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They say if you do anything for 21 straight days, it will become a habit. So I’m guessing some of the things we’ve been doing while under house arrest are now permanent parts of our routine.
Well, until they make us all go back to work. That “not wearing pants” habit clearly is going to have to change.
One positive habit we have adopted during the in-home incarceration that might continue here on cellblock 43552 involves breakfast. I grew up in a house in Norfolk where if you asked about breakfast, you were directed to a big box of Tony The Tiger on a shelf in the pantry and a half gallon milk container in the refrigerator. Things like pancakes, eggs and hash browns were served, but never in the morning. Only for dinner.
And while we were living in the South, my Italian parents generally came up with menus more suitable for places like Northern New Jersey. Or Brooklyn. Or the Potenza region of Italy.
Thus it should be no surprise that I was not properly introduced to a real Southern biscuit until I was in college at Virginia Tech.
It should also be no surprise that for me, it was love at first sight. A sausage, egg and cheese biscuit become one of life’s great pleasures. The Hardee’s chain back in the 70s did a particularly good job with them in Southwest Virginia, and my soon-to-be wife used to bring me one several mornings every week when I was working the desk for the afternoon newspaper in Roanoke and had to come in before 6 AM.
There are several significant reasons I thought she was the one to spend the rest of my life with back in 1980. I’ve casually mentioned to her more than once that her bringing me those biscuits might have been key items on the list.
While I have always enjoyed them, getting a good biscuit up here in Yankeeland Northern Virginia hasn’t been all that easy. I once suggested to the good people at the Cracker Barrel they opened off Route 28 in Sterling when I was eating there one day that they should take a field trip to Georgia or Alabama and learn what a real biscuit tastes like. I’ve also suggested if they served down there what they’re passing off as a biscuit up here, they would probably get their backsides whipped.
McDonald’s isn’t that great, but it’s better than nothing, so we’ve had a weekend tradition involving their breakfast. Whoever gets up first on a Saturday or Sunday (usually me) goes and gets a big bag of sausage, egg and cheese biscuits and a bunch of their hash brown patties. Then we combine that with a pot of hot coffee and enjoy the morning.
These interesting times that have forced us indoors have allowed for two discoveries that have changed our morning routine. One is a frozen biscuit Pillsbury makes; if you buy the Southern Style Grands, you will be pleasantly surprised with the taste. You have to play around a little with how long you bake it, but once you dial that in, it’s as fluffy and tasty as a normal Southern biscuit. Nothing’s ever going to be as good as making it from scratch, but this comes close, particularly when you compare it to what’s being served in Northern Virginia.
My discovery of these came at about the same time we were all being told to head indoors, plus the good people of Harris-Teeter had them on sale. A bag of 12 was dropped from $3.99 to $2, so I bought two bags. I liked them so much, I went back the next day and bought them all.
You hoard your toilet paper. I’ll hoard Southern biscuits.
The other product came from OreIda called “golden hash brown patties.” A box of 12 is $3.99 (or less when on sale) and if you put two of them in an air fryer at 400 degrees for 7 minutes, what you’ll have will be every bit as good as anything you’ll get at McDonald’s.
These products prompted a new routine in our house, and the process from start to finish is under 20 minutes. You first preheat the oven for the biscuits, then fill a tea kettle with water and put it on a burner to boil. I grind some Starbucks French Roast beans and put them into a Chemex, then pour the boiling water over those ground beans. (NARRATOR: If you haven’t made coffee in a Chemex and you like good coffee, you need to get one. It will Change. Your. Life).
By the time the water boils, it’s time to put the hash browns in the air fryer. It’s also time to get out a fry pan, scramble a few eggs and sprinkle some shredded sharp cheddar over them. The biscuits should be about 7 minutes from being done, and they will brown on their own. But if you want to get fancy and brush a little butter on them, they will really brown up nicely.
To cut down on cooking time, I’ll take a roll of sausage, slice it into patties, and cook all of them once a week. They’re put into a Tupperware container and refrigerated so I can take out what I need, microwave them for 30 to 45 seconds and they’re done. I do this as the eggs are cooking.
Only thing left to do is assemble and plate everything. A few minutes later, there are two plates on the table with a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit (mine may even have two), a couple of hash brown patties, and a hot cup of Starbucks French Roast coffee. As is usually the case here, the cook makes too many eggs, so the surplus ends up on a small plate and served to Maggie the Wonderdog.
It's dirt cheap doing it this way, it only takes 20 minutes (which is about how long I'm gone when I go to McDonald's), and you don’t have to leave the house. We have done this at around 10 AM several times a week during the shutdown. We love it.
So all good things – like not wearing pants to work – must come to an end one day.
But this breakfast deal…it’s going to be a keeper.