Eric Akis: DIY breakfast sandwich is simple, economical and just as quick as fast food

Eric Akis

Being curious about something inspires some of my food columns, and that was the case today.

Last week, I was out just before 8 a.m. food shopping. On my way to the store I passed a fast-food restaurant and noticed a long lineup of vehicles in the drive-thru lane. I surmised many people in the line didn’t have time to make breakfast and were ordering something to gobble up at work or on the way there.

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I immediately wondered how long it takes people to get their order. So I pulled into the parking lot, watched the first few vehicles in the line and by my calculation, once at the order window, it took each one about 90 seconds to order, pay, pick up and drive away.

Frighteningly efficient, but, of course, the vehicles lined up behind those first few in the queue would have to idle and wait their turn. Add in the drive time to the restaurant, even if only a short detour from your normal route to work, and I imagine 10 to 20 minutes would have passed, or even more when the lineup at the drive-thru is long.

That, in turn, made me wonder how long it would take at home to make an item often ordered at a fast-food restaurant in the morning: a breakfast sandwich.

When I got home, I decided to find out and prepared what some might call a “classic” breakfast sandwich: an English muffin stuffed with egg, processed cheese and Canadian bacon.

I set my kitchen timer for 10 minutes and went to work. I began by splitting an English muffin in half and setting the halves in my toaster, but did not plunge them down yet. I then set two non-stick skillets on the stove over medium heat.

I took the egg, Canadian bacon and cheese out of my fridge and put a slice of the bacon in one of the skillets. Canadian bacon, also called back bacon, is sold fully cooked, so all you have to do is heat it up.

I greased the inside of an egg-cooking ring with soft butter, set it in the other skillet and cracked the egg into it. (For information about that ring, see options under today’s breakfast sandwich recipe). While the egg cooked, I began toasting the egg muffin.

After the egg had set around the edges, I removed the ring, flipped the egg over, topped it with a cheese slice, turned off the heat and let the residual heat in the pan finish cooking the egg.

When toasted, I buttered the muffin, stuffed the cheese-topped egg and bacon into it and my sandwich was ready. I stopped my timer and just under seven minutes had elapsed.

Now, I’m a professional chef and can pull things together pretty quickly. But the truth is, making a breakfast sandwich like that is not difficult, and even novice cooks should be able to make one in 10 minutes or less.

So if you’re one of those folks tempted to race to the drive-thru to grab a breakfast sandwich, why not see what you have in your kitchen first. If you have eggs, English muffins or other bread product, cheese and another ingredient that would taste good in a breakfast sandwich, such as a meat item, consider making it yourself.

It should take less time than it does to make it to the drive-thru, order and be on your way. That sandwich will also be piping hot, you can control the ingredients used and you won’t have any restaurant packaging to dispose off.

Once in the habit of making your own breakfast sandwiches, you could branch out and begin making them with local ingredients, as I did in my breakfast sandwich recipe made with Vancouver Island eggs, pork and cheese.

Breakfast Sandwiches with Island Eggs, Sausage Patties and Cheese

Depending on your appetite, start your day with one or two of these hearty breakfast sandwiches filled with Vancouver Island eggs, pork and cheese.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: About five minutes

Makes: Two sandwiches

2 cooked, cold Vancouver Island pork sausage patties (see recipe below)

• soft butter or vegetable oil spray

2 large Vancouver Island eggs

• thin slices of Vancouver Island cheese, to taste (see Note)

2 English muffins, split (see Eric’s options)

• mayonnaise, to taste (optional)

2 to 4 slices ripe tomato

2 lettuce leaves

Put the pork patties in a skillet set over medium-low heat. Add a drop of water to the pan, cover and warm up sausage patties while eggs cook.

To cook eggs, set a second non-stick skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush or spray the inside parts of two egg rings with soft butter or vegetable oil spray. Set the rings in the skillet (see Eric’s options).

Place the split English muffins in your toaster and start toasting them (see Eric’s options).

Crack an egg into each egg ring. Break the yolks, if desired. Cook the eggs about two minutes, or until set around the edges. Carefully remove the egg rings, and then flip each egg over. Top each egg with some cheese slices, cover pan and turn off the heat.

When toasted, lightly spread cut sides of the muffins with mayonnaise. (If you don’t want to use mayonnaise, you could simply spread the muffins with soft butter.)

Set a lettuce leaf, sausage patty, cheese-topped egg and tomato slices on two of the English muffin halves. Set on the other two English muffin halves and serve.

Note: Vancouver Island cheeses and eggs are sold at many supermarkets, delis and farm markets. Choose a cheese that will melt well, such as Natural Pastures ( verdelait or cheddar, or Little Qualicum Cheeseworks ( Monterey Jill or raclette.

Eric’s options: Silicone or metal egg cooking rings are sold at most hardware and cookware stores. If you don’t have or don’t wish to purchase them, simply fry the eggs as you normally would on one side, and then flip over and top with the cheese as described in the recipe. If you don’t have a four-slice toaster, you could toast the English muffins in a toaster oven or on a pan set under the broiler of your stove. You could also not toast them, and simply warm them in 300 F oven a few minutes. And, if desired, instead of English muffins, you could use hamburger buns for these sandwiches.

Vancouver Island Pork Sausage Patties

Perfect for a breakfast sandwich, these pork patties are made with Vancouver Island ground pork, nicely flavoured with sage, paprika and pepper.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: Four to six minutes

Makes: Eight patties

1 lb. Vancouver Island ground pork

1 large Vancouver Island egg

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 Tbsp milk

1/2 tsp dried ground sage

1/4 tsp smoked or regular paprika

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Place all ingredients, except oil, in a bowl and mix to combine. Moistened your hands lightly with cold water. Divide and form pork into eight roughly equal balls. Now press and form each ball into a thin patty that’s almost as wide as an English muffin.

Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook patties, in batches, two to three minutes per side, or until cooked through. Drain the patties on paper towel and then set on a plate. Use the patties as described in the breakfast sandwich recipe (see Eric’s options).

Eric’s options: The sausage patties can be formed, cooked, cooled, covered and refrigerated a day or two before reheating them for the breakfast sandwiches. As you’ll only need two of them for the breakfast-sandwich recipe, individually wrap and freeze the other patties until you need some again. To reheat them, do so as described in the egg-sandwich recipe, but heat them a bit longer as you’ll be starting from frozen.

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