Efficient, edible, delicious: building the perfect breakfast sandwich



What Makes the Perfect Breakfast Sandwich? As with any question, the answer depends on who you ask. But if you speak in terms of general sympathy and scientifically designed edible quality, you must at least mention McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.

I thought about it while digging into my current favorite breakfast sandwich, which lives in Kasama – a modern Filipino restaurant and bakery in the Ukrainian village district of Chicago. This particular sandwich layers a square of creamed egg soufflé, a patty of caramelized longanisa sausage, a slice of oozing American cheese and a hash brown (if you go all out) between two spongy potato roll halves. . It’s just chef enough, even though it has some undeniable similarities to the Sausage Egg McMuffin. And everyone seems to love it – on a good weekend morning Kasama produces around 200 between 9 a.m. and noon.

The creators of the sandwich are the married owners of Kasama, Chef Tim Flores and Pastry Chef Genie Kwon. They had always planned to have a breakfast sandwich on the menu – it was just about getting it right.

“(McDonald’s) was our highlight, like how close can we get our sandwich to breakfast? Kwon reminded me recently.

Interestingly, the “highlight” here applies as much to efficiency as it does to gluttony and eatability, in large part because this small, independent restaurant opened in the midst of a pandemic ( and subsequent shortages of personnel and ingredients which would prove to be equally unrelenting). As foodie veterans (Flores of Oriole and Senza in Chicago; Kwon of Oriole, Eleven Madison Park in New York, and Flour Bakery & Cafe in Boston), the duo had to reconsider their nagging impulse to do it all from zero.

Instead, they took a page from the efficiency and consistency manual of the fast food industry. The main test for each prototype was to let the sandwich sit in its aluminum sleeve for at least 30 minutes before digging.

“When we started working on the breakfast sandwich, the biggest qualifications were: is it edible? For example, can you have it on your lap in the car? And will he sit there for a while? Said Flores.

Some answers came easily. Before opening Kasama, Flores spent two years perfecting her recipe for longanisa, a chorizo-esque Spanish sausage based on the mildly sweet version you’ll find in Pampanga, the Philippine province where her father is from. Additionally, Flores and Kwon quickly realized that shredding, shaping, pre-cooking and frying 500 hash browns to order every week with a small kitchen staff made no sense when the vendors had already designed an always tasty frozen version for much less.

Kasama Egg Sandwich (Maggie Hennessy)

In the end, the bread turned out to be the biggest obstacle. For weeks Flores and Kwon tested everything from flaky brioche slices and milk bread rolls, but either the rich bread crumbled all over the place or the inside of the sandwich was crushed. They only settled the matter one afternoon when they dug into cheeseburgers on the Martin’s Potato Rolls for the staff meal.

“We were like, this bread is the best. Let’s make the breakfast sandwiches there,” Flores said. “It’s that fluffy white bread, I don’t mean sh ** ty that you loved growing up. It’s spongy and nostalgic – and it allows for the textures of hash browns, egg and egg. sausage to stand out. “

Overall, they tinkered with the sandwich for about four months before adding meat-based and vegetarian versions to the menu in late February. The rest, they say, is history.

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“There isn’t a single item on the menu that got a bigger response than this,” Kwon said. “It really helped our morning sales and definitely saved some of our days.”

I wish I had known how long it took the late Herb Peterson to come up with what would eventually be dubbed Egg McMuffin, the breakfast sandwich he designed as a fast food version of Egg Benedict. When Peterson coaxed McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc to his store in Santa Barbara, Calif., In 1972 for a taste, he refused to disclose what he had done, Kroc recalls in his 1977 autobiography, “Crush It: The Making of McDonald’s. “

“He didn’t want me to dismiss him out of hand, which I could have done, because it was a crazy idea – a breakfast sandwich. It was an egg that had been formed into a circle of teflon, with the broken yolk, and was dressed with a slice of cheese [to replace the hollandaise] and a slice of grilled Canadian bacon. This was served open-faced over a toasted and buttered English muffin. I hesitated a little at the presentation. But then I tasted it, and I was sold. “

Is it possible that we don’t have necessarily innovated beyond 1972 in breakfast sandwiches? Some might say the same about the cheeseburger. Sure, chefs do battle with wagyu patties and fancy toppings like truffle and foie gras, but we inevitably end up in a variation of the Big Mac: two crushed patties, American cheese, pickles, and some form of dijonnaise sauce or fried.

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Give people what they want, right? “We just like to cook regular food,” said Flores. “We’re not trying to put spicy mayonnaise or avocado on it. I just want sausage, hash browns, eggs and American cheese.”

Again, McDonald’s Egg McMuffin does not contain Kwon’s flavorful egg custard, which it pours into hotel pans and steams until set and silky before slicing each rectangle with it. a small, flexible offset spatula. McMuffin’s Pale Sausage Patty also doesn’t hold a candle to Kasama’s fatty pork longanisa, tinted red from annatto seeds and infused with garlic, smoked paprika, black pepper and a hint of brown sugar, which ingeniously reproduces the effect you would get from a maple fillet. syrup on sausage.

Plus, unlike McDonald’s, Kasama won’t give in to the demand – including a blatant plea from yours truly – to make him available all day.

“I like the exclusivity,” said Flores. “There’s something about having to run to a place because you just need to have it. Plus, once it’s noon, you want a chicken adobo sandwich instead.”

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