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Breakfast grub: a buyer's guide

Shell eggs

Traditional eggs-in-the-shell that must be cracked before using. These are generally sold packed 30 dozen to a case in several sizes: Jumbo (56 lb./case); extra-large (50.5 lb./case); large (45 lb./case); medium (39.5 lb./case); and small (34 lb./case). Egg quality is determined by U.S.D.A. grade: Grade AA and A are most suitable for poaching, frying, omelets and cooking in the shell; Grade B is good for scrambling and baking.

Refrigerated and frozen egg products

Refrigerated products are sold in ready-to-use liquid form as either whole eggs, egg yolks or egg whites. They can cut costs in labor, storage and portion control. Pasteur­ization is mandatory. Frozen products include whole eggs, separated whites and yolks, blends of whole eggs and yolks and whole eggs mixed with milk. Some contain additives to prevent gelation during freezing. They’re packed in 30-lb. cans and 4- to 10-lb. cartons.

Egg substitutes

Cholesterol-free refrigerated or frozen liquid egg products that are formulated as substitutes for whole eggs. These are produced from egg whites only; the yolk is replaced with ingredients such as non-fat milk, tofu and/or vegetable oil, combined with emulsifiers, stabilizers, antioxidants, gums, artificial colors and vitamins and minerals.

Free-range and organic eggs

Free-range eggs are laid by hens raised outdoors or that have daily access to the outdoors. They are more expensive because of higher production costs and lower volume per farm. Organic eggs are from hens that are fed rations grown without pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers. Higher production and feed costs translate to higher prices.

Dried or dehydrated egg products

Also know as egg solids, these are available as whole eggs, egg yolks, egg whites and scrambled egg mixes. Dried eggs have been manufactured since the 1930s, but today’s products are much improved in terms of quality and flavor. Available in pouches, cans, poly-packs, boxes and drums ranging from 6 oz. to 200 lb.

Specialty egg products

Convenient, prepared eggs—usually in frozen form—including omelets, egg patties, scrambled egg mix, pre-cooked scrambled eggs and fried eggs.

Purchasing

When buying shell eggs, minimum specs should include grade, size, type of packing and packaging and number of purchase units. Consider size and grade in relation to use and price. Buy in a quantity that can be used within two weeks; cartons should be labeled with an expiration date not to exceed 28 days. Eggs kept at room temperature (above 68°F) may lose more quality in one day than in one week under refrigeration.

Nutrition

Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein with a moderate amount of fat—4.5 gm. in a large yolk (1.5 gm. saturated, 3 gm. unsaturated and 0 gm. trans-fat). Cholesterol content is about 215 mg., all of it coming from the yolk. Egg whites contain no fat or cholesterol.

Although whole eggs are indeed high in cholesterol, the American Heart Association no longer restricts egg consumption in healthy people. Recent research shows that it’s the saturated fat and trans-fat in foods—not the cholesterol—that tends to raise blood cholesterol levels. Even so, the U.S. government recommends that Americans limit daily cholesterol intake to 300 mg.; those with diabetes or high blood pressure are encouraged to stay under 200 mg. a day. Some consumers accomplish this by requesting egg dishes made with a mix of whole eggs and egg whites—or, more conservatively, all egg whites.

Numbers

According to a General Mills study, based on data from NPD Crest, the morning meal occasion had 11.1 billion traffic opportunities in commercial restaurants during 2004.

  • Dollar growth from the morning meal occasion in a restaurant was up 4.2 percent in 2004 over 2003.
  • The biggest morning spike was in the carryout or drive-thru category. For adult-only parties, there were 6.1 billion traffic opportunities in 2004, with dollar growth up 7 percent. Dining-in occasions also went up, with a dollar growth increase of 3.6 percent.
  • About 11 percent of morning meals are eaten out and 6 percent are eaten on the go—double the rate of a decade ago, according to the National Restaurant Association. The NRA also reports that breakfast growth outpaced both lunch and dinner at close to 40 percent of restaurants surveyed.


The chef on brunch 

Chef/Owner: Frank Scibelli
 Restaurant:  Mama Ricotta’s, Charlotte, NC    (mid-priced Italian)
 Number of seats:  180 inside; 40 on outdoor patio with fireplace
 Brunch prices:  $5.95-$8.95, including complimentary mimosa or juice
 Food costs:  30%
Brunch Bestsellers: Asparagus, Prosciutto and Fontina Benedict with tomato hollandaise ($8.95); Farmer’s Market Egg White Frittata with fresh vegetables and low-fat Muenster cheese ($8.95)

How did you come up with the selections on your brunch menu?

I wanted the brunch menu to reflect the same rustic Italian flavors as my dinner menu. Plus, many of the brunch dishes give me the opportunity to cross-utilize ingredients and save on food costs.

What ingredients do you cross-utilize to create your brunch items?

The prosciutto, sopresatta and other salumi we serve in our dinner antipasto and other appetizers goes into our antipasto hash, along with corned beef, sweet peppers and potato. This is topped with three poached eggs. For our Stuffed Panini French Toast and the toast that comes with our egg dishes, I source day-old bread from Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City—the same bread I use for my dinner bruschetta. Day-old works better in both these applications, and I get a price break on it. The vegetables I use at night and the cheeses—mozzarella, mascarpone, fontina and goat cheese—show up in either the frittatas or stuffed French toast.

What other ingredients are essential to your brunch pantry?

Eggs, of course. We get those from a local purveyor. They’re fresh, grade AA eggs, but not organic or free-range. We also menu a house-made Italian turkey sausage. Stoneyfield organic yogurt is in our smoothies, and fresh, local fruits and vegetables we get from a farmer’s market that’s less than 300 yards from the restaurant.

Do you use special purveyors?

As I mentioned, Sullivan Street Bakery (1) expresses down their day-old bread.  My applewood-smoked bacon comes from Nueske’s in Wisconsin, the mozzarella from the Mozzarella Company (2) in Dallas, and the goat cheese is Laura Chenel from California. I like using artisanal products when possible. Twice a month, I order our specialty sausages, prosciutto and assorted salumi from Salumeria Biellese (3), also in New York. With my bigger vendors, I pay C.O.D. so I can arrange better deals.

­Are you thinking of adding other brunch items to the menu?

I’m playing around with a breakfast pizza, similar to something I sampled on a recent trip to New York. The crust holds Italian sausage, Muenster cheese and beaten eggs, topped with grated parmesan and parsley.

What’s the one piece of equipment you can’t do without when preparing brunch?

Non-stick skillets. They’re the best for making frittatas and other egg dishes. We use pans from the Vollrath line.


Antipasto Hash and Eggs

Vegetable oil
3 qt. minced potatoes
2 large onions, minced
9 small red, yellow and/or green bell peppers, minced
4 1⁄2 lb. prosciutto, diced
2 3⁄4 lb. corned beef, diced
2 lb. rosemary ham, diced
1 lb. sopresatta, diced
3 poached eggs, per serving

1. In a searing hot skillet, heat a thin layer of oil. Add remaining ingredients except eggs. Cook until potatoes are tender and meat is browned.
2. Per serving, portion hash onto plate and top with 3 poached eggs.
Yield: About 20 servings hash.

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