Taylor Ham or Pork Roll?

If you don’t know what either of those are, you are missing out on the king of breakfast meats. Thinly sliced, spicy breakfast salami, it is the official breakfast meat of New Jersey:

Taylor Pork Roll

Some call it pork roll, others Taylor Ham, though it only vaguely resembles ham. It’s not rubbery like Spam, or grainy like scrapple. It has a spice all its own, and when sliced thin and fried to crisp edges, it is the perfect accompaniment to a fried egg and slice of American cheese (Land O’ Lakes preferred) on a kaiser roll, bagel, English muffin, tortilla, or my favorite, challah French Toast:

jersey farmer
The Jersey Farmer at the Candlewyck Diner

P.S.: Challah is pronounced “Holla!”

You can get this at the Candlewyck Diner near Giants stadium in the Meadowlands, and I reviewed this great Jersey diner for Devil Gourmet, in my weekly column The Big Eat.


Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

If you’ve been down South, hopefully you’ve experienced the delight that is biscuits with sausage gravy. When you order it up north, usually is lacking in the sausage. In fact, even Cracker Barrell calls it “sawmill gravy,” which is mostly flour and water with some grease for flavor. When I make this breakfast, I do it right.
Start with a pound of ground sausage, brown it, add 1/3 cup flour, stir in 2 cups milk- 1/2 cup at a time- and stir until it’s as thick as you like it. This serves 4 hungry men, or 8 dainty ladies. Season with Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning and black pepper! It’s that easy. Oh wait, you say. How do you make biscuits? Well, here’s my quick-n-easy biscuit recipe: Go get them at Popeye’s chicken. you have to be one hell of a cook to do much better.
I prefer to use venison sausage when it’s available, but the deer were wily this year, so I grabbed some fresh-ground pork breakfast sausage at Whole Foods seasoned with sage. You can use the frozen logs of ground pork sausage found in the freezer section- thawed first- or even open sausage casings, but that will take a lot of little sausages. Ask your meat department or butcher if they have ground breakfast sausage. Or buy a meat grinder- I’m tempted- and make your own from pork belly!

Kobe Dogs & a man with a 68" cucuzza

Let’s go by phallic measurement, or pecking order if you will. Click the image above to see the article and the guy who grew a cucuzza- an Italian squash, and euphemism for his sazeech, his gabadone, his pistole- that was as tall as he was. Of course, the guy’s name is Ben Longo. Yes, look at Longo’s enormous cucuzza.

Cucuzza are relatively tasteless like large zucchini, but when cooked in a tomato based sauce with hot peppers, sort of like ratatouille, they are excellent and absorb all the flavors. They look like a lime green baseball bat and if you see them at your local farmer’s market, give them a try.
Next, I finally had a “Kobe” hot dog. I highly doubt that high quality wagyu beef was used in these. I had them at Legends, the sports bar in the mid-30s that shows the LSU football games in Manhattan. They were good hot dogs, admittedly, but no better than some non-Kobe franks I’ve had. In fact, they tasted like Hebrew National. I’ve avoided Kobe sliders and franks because of this; it’s like using Beluga caviar to make an omelet, or top shelf liquor for most mixed drinks- you’re not going to taste the difference. I sure didn’t. I liked them, but the Usinger’s hot dog at Big Daddy’s is more memorable. If I want “Kobe” or wagyu I want it rare and mostly untouched. Sorry I’m singling out Legends- they’re a good bar with a good menu, and this was hardly a bad meal. It’s just endemic of the Manhattan bar food world, that “Kobe sliders” are used to sucker people in, when a good bit of ground chuck cooked right would taste nearly as good, without the caché.
Firecracker got a crockpot and made some kick-ass pulled pork, which we turned into Memphis style BBQ sandwiches. I brought the corn! I do cook, and made bacon-wrapped hotdogs recently- photos will be shared soon. This was some really good BBQ. If you love you some pork, a crockpot is definitely a must. Make your own!
Another time, for breakfast, my girl made me waffles. Isn’t she the best? I made the bacon and eggs- cooked in the bacon fat, of course- and decided to make a breakfast sandwich out of them. Now, am I the first guy to think of this? I’ve had ice cream sandwiches made of waffles, but it makes you wonder why more breakfast sandwiches aren’t made this way. I once made a peanut butter and honey sandwich out of Egg-Os, and I heartily recommend using waffles as bread. The honeycomb structure is ideal for collecting drips of egg yolk, as well as the standard maple syrup. Give it a try.

Hangover Helper at the Brownstone Diner

After Firecracker’s apartment-warming party I slept until noon- a rare vice for me- and when we woke, the sun was like Larry Miller said- “like God’s flashlight.” So we went to the Brownstone Diner in Jersey City for their justly famous pancakes.
This is peaches and walnuts with a side of sausage. I couldn’t wait to take a photo. I dove in to their peachy syrupy goodness and never looked back. They were delicious. Fluffy, soft, buttery goodness; never spongy or dry, always full of flavor. Firecracker had peanut butter & chocolate chip, her usual. With a banana to try to make it healthy. That was good too- I prefer fruit with my flapjacks.
There was of course a line at brunch-time on a Sunday in hipsterville, but it wasn’t a long wait at all. They keep things moving, the service is prompt, and the kitchen operates like a well-oiled machine. good coffee, great ‘cakes. So filling, and reasonably priced. I found out about this on Diners, Drive-Ins and Douchebags with my nemesis Guy Ramsey Ferry, but friends Rob & Suzanne live in the area and knew it. We went previously, and I had one of their enormous omelets. This may be my favorite Jersey Diner, and we have a LOT to choose from.
They can definitely call themselves a Pancake Factory, as they serve a full house with great efficiency. Maybe they extrude them like Play-Doh and slice them? It doesn’t taste like it. They are some of the best. Next time- burgers. Diner burgers always disappoint me in their mediocrity. I bet the Brownstone will surprise me. I will report back!

The English Breakfast Burger at the Tick Tock Diner

In the immortal words of the Simpsons: we cook it in rich, creamery butter, and we top it all with a fried egg. We call it the Good Morning Burger… (drool noises)

At the Tick Tock Diner near Madison Square Garden in NYC you can get something similar- the English Breakfast Burger. First they take an English Muffin – my favorite sandwich delivery system- and they toast it, of course. Then each slice gets its own sausage patty, a slice of tomato, some sauteed portobello mushrooms, and a sunny side up egg. They get to share 3 slices of crisp bacon among them. They will make your heart sing with joy, before it explodes in a spray of blood and cholesterol.
Best eaten with a knife and fork, and with a side of fries or home fries to soak up all that lovely yolk. Because it comes sunny side up by default. The tomato and mushroom each the Full English Breakfast. The tomato should be grilled, but it wasn’t- so ask for it to be grilled if you get one. It’ll taste even better.
They also make decent regular burgers- good diner fare, nothing to write home about, but well priced. If you’re near the garden this is the best bargain for sit-down restaurants. If you want food quick, go to Gyros II and get a Gyro Platter for $9. They’re immense, very tasty with nutmeg-spiced meat and a sweet and tangy tzatziki sauce- and served fast.
But if you have time to sit down, the Tick Tock diner on 34th & 8th is hard to beat for the area. Good eats for only slightly inflated prices. Avoid Lindy’s at all costs- $5 for coffee, it’s a tourist trap. The Tick Tock has good service, good food, at good prices. It’s my go-to place when seeing a show at the Garden or a movie at the nearby Loews.