This post is part of the Eating New York series.Yum
Especially if you're running late, which, let's face it, you are, you essentially have two coffee options: bodega or deli. Often confused by non-New Yorkers, these two institutions bear only a superficial semblance to one another. A deli is going to have a soup and salad bar, often a table or two. It's where you go to get a pint of Ben & Jerry's, a protein bar, or a marked-up quart of milk. A bodega, meanwhile, is where you go to get lottery tickets, breakfast sandwiches, overpriced bananas, and, of course, the bodega cat staredown. Yeah, you could always grab a yogurt parfait at the deli, but it's usually the bodega for breakfast, with its griddle, its shrink-wrapped coffee cake, or, as a last resort, a pre-spread bagel, which is bound to suck in the way that bad bagels can only suck when you're in such close proximity to superlative bagels. If you have the extra three minutes, though, you can indulge in the bodega's culinary diamond in the rough: the egg and cheese sandwich, a folded omelette with a melty cheese center served on a proper New York kaiser roll.
The bodega-style cheesy egg fold
Getting the perfectly square fold of the egg isn't hard; the secret is thinning out the egg with a bit of water. Then, make sure to use a non-stick skillet and grease it extremely lightly using cooking spray, so you can swirl the egg in the pan the way you would a crêpe or blintz. You're only going to cook the egg on one side, then use the melty cheese to anchor the envelope fold so it fits perfectly in your kaiser.
For the cheese, I recommend sliced cheddar. The bodega version invariably uses American, and this is, indeed, a classic application thereof. Cheddar is plenty melty, though, and upscales your sandwich just a bit.
About the kaiser roll
The kaiser roll is the standard New York-area deli sandwich roll, which is to say, the default option—except for subs, which by definition get sub rolls, or pastrami, which obviously gets rye. You should be able to find a replica (of varying quality) at a supermarket bakery, and possibly a good version at a bakery bakery. Or, you can make your own, as pictured. If you're not in the mood for heroic kitchen adventures, my top choice for substitution would be a toasted English muffin. A challah roll would also work nicely.
P.S. If you're an expat New Yorker in need of a We Are Happy to Serve You cup, you can actually buy a ceramic replica, complete with the paper crease! That's mine in the photos.
Bodega Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich
- 10" (25 cm) non-stick skillet
- 1 kaiser roll - see note for recipe and substitutions
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp water
- generous pinch salt
- 1 thin slice of cheddar cheese
- cooking spray
- Start off by slicing your roll, toasted it if you like (for a kaiser, I would toast cut side down on a hot skillet).
- Crack the egg into a glass measuring cup. Add the water and salt and beat very well with a whisk or fork.
- Spray the skillet very lightly with cooking spray. Turn the heat on medium and let the skillet heat up for a minute.
- Pour the beaten egg from the measuring cup into the hot skillet. Immediately swirl the pan to coat the entire bottom in a thin layer of egg. The egg will begin to cook almost immediately.
- Place the slice of cheese in the center of the egg. Cook until the cheese begins to melt, another 30 seconds or so.
- Using a spatula, gently nudge one edge of the egg so that it's folded over one side of the cheese slice.
- Fold in one side and then the other, "catching" the egg in the melty cheese. Fold up the last edge so that the cheese is completely covered, envelope style.
- Place the square of egg on your bun and eat while the cheese is good and melty.