For me, hunger tends to strike at the same time as creativity. It usually manifests as an urge to bake bread. Today it starts with focaccia.
Water, yeast, olive oil and flour mix starting as a pale, shaggy mass decorated with oil spots. I dump the mixture out on my less-than-clean counter and knead until time loses its meaning. I use the heel of my hand to push and flip the soft, oily dough. I claw at it, forcing it to develop enough gluten to achieve the sponge-like, pillowy texture good focaccia is known for. After an hour of rising, I lay the dough in a jelly-roll pan and generously douse it in olive oil. My fingers lightly press into the oil-covered pillow, spreading the dough across the pan and creating the iconic dimples that are traditional to this loaf. The process takes two and a half hours, but chef Ina Garten taught me that time is worth it.
Run a serrated knife through the greasy crust down into the light crumb that lies within. Cut the slice widthwise, to create a top and a bottom.
From here I construct what I believe to be the only thing that has gotten me through my fourth year of university: a hefty amount of mayonnaise on each side of the bread, smothered in Frank’s RedHot.
Allow the two condiments to intertwine until they turn orange then rest two tomato slices on the bottom of your sandwich, seasoned with salt and pepper.
You could stop here.
When you bite into this open-faced sandwich, the tomato explodes with sweetness on your tongue, followed by the salt to cut it short of cloying, followed by the light spice of the condiment mixture, finished with the rich oil of the focaccia.
But we are not stopping there.
Squish two Johnsonville sausage patties together and toss the new monstrous patty into the sizzling skillet. Let the sausage fry until each side of the patty has created a crust that could be used as a musical instrument when paired with a knife scraping at it.
Once the sausage is removed from the pan, crack an egg on the stovetop and separate the two halves, releasing the slimy protein into the pan. The pan should be hot enough that the albumen goes from transparent to milky-white within a hissing instant. Grab your aged cheddar and lay it on top of the egg. Cook until the cheese is melted and the yolk has just set.
On our fresh focaccia covered with mayonnaise, Frank’s Red Hot and tomato, we stack the large sausage patty, the delicate fried egg and sliced avocado. Carefully place the ingredients on top so they mingle with the mayonnaise on the top slice to create the perfect creaminess.
You are left with a rainbow.
Layers of red and green glazed with the yellow of a dripping egg yolk carefully curated to be the perfect breakfast experience. It almost looks too good to eat.
But you will, and it will be messy.