You, Too, Can Make a Successful Diner-Style Breakfast at Home

Make a great grilled cheese and pair it bacon hash browns for your at-home diner breakfast.
You, Too, Can Make a Successful Diner-Style Breakfast at Home
The key is to prep ingredients in advance. (JeanMarie Brownson/TNS)

Breakfast at an old-fashioned diner proves one of the greatest pleasures of the weekend. We love lingering over fluffy omelets, deeply pocketed waffles, and crispy bacon.

Trouble is, more often than not, the weak coffee brewed at most breakfast spots leaves me wanting. My solution? Embrace the role of diner cook at home. I drink my own brew (a dark roast drip laced with a shot of frothy espresso) while cooking for the people I love.

To make a successful diner-style breakfast with minimum stress, prep ingredients in advance. Chop and saute vegetables destined for eggs; shred cheese for toppings, par-cook bacon and sausage, mix the dry ingredients for pancakes and waffles days before the cooking begins.

For extra crispy hash browns, I shred and fully cook the potatoes two or three days before serving. Then, they just need a few quick turns in a very hot pan to restore a crisp exterior.

Breakfast sandwiches hot off the griddle differ from the weekday peanut butter on wheat toast option I bring on the commute. Rich, buttery, and crispy, fill the griddle-toasted sliced bread with softly scrambled eggs, sautéed peppers, melted onions, and a generous amount of cheese.

For the bread, look for rich, not-too-dense loaves that are unsliced, such as the milk bread sold at many Japanese markets. Alternatively, use thick slices labeled “Texas toast” such as the 1/2 loaf from Lewis Bake Shop. Challah, Hawaiian bread, and brioche loaves make nice sandwiches, too; cut them into 1-inch thick slices.

Serve the sandwiches with extra crispy, bacony hash browns and some fresh fruit. Don’t forget a dark, rich, fresh cup of coffee. Or two.

Deluxe Grilled Cheese and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Makes 4 servings
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cored
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cored
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon drippings
  • 1 small yellow onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • One loaf (12 to 16 ounces) unsliced sandwich bread or 8 thick slices of sandwich bread
  • About 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray or safflower oil
  • 8 thin slices Colby jack, mild Cheddar, or American cheese
Slice bell peppers into 1/2-inch wide strips. Cut the strips crosswise in half. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook and stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers to the onion. Cook and stir until peppers are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in basil and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. (Mixture can be made a couple of days in advance; reheat before using.)

Use a serrated knife to cut the bread into eight 1-inch-thick slices. Butter both sides of the bread slices.

Whisk together eggs, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in medium-size bowl until combined. Whisk in 2 tablespoons water.

Heat a medium-size 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Spray the pan with nonstick spray or swirl in 1 tablespoon oil. Add egg mixture and swirl pan to evenly distribute eggs. Use a fork to gently lift cooked eggs into the center of the pan, allowing the liquid eggs to flow to the edges of the pan, creating soft curds. Continue to move the cooked eggs until all eggs are softly scrambled into large curds. Remove from heat.

Heat a large nonstick or well-seasoned griddle (or skillet) until hot enough to make a drop of water evaporate on contact. Spray or oil the griddle.

To make 2 sandwiches, put 4 slices of the buttered bread onto the prepared griddle. Cook, without turning, until toasted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the bread to toast the second side, about 2 more minutes. Top 2 of the slices with 1 piece of cheese, 1/4 of the eggs and pepper mixture, and then a second slice of cheese. Place a second slice of the griddled bread on top of the cheese to make a sandwich. Cook and press on sandwiches to compact them a bit and melt the cheese, about 2 minutes. Remove to serving plates and cut diagonally in half.

Repeat to make two more sandwiches. Serve hot.

Bacony Hash Browns

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Note: These hash browns can be made up to three days in advance. Reheat in a hot pan with a little oil to re-crisp them before serving.
  • 3 thick slices (3 ounces total) smoky bacon, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil for high-heat cooking, such as expeller pressed canola, safflower, or sunflower oil
  • 2 large russet potatoes, total 1 1/2 pounds
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives, cilantro, or a combination
  • Red pepper hot sauce, for serving
Cook bacon and onion with 2 tablespoons of the oil in a very large (12 to 14-inch) nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat until bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use the large holes of a 4-sided grater to shred the potatoes (peel and all) onto a cutting board. Pat dry.

Add shredded potatoes to the pan with the bacon. Flatten into a single layer. Cook, without turning, until potatoes are nicely golden, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a spatula to break up the potatoes and flip them over. Add another 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Cook, flipping and turning potatoes every 5 minutes, until potatoes are uniformly golden and crispy, 20 to 30 minutes more. (Add oil to pan as needed.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, sprinkled with herbs. Pass hot sauce.

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JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades. ©2022 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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