, and brown. Serve with a light beef gravy.

Psilocybin Popeye Quiche

Beat together very well six large eggs and 2 cups of heavy cream; you can use half-and-half in a pinch, but even whole milk, won’t give you the best meld. Season with salt and pepper; nutmeg is traditional, but I never seem to have any on hand.

Pour half of this mixture into an 8-in. crust, add mushrooms and spinach–about a half cup of each–and a sprinkling of grated cheese, then pour on the rest of the egg mixture. Shake the pan to settle.

Top with a little more cheese for dining room drama and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until the top is puffed and slightly browned. Cool on a counter rack and brush with melted butter before slicing and serving.

Egg in a Basket

Use sturdy bread and a sharp cutter. Lightly brown bread on both sides in a hot oiled pan, add a pat of butter in the center, and crack an egg into it. If you’re feeding several people, you can cook these on a sheet pan in a hot oven. Keep the seasonings simple: salt and black pepper. Toast the hole, top with jam, and serve as a side.

How to Feed a Picky Kid

Every family has a picky eater, and in ours it was my baby brother, Tom. His hamburgers were mayonnaise only, his salads “honeymoon” (lettuce alone), and steaks not medium well, but well. Very well.

These specifications presented a challenge to our mother, whose patience was as limited as Tom’s stubbornness was infinite. Breakfasts were an ordeal; the merest fleck of white in a serving of scrambled eggs would send him into a sour sulk, complete with crossed arms, a lowered head, and a puckered brow.

He was an absolute tyrant. Bacon had to be evenly cooked, but not crisp, and his biscuits had to come from the center of the pan. Now I wish I’d asked him why.

Eventually, mother found a dish that Tom adored so much that it was all he ate for breakfast until he went to Ole Miss. Even after he’d finished graduate school, she’d make it for his breakfast when he came to visit. You’d better believe he ate it.

We called it French toast, but this simple recipe of bread dipped in beaten eggs and milk and fried is very old and known by many names, most notably pain perdu, “lost bread”. French toast is most often served as a sweet dish much like pancakes or waffles with powdered sugar, syrup and fruit, but Tom preferred it simply seasoned with salt and pepper. We usually made it with Wonder bread, but it’s good with pretty much any sliced bread.

Beat three eggs in a cup of milk, season with a little salt and pepper; add vanilla or almond extract if you plan to serve it sweet. Sop dried bread slices in egg/milk mixture and pan-fry in butter until nicely browned.