Some fans say anytime is a good time for barbecue.
But 7 a.m.?
On a recent Saturday morning, birds were chirping, people were sleeping and the sun was still rising over the Country Club Plaza. But Mark Reichle was bathed in sweet smoke as he began to prepare his signature morning meal: molasses-brined pork chops and croissant French toast stuffed with fresh grilled peaches.
Move over Wheaties. There's a new breakfast of champions.
It's barbecue for breakfast!
Reichle and his wife, Nancy Miller, owners of Southmoreland on the Plaza--An Urban Inn, have served the mighty meal to guests on Saturday mornings during warm months for more than a decade.
They've even gotten national recognition for it, having appeared twice on the Food Network. And now, with the return of warmer weather, they're back outside on their large wooden deck, barbecuing breakfasts on their hand-built limestone grill.
The barbecued breakfasts have been a huge hit. But not everyone warms immediately to the concept.
"We had a bunch of folks visiting one time from New York," Reichle said. "They were high school friends of Nancy's, and they were kind of health nuts. They just wanted fruit for breakfast. We were so disappointed! Well, one person said they would have the pork chop. Then everybody started to taste the pork chop and the French toast, and they all changed their minds. We were scrambling to get everybody breakfast."
This morning no one staying in the 13-room colonial revival-style bed-and-breakfast had to be convinced. Sitting on the deck under burgundy umbrellas, several said they could smell the meal wafting in through their bedroom windows.
"Nice way to wake up," one said.
At first the words "barbecue" and "breakfast" may not seem to go together. That's because most people associate barbecue with meat and sauce. But check out the word's definition.
"To roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat."
In other words, anything that can be cooked can be barbecued.
Reichle has many barbecued breakfast recipes. He has taken frying pans out to his grill and made eggs. He has smoked salmon and added it to the eggs for his version of eggs Benedict.
He has thrown chive corn muffins on the grill, as well as ham, pineapple and cardamom sugar plums. At Christmas -- unless there's 2 feet of snow -- he toasts gingerbread and pears on the grill, and tops it with hot caramel sauce.
But, after being featured on the Food Network about four years ago, it's the pork chop, croissant French toast and grilled peaches that guests expect on a Saturday morning. Reichle is happy to oblige.
After halving the peaches and grilling them flesh side down, he cut them into chunks and flavored them with maple syrup and lemon juice.
As Miller tended to the bubbling pot of bourbon-pecan maple syrup, Reichle cooked the brined pork chops, then dipped croissant halves in a French toast batter and arranged them carefully on the grill. He put the chops on plates, added the toasted croissants, which he had stuffed full of glistening grilled peaches, topped them with the syrup and garnished them with a sprig of fresh mint.
While guests waited for their food, they listened to soft music and the trickling of water into a heated koi pond. Frank, a sable-colored Siamese-tabby cross who has adopted Reichle and Miller, patrolled the grounds.
As soon as the food came out, so did the oohs and ahhs.
Sally Piller of Lawrence, Kan., having breakfast with her husband, Lynn, was so impressed with her plate that she took out her iPhone and snapped a quick picture before digging in.
"It's perfect!" she said. "Too cool. I'm really thrilled."
"It's delicious," he said. "It works great."
Miller has heard it before.
"Breakfast barbecue is people's favorite breakfast," she said.
In addition to the food, there's the fun.
"They get an absolute kick out of it," Miller said. "Almost every man grills. They've got their tips, and they ask Mark for his tips. It's a little more communal than the average breakfast."
Southmoreland's breakfast is reserved just for its guests. But nothing says you can't barbecue your breakfast at home. In 2007, Reichle and Miller put together a cookbook of requested recipes called "Tried & True." The book is available at www.southmoreland.com.
More barbecue-for-breakfast recipes can be found in "The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook." The book even carries a slogan that reads "Barbeque ... It's not just for breakfast anymore." Paul Kirk, a chef known as Kansas City's baron of barbecue and one of the book's co-authors, has been cooking breakfasts on the grill for 30 years, ever since he started in competition barbecue.
"We couldn't leave (the competition), so I'd just do it on the grill," he said. "We'll do biscuits in the cooker. And I've done tea-smoked eggs. For that you take a hard-boiled egg and crack it and then put it in the smoker. The smoke will penetrate the cracks."
Kirk loves the unmistakable flavor barbecuing brings to early morning favorites.
"My favorite barbecue breakfast is biscuits and gravy," he said. "There's brisket points in the gravy. We chop that up and put that in there with the sausage that's done on the grill. We also do bacon on the smoker. Basically we're double smoking it and cooking it for breakfast. It's outstanding!
But any grilled fruit is good, too. I've done cantaloupe, pineapple, plums. I just dip them in butter or oil and put them on the grill. That caramelizes the sugar and brings out outstanding flavors."
Ardie Davis, a barbecue aficionado and another of the book's co-authors, said he'd like to see more places locally offer true barbecued breakfasts. He knows of places in Texas and New Mexico where you can get them, but he makes his own.
"In my most recent barbecue breakfast at home I had some leftover pulled pork from Oklahoma Joe's, and I put it on top of a scrambled egg," he said. "But you could also mix it in. If you want to go a step further, you could do migas. Make scrambled eggs with salsa and then add pulled pork, chopped brisket or rib scraps. Then you fry tortilla strips on a skillet on the grill and mix that all up."
One tip: "If you are doing something that might fall through, there are grill baskets and grill woks you could use. They're better for smaller vegetables, such as peppers and onions."
As for the doubters? "Try it," Davis said.
"You'll be pleasantly surprised. There's just a primal nerve that barbecue hits."
Even for breakfast.
Croissant french toast stuffed with grilled peaches
4 croissants (sliced in half lengthwise)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
Prepare coals on a grill and let reduce to a moderate heat. In a blender combine eggs, cream, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until smooth, then set aside.
Slice peaches in half and remove pit. Leave skin on. Brush flesh side of each half with melted butter and place on grill for 5 minutes, or until flesh is evenly scored and begins to soften. Remove peaches from grill and dice. Add lemon juice and sugar to taste. Set peach mixture aside.
Pour egg batter into flat dish, such as a pie plate. Dip croissant halves in batter, making sure each side is coated. Place croissants on grill flat side down. Grill 1-2 minutes or until batter appears cooked and croissants begin to darken. (Be careful. They cook quickly.) Flip croissants and cook another 1-2 minutes.
Remove croissants from grill. Place bottom half of the croissant on a plate, add 1/4 of the peach mixture and place top half of the croissant over peaches. Pour Bourbon Pecan Maple Syrup (recipe follows) over the top, and garnish with fresh mint.
Per serving, without syrup: 529 calories (61 percent from fat), 36 grams total fat (21 grams saturated), 248 milligrams cholesterol, 43 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 540 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Bourbon-pecan maple syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Melt butter over medium heat. Once butter begins to brown add bourbon and flambe. When the alcohol has burned off, add the syrup and pecans and let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Serve warm over grilled croissant French toast.
Per serving: 477 calories (46 percent from fat), 22 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 56 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 125 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Source: Mark Reichle and Nancy Miller, owners of Southmoreland on the Plaza -- An Urban Inn.
Servings: 8 to 10
1 cup diced summer sausage
1 cup diced ham
3/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 crumbled crisp-cooked bacon
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon diced pickled jalapenos
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 round pocket breads
Set up your smoker to cook at 225 degrees. In a greased large skillet over medium heat, scramble the eggs, place them in a bowl, and put them in the refrigerator to cool. Mix everything else except the pocket breads in a large bowl. After the eggs are cooled, chop them and add them to the rest of the filling mixture.
Cut each pocket bread to make two half-moon pockets. Fill each pocket with the egg mixture and place the filled pockets upright in an aluminum pan. Cover the pan with foil and place the pan into the smoker for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until heated throughout.
Per serving, based on 8: 445 calories (44 percent from fat), 22 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 278 milligrams cholesterol, 36 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 1,001 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Sources: "The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook" by Ardie Davis, Paul Kirk and Carolyn Wells. "Tried & True" $19.95 at www.southmoreland.com. "The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook" $15.24 at www.amazon.com
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