At first glance, “Breakfast for Dinner” looks like yet another breezy first book from yet another too-cute food-blogging husband-and-wife team (this duo lives in Nashville). The theme is breakfast ingredients, used in combinations and techniques more commonly seen later in the day — a premise that gives a cook a free hand to lean on the bacon and the maple. Is it gimmicky? Sure. Does that matter? In the end, maybe not.
Pork is central, unsurprisingly, to many recipes. Peas and pancetta in a green pea carbonara are a classic combination, but here peas are pureed for both body and flavor in the sauce, letting you cut back a bit on dairy and eggs. For breakfast sausage ravioli, it isn’t necessarily worth the trouble to make and roll out pasta dough just so you can have a casing around the potato-pork filling, but it’s a fine dish. As the authors write, “the best part of breakfast is the moment when the maple syrup begins to seep into the sausage on the other side of your plate.” It’s one of those things I didn’t know anyone else had noticed. That’s the inspiration for maple-glazed pork meatballs, and they’re just as good as they sound (though you may run out of maple-tomato glaze as you’re basting).
Sometimes you can have breakfast for dinner simply by serving breakfast at 6 p.m., which is the point of broccoli and cauliflower omelets. They’re the familiar omelets from brunch, but in the form of a thin, folded egg pancake more than the typical rolled classic (if you’ve got one, use a heatproof silicone spatula to make life much easier). Your morning cup of joe goes into espresso baked beans (with espresso powder for good measure). The coffee flavor fades to a dark bass line, giving some grounding to the molasses and stabilizing what can be an overly sweet side.
I realized partway through testing that much of the appeal of “Breakfast for Dinner” has to do with crusts, paired with protein or vegetables, layered or spiraled, framing or coated. Cornflake-crusted chicken tenders are one of those crowd pleasers that are easy to write off. But they’ve got attention-getting herbs in both the crust (parsley and dill) and in a ranch-style buttermilk dressing (dill and chives), which is hard not to hog.
Dress up asparagus in an easy tart of puff pastry and lemon ricotta, and, of course, pancetta. I can’t begin to understand how it’s breakfasty at all, but that doesn’t prevent anyone from cleaning the plate. Mini zucchini and pesto quiches are cute food, phyllo cups crafted in mini-muffin tins and filled with basil-scented zucchini custard. They’re a bit fiddly, and they turn soggy fast, so it’s good that they’re also too tasty to sit around.
Moroccan chicken cinnamon rolls are equal parts Cinnabon and Moroccan b’stiyah. Made with commercial puff pastry and braised chicken thighs (which oddly include browning instructions for skin that will later be discarded), they’re neither as decadent as the breakfast treat or as elegant as the appetizer. But they’re an easyish, crowd-pleasing compromise.
Taken as a whole, “Breakfast for Dinner” does more than it has to, offering extra-clear instructions, issuing warnings about pitfalls during prep, adding the extra ingredient you’d skip if you were lazy. You may find yourself wondering if it will add lasting value to your cookbook collection. But like a good beach novel, this volume is tasty enough to set aside those kinds of questions at least till tomorrow.
T. Susan Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.