By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I’ve never had breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I have had breakfast at Zezima’s. And I can tell you from personal experience -- because I’m the one who has made breakfast -- that my eggs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
That’s why I recently went to my favorite diner, CookRoom in Middle Island, N.Y., to learn how to cook eggs without having to scramble out the door and go somewhere, like my favorite diner, for a real breakfast.
Every Saturday morning, I make myself two eggs, often sunny side up but sometimes scrambled, especially if I accidentally break the eggs I am trying to cook sunny side up. I also have link sausage (if there are missing links, I use bacon) and either toast or a bagel, along with coffee and orange juice, though not in the same cup.
The meal is usually passable (no further explanation needed) but not really delicious. So I went to CookRoom to take a short course in short-order cooking.
My teacher was Roberto Benitez, who taught me a very important lesson: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. CookRoom doesn’t have a kitchen because it’s a genuine diner, so it only has a griddle behind the counter. Still, Roberto is always as cool as a cucumber.
“I don’t put cucumbers in eggs,” he said, “but you can if you want to.”
In fact, Roberto’s favorite breakfast isn’t eggs. “I like Oreo pancakes,” he said as he prepared an order of three regular pancakes that were the size of Frisbees.
“I’ve seen only one person finish a whole stack of pancakes,” said manager Debbie Sweeney, “and it was a thin girl. Not even grown men can finish them.”
“I can,” said Roberto, who is a thin guy, “but I work it off.”
He had to work pretty hard to teach me how to cook breakfast without either making a mess or burning the place down.
According to waitress Dawn Millwater, my order was “CR No. 1 up, rye,” which meant two eggs sunny side up, with bacon, sausage, home fries and rye toast, as well as coffee and orange juice.
“I thought my order would be ‘JZ 911,’ which you’d have to call after I made breakfast,” I told Debbie.
“It won’t be that bad,” she assured me. “But just to be on the safe side, you won’t be making breakfast for any customers.”
As I stepped up to the griddle, Roberto showed me how to crack an egg. “One quick hit,” he said. “Not too hard or you’ll break it.”
“Then the yolk would be on me,” I replied.
Roberto politely ignored the remark and handed me the second egg. I hit it against the side of the griddle. Nothing happened. “Not too gentle, either,” he said.
“I’m pathetically out of shape,” I explained. Then I hit the egg again. This time it cracked. I separated the shell and poured the contents onto the griddle. The eggs sizzled.
“You have to keep the griddle very hot,” said Roberto, adding that I should watch the bacon, sausage and home fries so they wouldn’t end up frazzled.
I was frazzled trying to keep track of everything. When the eggs were done, Roberto handed me a large spatula and said to slide it under them. I tried, but the spatula didn’t move.
“Harder,” he said.
My next attempt almost sent the spatula flying. The third time was the charm. I slipped the spatula under the eggs and, without breaking the yolks, placed them gently on my plate, followed by the rest of the meal.
Then I sat down at the counter to the most delicious breakfast I have ever had.
The following Saturday morning, I made the same thing at home. It wasn’t nearly as good as Roberto would have made, but at least I didn’t have to call 911.
Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima