Asked why she wrote the cookbook “Breakfast for Dinner,” author Carol Hilker admits the morning meal doesn’t always get the time and respect it deserves: “We skip breakfast a lot. We don’t always have time in the morning to stop and cook, but you can do it at dinner.”
While that bit of practicality sort of explains the impetus for eating breakfast foods at dinner, it doesn’t completely account for the allure. Hilker says that’s easy: “We all need to indulge every once in a while.”
And indulge you can with a collection of egg-topped, syrup-drenched and bacon-filled recipes. The publishing company, Ryland Peters & Small, is based in London, and Hilker admits it was attracted to the “American gluttony” of some of the dishes. Just check out these names: chorizo breakfast nachos, beer and bacon pancakes, triple meat and cheddar breakfast quiche, chilaquile burgers. One recipe features a whole fried Cornish game hen plopped on a cornmeal waffle.
It’s not all overkill. She includes a brothy bowl of shio ramen and even a couple of salads in the mix. But you can tell where the heart and soul of the cookbook rest.
As Hilker says, she worked “within the norms of eggs, pancakes and maple syrup — things we do enjoy — but taking them out of their comfort zone.”
One great example is Hilker’s play on Russian blinis. Instead of the traditional small, yeast-raised pancakes, Hilker calls for fluffy buttermilk pancakes topped with salty smoked salmon and creme fraiche. As you can imagine, no maple syrup comes anywhere near this, yet it felt like breakfast as I ate it at 7:30 p.m.
Hilker considers herself a home cook, but she has spent some time in professional kitchens. She began her culinary career as a pastry chef in San Francisco, which helps explain the recipe for a Fisherman’s Wharf Benedict that swaps out the usual English muffin for a slice of sourdough. But she’s been writing for the past few years, including the cookbooks “Dirty Food,” “Pie Pops,” “Chicken Wings” and “Mmm … Marshmallows.”
Hilker now lives in Chicago, and she says this book is also “a love letter to what I’ve eaten in Chicago.” Obviously, that includes the Chicago strata, a hilarious recipe that incorporates hot dogs and buns into a meaty, cheesy behemoth. (Hilker’s London-based publishers were big fans of that one.)
You may also recognize the bologna sandwich on the front cover. “That was my homage to Au Cheval,” says Hilker, referring to the bologna sandwich served at the very popular West Loop diner. In her recipe, thin slices of bologna (or mortadella) are browned in a skillet with butter, placed on a toasted bun and then topped with cheddar cheese and a fried egg.
Considering her past work as a pastry chef, there are a number of baked goods worth looking over. A recipe for beignets looks traditional as a New Orleans morning, and those same beignets form the base for a New Orleans benedict. And if you can’t imagine a breakfast food without bacon, she offers butterscotch-bacon brittle cinnamon rolls.
Hilker agrees that many of these recipes can be enjoyed at any time of the day, but if you’re looking to “eat a little more decadently,” breakfast for dinner is always there for you.