Virginia Willis Blog

Classic Egg Recipes and a Crack at Big Bad Breakfast

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day — and the one we have the least time to prepare for and the shortest time to eat. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast gets you off on the right start and can lead to improved concentration and enhanced performance from the classroom to the boardroom. For a lot of folks breakfast consists of a coffee from a drive-thru on the way to work. And, needless to say a monster chemical-laden biscuit sandwiched with flavorless meat, pre-cooked eggs, and processed cheese is most definitely not the answer. This week I am sharing three classic breakfast egg recipes that will get you going sunny side up.

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Egg it On

Eggs have long been a fundamental way to start your day. While in culinary school, one of the first dishes we learned to make was scrambled eggs. (Mama got a good laugh out of that one.) What? Scrambled eggs in culinary school!? YES! The key to moist and tender scrambled eggs is to cook them slowly and gently — and a double boiler is your secret weapon. Scrambled Eggs in a Double Boiler are unbelievably good.  

Why is this? Eggs are essentially water and protein. As eggs cook, the protein strands unfold and then get tangled up with each other. If you overcook the eggs, the protein strands become too tight and tangled, forcing the water out and resulting in dry, rubbery eggs. The lower the heat, the less likely the water is to be forced out.  A double boiler protects the egg from direct heat. It takes longer, but with constant, careful stirring the results are delicate curds and creamier eggs. 

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Easy Does It

Another simple and delicious method of cooking eggs are Shirred Eggs, the technique of baking eggs in a ramekin. With a minimum of hands-on time you can make a fresh, hot breakfast while your coffee is brewing. Baked Eggs are as simple as putting a dollop of something tasty on the bottom of a ramekin — it could be store-bought salsa, tomato puree, cooked greens, chopped ham, last night’s leftover vegetables, you name it — and topping it with an egg. Pop it the oven for about 10 minutes until the white is set but the yoke is still runny. It’s just that simple.

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Big Bad Breakfast

My friend and colleague chef John Currence has a new book called Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day inspired by his restaurants Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama. Now, you’re probably a bit confused. John is a rock star chef — you’ve seen him on Top Chef Masters,  you’ve seen him featured in every food magazine on the rack, you know he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the South  — and he’s written a book about lowly breakfast? Yes, he has and it’s really fantastic.

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His new cookbook Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day is packed with a slew of mouth-watering breakfast recipes including biscuits, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, classic eggs, grits, and yes, even breakfast cocktails. Paired with Ed Anderson’s glorious photography and John’s smart, witty writing Big Bad Breakfast illuminates why the Southern breakfast is one of America’s most valuable culinary contributions.

In the introduction John recounts what occurred during the very opening moments of BBB in Oxford. He divulges that he told his shocked wife Bess that of all of his restaurants that this was going to “put us on the map.” Now, this wasn’t unbridled ego. He goes on and explains that “BBB is not going to vie for awards or be lauded in a roomful of puffy white men in tuxedos.” But, he knew “it was a place people wanted, even if they didn’t know it themselves.”

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Proper Respect

John believes that breakfast should be “revered, respected, and adored.” He asserts that in the 1970s dining out stopped being an experience and became a simple fuel stop — and that breakfast suffered the worst. He set out to do something about it, first with the BBB restaurants, and now, with his cookbook. That’s one of the things I love about John the most. He didn’t just decide to open a breakfast joint. It was a thoughtful process.

John has been a long-time hero of mine for his work on social justice issues. He thinks about what is right and wrong in this world and takes a firm (and sometimes profanity-laced) stand. He’s a good man and I have tremendous admiration for him for his conviction. He’s  a wicked talented chef, a proud fellow member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a real leader in the field of modern American hospitality. John feels things strongly — even about something as seemingly simple as breakfast.

Weekday to weekend –  we’ve got you covered. I’m sharing recipes for three classic breakfast egg recipes: Scrambled Eggs in a Double Boiler, Shirred Eggs, and John’s French Omelet. Give them a try – and make sure to order up a copy of Big Bad Breakfast, you’ll be glad you did.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis


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Scrambled Eggs in a Double Boiler

Serves 1

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Place a couple of inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Place a heatproof bowl or the top the double-boiler over the simmering water.  Add the butter and let melt. Crack the eggs into a 2nd bowl and season with salt and pepper; whisk until smooth. Pour the eggs into the double boiler and stir to combine with the butter. Using a wooden spoon, silicone spatula, or whisk cook the eggs, stirring often for small curds and less frequently for larger curds, until the eggs are set, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


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Shirred Eggs

Serves 1

2 tablespoons charred tomato salsa, or the filling of your choice
1 large egg
Red pepper flakes, Piment d’Espelette, or ground chilies, to taste
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the filling in the bottom of a heatproof ramekin. Crack an egg on top and season with red pepper, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny, or to your taste, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.


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French Omelet

Serves 1

1cup asparagus tips, trimmed to 1 inch pieces
1cup thin-sliced bacon,chopped (a smoky-flavored bacon is ideal)
3 tablespoons sliced shallot
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and black pepper
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
Pinch of salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons clarified butter  or your preferred cooking fat
1cup grated Gruyère cheese
Set up an ice bath by adding ice and cold water to a large bowl. To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine 6 cups of water and enough salt to bring the water to the salinity of seawater. Bring to a boil. Add the asparagus tips and cook for 1 minute, then remove and plunge into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove from the ice bath and set aside.
Warm a skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Place the bacon in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly brown, about 2 minutes Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until it begins to turn transparent, about1 minute. Stir in the asparagus and thyme and season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
To make the omelet, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt,and pepper in a bowl until well combined and the whites are no longer stringy and the egg begins to hold bubbles when whisked, about a minute or so. Warm the clarified butter in a nonstick 10-inch skillet over low heat for 1 minute. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow to sit for about 30 seconds. Stir the eggs with the back of a fork, while continually swirling the pan in a circular motion, so the uncooked egg filling the cracks left by the cooked egg being pulled away from the surface. When the egg is about 70 percent cooked, about 112  minutes, stop stirring, but continue swirling the pan for another 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat briefly and place the filling and cheese in the center of the omelet. Fold the sides of the omelet to cover the filling. Slide the omelet onto a plate, seam side down, and serve immediately. 
“Reprinted with permission from Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence, copyright © 2016.Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.”
BBB photos by Ed Anderson.
Other photos by Virginia Willis


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Fall Vegetable Recipes and a Dip into Poole’s Diner

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It’s Fall, Y’all!

Yep, well someone forgot to tell Mother Nature because it hit 90° yesterday in Atlanta. Fall officially starts today and yes, it is a bit cooler in some parts of the country. Autumn is perhaps my favorite season. I love the change to cooler weather — and how it changes things up in the kitchen. As okra and tomatoes disappear from the farmer’s market I yearn to cook root vegetables and winter greens. I have yet to meet a collard green I don’t like. Fall vegetables need a bit more attention than summer ones. Summer vegetables hardly need cooking. A flash in the pan, a quick dip in boiling water, or even sliced and served raw — summer vegetables are simple. Fall vegetables need a tad more work. Fall vegetable recipes use braising, roasting, and a little more cooking effort to bring out their full, rich flavors.  (more…)

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Salmon Recipes for Weeknight Cooking

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Salmon Recipes

Shrimp, salmon, and tuna are the big three when it comes to seafood consumed in the US. The term “Salmon Recipes” consistently ranks in the top recipe searches on Google. It’s easy to see why. Salmon is not too fishy, but  just fishy enough for most people. It’s good and good for you; we need to eat less meat, more fish. It’s widely available and folks aren’t too scared to cook it. Sorry, Charlie, but truth is that salmon has become the “chicken of the sea.” However, all salmon is not the same. There’s a big difference in the farm-raised and wild salmon.  Although some farm-raised salmon gets a good ranking by Seafood Watch the truth is that it’s pretty complicated, even for chefs and educators. (And, that includes the cases upon cases of filets at Costco, too.) My advice? Best practice is to look for wild Alaska salmon. (more…)

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Potato Salad Recipes for Labor Day


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Picnic Side Dishes

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Barbecue Ribs: Five Great Recipes

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Barbecue Ribs

Barbecue ribs are one of the great recipes of summer. I cook them on the gas grill, the Big Green Egg, and I even roast them in the oven when it’s a rainy day. Barbecue ribs are always a big hit. First of all, being from Georgia, when I say Barbecue Ribs, I mean pork. And, when it comes to deciding what type of pork ribs to barbecue, there are essentially three choices –  baby-back ribs, spareribs, and country-style ribs. (more…)

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