Home called; would I come? Not home to husband and dishes. Home to flowered bedroom and mom in apron. Home home.
I booked a seat to Iowa City.
I've got my rituals. Kitchen table, coffee cup, Press Citizen. Finding my favorite flower in the wallpaper. Walking downtown to Prairie Lights Books.
In high school, that's where I bought "The Brothers Karamazov." It was a gift for Sarah, who dreamed of Russian adventure. I'd study late, then mom and I would dash out to split an Egg Special.
I learned everything at Prairie Lights: Literature, Mystery, History. Journalism, Poetry, Art. Eventually I brought Hannah and Noah and walked downstairs to the Children's Department.
This time, I walked upstairs, where Cooking and Iowa Writers had been rolled aside to make room for chairs. Mom came. And Sarah, long since returned from Russia. And teachers and classmates and neighbors and friends. I read from my book, at Prairie Lights Books.
I was so full, I didn't even crave an Egg Special.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: About 10 minutes
Makes: 1 sandwich
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (white or black)
Unsalted butter, softened
2 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
2 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Focus: Note that this sandwich, no doubt originally intended to soak up a six-pack, is heroically endowed with butter, mayo, eggs and cheese. Set any concerns aside. Remember that some people order it topped with ham or bacon — or both — and compared with them, you are exercising restraint.
2. Prep: At The Mill, the Egg Special is made on the flattop. If you've got a flat stove-top griddle, use that. Otherwise, get out three skillets: small, medium and large.
3. Whisk: In a small bowl, whisk together mayo, lemon juice and garlic. Season this quickie aioli with salt and pepper.
4. Brown: Set the medium skillet over medium heat. Melt in a lump of butter. Tumble in onion and mushroom and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
5. Toast: Spread one side of each piece of bread with butter. Heat the large skillet over medium. Toss in bread, butter-side down, and toast until browned, about 2 minutes. Set on a cutting board, toasted-side down. Slather the soft side with the aioli.
6. Fry: Set the small skillet over medium-high. Add a lump of butter. Crack in eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes. Flip. Scatter on cheese; cover. Cook eggs over-medium, about 1-2 minutes more.
7. Build: Slide eggs, cheese side up, onto one piece of toast. Scrape on mushrooms. Add top toast. Cut sandwich on the diagonal. Consider sharing.
Provenance: Informed by Matthew Oakley, kitchen manager at The Mill in Iowa City, Iowa.