If I had to pinpoint the exact moment my interest in savory porridge was piqued, it would have to be the 2014 Bon Appétit article about Sqirl – the breakfast-and-lunch-only Los Angeles restaurant with a cult following. Although other restaurants were presumably elevating breakfast prior to, or at the same time as Sqirl, this article opened the floodgates for me personally. All this sexy talk of chewy grains topped with runny eggs and salad-y things; thick, nearly burnt toast drowned in house-made jam in flavors like strawberry-thyme; a kale dish that basically went viral? Don’t get me wrong, I’d always enjoyed breakfast (especially the carby kind, like my mom’s blini) but it was this write-up specifically that seemed to reach out from the page and slap me in the face with the realization that, it’s not just dinner that deserves all the glory!
Since then, I can say with almost complete confidence that breakfast has become my favorite meal. In fact, one of the things I miss most about my Brooklyn apartment is its proximity to Cafe Madeline, a breakfast haven with what has to be one of my favorite menus of all time </3
Alas, when we actually made it to the West Coast years after, Rene and I decided to forgo the porridge in favor of Sqirl’s spring vegetable quiche, strawberry-oat scone, aforementioned smothered toast, and a few other items (yeah, I guess you could say I was a little excited…). But! I did finally have the savory porridge of my dreams at Grand Central’s Nordic food hall last winter. It was brothy, cheesy, laced with shredded roasted chicken and white cabbage, and topped with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. It had all the things I dreamt of for this nourishing bowl of goodness: meatiness, creamy, chewy grains, and variety of contrasting textures in each forkful.
I’ve been meaning to recreate an equally rich and hyggelig vegetarian version since then and here it is. I took a nod from the classic risotto technique by sautéing some onion first, then toasting the grains in that oil-onion mixture before adding the cooking liquid. To help the savory porridge become creamy, I stir it occasionally while it simmers to help release the farro’s starch (a big no-no for when you want separate, fluffy grains). To replicate the savoriness, I cooked the grains in store-bought mushroom broth and finished the porridge with miso, a gold star ingredient as far as umami is concerned. The shiitake bacon adds even more umami, as well as texture, and the poached eggs tie it all together; if poaching eggs intimidates you, fry them sunny side up for a similar effect. While this savory porridge is a bit more appropriate for weekends, you can certainly prep it for weekdays, too. The porridge and “bacon” can both be cooked entirely in advance and reheated as needed (adding a bit more liquid to the porridge if necessary to thin it out).
I use Pacific brand mushroom broth here; if you’re not concerned with keeping this vegetarian, feel free to use chicken or beef broth instead. Be sure to use the freshest possible eggs for poaching, as it will help them keep their shape; if poaching eggs intimidates you, fry them sunny side up instead. The porridge can be cooked in advance and reheated as needed (adding a bit more liquid if necessary to thin it out).
For the Porridge:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium onion, finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup farro
- 3 cups plus about 2 tablespoons mushroom broth
- 2 teaspoons white miso (aka shiro or mellow miso)
- 2 cups baby spinach OR chopped full-size greens like kale/collards
For the Toppings:
- 10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 4 eggs
- 2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced on a diagonal, to serve
- Toasted sesame seeds, to serve
- Freshly ground black pepper, to serve
- Make the porridge. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and salt and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the farro and stir to coat in oil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add 3 cups of the broth, cover tightly with a lid, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer covered until the grains are cooked through but chewy, about 30 minutes, stirring every 8 minutes or so. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 1 minute. Turn the heat off.
- In a cup/bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons broth with miso until completely dissolved. Stir into the porridge. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Make the toppings. Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and salt, and toss to coat evenly. Arrange in a single layer, and roast until browned and crispy, 15-20 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking.
- Meanwhile, bring a wide-bottomed pot filled halfway with water to a very gentle simmer – you should only be seeing tiny bubbles. Add the vinegar. Break an egg into a cup/bowl. Using a slotted spoon, stir the simmering water to create a vortex, and pour the egg into the perimeter of the vortex. Quickly repeat with the remaining eggs. Cook until the egg whites are set and opaque, 3-4 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, lift the eggs out of the water and transfer to a plate.
- To serve, divide the porridge among 4 bowls and top with shiitake bacon, eggs, scallions, sesame seeds, and black pepper.
Be sure to turn the flame under the porridge off before adding the miso – this will preserve its probiotic properties.
- Calories: 310
- Fiber: 6 g
- Protein: 15.3 g
*The Breakfast Club is a series in which I nerd out on my favorite meal type and share recipes to make each morning a little more special.