Perhaps the only pleasure greater than a proper vacation is a proper breakfast on vacation.
After a morning run on the beach or in the mountains, before settling into a hammock on the veranda, that first meal of the day is an abiding luxury that can be creative, adventurous, and (we hope) shamelessly filling.
Take this repast cooked up in the Departmental Test Kitchen on a recent Style Sortie to Central America.
Tropical Breakfast #1
- Salsa and fried cheese omelette
- Gallo pinto (rice and beans)
- Fried chicken livers
Begin with eggs from the local market truck that comes to the town twice a week. The eggs are the free-est of the free range. These are from birds that scratch about in the backyards that are half jungle. This “wild” diet of the hens and the unprecedented freshness of the eggs themselves are the keys. The omelette will not only will have more real flavour but it will also puff up to new heights when the eggs hit the hot pan.
We recommend you make the salsa filling for the omelette yourself. Fresh market truck tomatoes, garlic, onion, wild cilantro, and limon, or lime, or lemon depending on where you are. Get a local acquaintance to show you where the cilantro (culantro) grows wild.
The cheese component is essential. While some Latin American countries don’t have the range or subtlety of cheese varieties found in France, Spain, even England or North America, what they do have is hardy and full of flavor. It’s a combination that makes the thick Costa Rican curds that we used (homemade in the nearby village) perfect for frying. Heat up a pan, hive off a semi thick slice (about 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch) and when the omelette is almost done, loosely fold it over as you gently insert the hot cheese and the cool salsa.
Then there’s the Gallo Pinto as it is called in Costa Rica, rice and beans in other places, rice and peas in Jamaica. We recommend brown rice from the local general store. Throw in some coconut water (pipa) if you’d like to sweeten it slightly. The dried beans you can get from the general store, or as we did, buy more substantial amounts on a trip to the Panamanian border. Soak overnight, then boil. Throw in several whole cloves of garlic, and in the last five minutes, throw in a chopped onion. Cook rice and beans separately and combine appropriate amounts and heat together before serving.
Finally, the chicken livers. Remember those free range eggs? The twice-weekly market truck sells the birds as well. Smaller than we’re used to, and full of flavour. When you buy one from the truck (fresh killed of course – order it the day before) it comes with the feet, neck, and giblets stuffed into the cavity. Take out the livers. Throw a little oil and butter in the hot pan. Finely chop an onion, garlic, tomato, and oregano. The livers are so small they barely need to be chopped at all. Drop them in the hot pan with the herbs and vegetables. And you’re done.
The experience of cooking a fabulous breakfast in any location can teach you a lot about where you are. It can make a poor man feel like a king, and remind a rich man of what truly matters.