All photos by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay)
You’ve probably been making and eating egg and cheese sandwiches for years; but chances are, they’re not nearly as great as they could be.
For some guidance, we enlisted chef Nick Korbee of Egg Shop, who in recent weeks has schooled us on the fundamentals of at-home egg cookery—from mastering your scramble, to pulling off a perfect poach.
Korbee explains that sandwich-making is actually a defined science. The cookbook Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen describes a sandwich as something consisting of bread, fillings, spreads (e.g., condiments, relishes, preserves, vinaigrettes), and garnishes (e.g., lettuce, cheese, onion). Those same four essential elements must be considered when building a breakfast sandwich.
Also important: start with quality ingredients (including pastured eggs and serious cheese); build your sandwich “high and tight”; and add sweet, salty, and spicy elements to round out the flavor.
Draw from these Holy Standards, then go forth and forge your own egg-and-cheese sandwich traditions.
1. Start with good eggs.
“Good eggs come from a farm nearby with real chickens that run around and eat stuff; and if their feed is supplemented, it should be organic. I really like pastured eggs, because the yolk has serious flavor. There’s an earthy, grassy taste to the yolk, and the color is rich and bright orange.”
2. Add some green.
“Greens and veggies are an essential component of the sandwich. The fresher, the better. I like adding pickled jalapeños, avocados, roasted peppers, and baby kale. Whatever vegetable you’re using, make sure it’s fresh and crunchy, and has that chlorophyl thing going on.”
3. Special sauce is key.
“A special sauce lubricates the sandwich and ties it together. We have a bunch of special sauces at Egg Shop: Fresno chili and habañero hot sauce; caper-berry mustard; caramelized-onion aioli; a chipotle-bourbon ketchup.”
4. Your cheese choice is also very important.
“It’s an egg and cheese. It needs the cheese as much as it needs the egg. I prefer salty, melted cheese with my eggs. One of my favorites is Shelburne Farm two-year aged Cheddar from Vermont. It’s a grassy, earthy medium-sharp Cheddar cheese. Another one of my favorites is Salty Sea Feta from Narragansett Creamery. You can get both of those at Saxelby in NYC.”
5a. Use bacon (or another sweet-salty meat).
“If you feel inclined to use meat, use high-quality bacon, or use what I like to call ‘bacon for fancy people from other countries.’ I use Schaller & Weber Black Forest bacon as our go-to bacon. It has that sort of black-forest-ham sweetness to it, plus saltiness and subtle smoke. I’m also turning jamón serrano into bacon by crisping it up really slowly in the oven. Come to think of it, a Katz’s pastrami-and-egg sandwich would be the jam.”
5b. NO chewy meat.
“There’s meat that doesn’t belong on an egg sandwich—mainly stuff that’s chewy or hard to deal with. For example, don’t put a full piece of steak on an egg-and-cheese sandwich. We do a steak-and-eggs sandwich at Egg Shop, but I take grass-fed beef tenderloin, freeze it, and shave it on a deli slicer—so it comes out like a Philly cheesesteak. This way, you can actually eat it like a sandwich. But if you put a New York Strip on an egg sandwich, it’s just like, are you kidding me? Why would you do that?”
6. Play the sweet-savory game.
“A little bit of honey goes a long way. Same thing with agave. Sea salt and cracked black pepper are also great in terms of seasoning ingredients.”
7. Spiciness is crucial.
“Crucial, crucial, crucial. Egg Shop sandwiches get heat from two places: our Fresno chili and habanero hot sauce, and fresh pickled jalapeños. And do not get jalapeños from the can. Just buy a jalapeño, cut it up, and let it sit in rice vinegar—now you have a pickled jalapeño. It’ll keep forever and still retain that crunch and all of the heat.”
8. Buy hearty bread.
“If eggs are number one most important thing, bread is number two. Buy good, hearty bread that will stand up to the ingredients. I believe in bread made by hand, with a longer fermentation. Even when you’re dealing with products as simple as a hamburger bun, you still need to find something quality. (Alternatively, make your own bread.)”
9. Don’t overcook your eggs (or your bacon).
10. Make your egg sandwich high and tight.
“The sandwich should be piled high so you have to contend with it. But we try to break all the yolks when we plate the sandwich so that the yolk soaks in a little bit. Whatever you do, do not put poached eggs on a sandwich—only fried, scrambled, or boiled. And if you’re doing a soft scramble, try to form it together so it’s not a loose pile of scrambled eggs. Think high and tight, with a solid facade. You know, you want people to, like, maintain their cool while they eat your sandwich.”