Cooking tips and advice from Palmetto Bay Sunrise Cafe.
Story by Robyn Passante + Photography by Michael Hrizuk
Leslie and Paul “Stew” Stewart have been serving eggs, grits, gravy and the rest of breakfast’s best at Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café for 16 years. That’s plenty enough time to perfect Hollandaise sauce, know how to tell when an egg is still fresh, and understand the ebb and flow of their daily customer base, which includes a healthy mix of locals and tourists.
Leslie says the average 15-minute wait time is due partly to the restaurant’s proximity to the water and its excellent reputation for great food. But mostly, she insists, the Sunrise staff is what makes the place so sunny-side up.
“Our staff is pretty phenomenal; it’s kind of like family. Everybody takes care of each other,” she says.
Though the marina isn’t currently running, the Stewarts say they love that their food is the first thing so many see and smell besides the salty air and sunshine in the morning. And because they’ve been doing this awhile, they have some tips for breakfast lovers who can’t make it to the café every day.
Skills for the Skillet
REMEMBER FRESH IS BEST “You want to make sure your eggs are fresh – it really makes a difference,” says Stewart, who purchases their eggs, butter and cream from a farm in Columbia. When you crack a fresh egg and drop it into a pan, the yolk should “sit up” and remain a bit buoyant rather than lay even with the egg white, she says.
AVOID POACHED EGG ‘LEGS’ Anyone who’s tried to poach an egg knows that “when you drop the egg into the water it can spider,” Stewart says. “Ours don’t spider because we use just a little bit of white vinegar in our poaching water.” She recommends adding about a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to a small pot of boiling water to poach perfectly round eggs.
MAKE THE 20-MINUTE GRITS Grits are simple, but take time. Sunrise uses stone-ground hominy grits, which they cook in a moderate boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. “You don’t want to use instant grits,” she says. “Like they say in that movie ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ every true Southerner knows you have to cook grits for 20 minutes, not five.”
START HOT So much about breakfast food is cooking it at the right temperatures – and that means starting out hot. “Don’t pour scrambled eggs into a cold pan. That’s when they start to get dry, because it takes so long to cook them.” It’s the same with pancakes; get the griddle hot first. “They should bubble within a very short time. If they don’t, they’ll be flat and thick and doughy, and you don’t want that.”
PERFECTLY BROWN YOUR HASH BROWNS “If you mix butter with just a little bit of olive oil, the two together keep the butter from burning, so you can get a crispier outside (of the hash browns) and have that butter taste without it burning.”
MAKE RUMMY, YUMMY PANCAKES If your pancake batter has been sitting for a bit, give it another whip to reintroduce some air in there before ladling onto the griddle. And drop fruit or other add-ins onto the pancakes once they’re on the griddle, not into the bowl of batter. (21+ Tip: Sunrise staff makes their banana rum pancakes by spritzing rum from a spray bottle onto the pancakes as they cook.)
2 egg yolks
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons white wine
1 pinch Cayenne pepper
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
In a small pan melt butter. Allow to cool slightly. Add egg yolks and wine to medium bowl. On low heat beat eggs and wine until mayonnaise-like consistency. Slowly add melted butter to yolks while mixing until incorporated. Add pinch of cayenne and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Keep in a warm area around the stove until ready to serve.
Ham, Havarti Dill and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche
1 9-inch pie crust
2 cups milk or cream
4 slices of Virginia baked ham
4 slices of Havarti dill cheese
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Combine milk, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large bowl. Press pie crust into a 9-inch greased pie pan and crimp the edges. Add ham, Havarti dill cheese and roasted red peppers to the pie crust. Pour in the milk and egg mixture. Place quiche on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes until it turns puffy and brown.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup cooked sausage
1/2 cup green onions chopped
8 slices white bread, crust removed
Ingredients (chili sauce)
1 cup Heinz chili sauce
2 tablespoons green onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
In a large mixing bowl add eggs, cream and water. Beat well. Add salt, black pepper, mustard, Cayenne pepper, paprika and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well. Spray bottom of an 8×8 pan. Cut bread into 2-inch cubes. Line the pan with half of the bread cubes. Add 1/2 sausage, 1/2 green onions and 1/2 cheddar cheese. Then add another layer of bread, sausage, green onions and cheese. Pour egg mixture slowly over casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole for one hour until set. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting. To make the chili sauce, combine all ingredients and heat. Top casserole after cutting.