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Indulgence and health battle it out at breakfast

Photograph: Shutterstock

Breakfast sandwiches are big business in all segments as customers continue to seek quick, portable morning meals. It seems like nearly every operation offers a take on the iconic Egg McMuffin, but some kitchens are creating interesting variations of this must-have. Others are menuing snack-size sandwiches, knife-and-fork stacks layered with indulgent ingredients, and healthy twists on the traditional.

Meeting morning expectations

At the cafes in the healthcare facilities he oversees for TouchPoint, Regional Executive Chef Jonathan Smith has the grill going from 6-10 a.m. every day. Cooks turn out egg sandwiches on English muffins, biscuits and croissants at a rapid pace, then wrap them up to keep warm on the hot pass to feed breakfasters in a rush.

For those in less of a hurry, the kitchen is able to strut their stuff with made-to-order sandwiches. Avocado toast vies with sandwiches filled with corned beef hash for customers who can’t decide between healthy and hearty. “We want to give people options so we can teach them what healthier eating looks like,” Smith says.

The avocado toast starts with a whole wheat baguette that is sliced and toasted, then topped with pickled carrots, onions and serrano chiles—all made in-house—and finished with scallions, avocado and bit of creme fraiche. “It presents really well, with all the different layers of color,” Smith says.

The Mediterranean breakfast fold is another healthier option that’s not quite as popular; it features eggs or egg whites with onions, peppers, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese rolled up in a 12-inch round flatbread. The made-to-order items are priced a little higher—$3.99 versus $3.79.

Convenience sells

Chef Derrick Cripps, general manager of Corcoran Commons at Boston College, feeds about 1,800 students breakfast out of 7,000 who patronize the dining hall every day. Because it seems sleeping in may be a priority for students, those who do make it in are dashing to class. Cripps satisfies the need for speed by having the kitchen prepare plenty of hot sandwiches, wrapped and ready to go. Carriers include bagels, rolls and cheese biscuits made in the campus bakery, as well as breakfast burritos.

Here again, health vies with indulgence to tempt diners. “We do a vegan English muffin sandwich with tomatoes and cheese but no eggs, as well as a steak, egg and cheese sub,” Cripps says. He also offers breakfast value meals of a sandwich paired with a drink and side; these range from $4-$7.

French Toast Breakfast Sandwich

One of the “crazier” sandwiches he developed is a French toast stacker created for orientation leaders, featuring two slices of French toast sandwiching a fried egg, cheese, ham, sausage and bacon. “It became so popular on Instagram that a student’s mom asked us to prepare it for her tailgate party on campus,” Cripps says. The catering team was happy to oblige. 

Batching for the food truck

Football fans at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., also showed their love for a new breakfast sandwich. Last fall, the college debuted a food truck, The Rolling Lion, which served breakfast on days with early games. David Anderson, managing chef at Pollock Dining Commons on campus, helped get it rolling by developing a handheld breakfast frittata slider.

The eggs are combined with peppers, onions and sausage, poured into a sheet pan and baked. “We then cut the frittata into squares sized to fit Hawaiian [sweet dinner] rolls,” Anderson says. “In the truck, the squares are reheated on a grill and sandwiched in the rolls, three to an order.” The breakfast sliders quickly became a favorite with students, alumni and even fans from the other team, he says. 

Pollock Dining Commons also houses a c-store with a grill, and the operation does a very high volume of breakfast sandwiches, Anderson says. “Students are always looking for more portability.”

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