Big Bad Breakfast: book review and a recipe for Bacon Onion Jam


Our in-house tasters went nuts when Big Bad Breakfast by John Currance dropped through the mail slot.

Breakfast is their favorite meal. Big is their favorite size of food. And if by “bad” you mean pork and fried foods, cat’s head biscuits (“big as a cat’s head!), butter (and plenty of it), well then, hot dog! Which is also bad for you.

And by “bad,” we mean “good.”

But before we get ahead of ourselves, you need to know that in addition to being a book, Big Bad Breakfast is a place – one of several restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, owned and operated by Currance. And Currance is not just a guy slinging grits in the South, lest you confuse “home-style” with “careless.” He’s a James Beard “Best Chef,” and a Southern Foodways Alliance “Guardian of the Tradition” award winner. His food is the real thing, prepared with skill and imagination and served up hot and hearty on big plate.

So what can you expect in Big Bad Breakfast? Shrimp and Grits? Crawfish Etouffee? Too easy, but they’re in there. How about the Fried Chicken Cathead (no cats were harmed in the preparation of this chicken-and-egg breakfast sandwich), and the Pylon (a chili-dog /waffle extravaganza)? Or Peanut Butter and Banana Pancakes (plus chocolate chips, plus baby marshmallows plus whipping cream)? Sausage Cinnamon Rolls, which are exactly what they claim to be. Or a Falling Down Brown Cow, which if you’re old enough to know what a “Brown Cow” is (a Coca-Cola or root beer float), you’re old enough to enjoy with a shot of bourbon.

If you love breakfast, or you love someone who loves breakfast – even if you hate breakfast – you should buy this book; it’s that much fun.

And just sayin’ – if Santa were to leave this book under the tree, your family would have the best Christmas morning breakfast, ever



“…it goes just as well on grilled meat as it does on a biscuit.”

Reprinted with permission from Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence, copyright © 2016. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.”

Cook’s notes in italics.

Makes about 4 cups

  • 2 cups diced bacon
  • 1 gallon thinly sliced sweet yellow onions (about 3-pounds, or 7 baseball-size onions)
  • ¾-cup thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 4 cups white wine
  • 1-cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½-cup bourbon
  • ½-cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 bay leaves
  • ½-teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1-teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2-teaspoons dried thyme
  1. In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring until the onions are soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the vinegar, bourbon, brown sugar, bay leaves, black mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and thyme, stirring to combine. Turn the heat to low and simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. (After 20 minutes, the mixture may still be pretty soupy; crank up the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid is gone. This took me another 15 minutes.)
  5. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and pour the jam into jars and refrigerate for up to 8 weeks.


The Best Easy Tomato Sauce


Late season tomatoes.

Too big, too ugly, too soft. Too many. And really, really cheap.

So: you’ve picked up 20 pounds of super-ripe tomatoes for a song. Now what?

If you like tomato preserves, lucky you – a standard recipe will set you back 10 pounds of tomatoes, and now you only have ten more pounds of tomatoes to get rid of.

If you can them or freeze them, you’ll have to peel them.

But if you have a food mill (I got mine at a yard sale for a buck) tomato sauce is quick and easy, besides being cheaper and better tasting than store-bought.

And – bonus! – you can make good use of the elderly carrots, flaccid celery, odd ends of onions and the ziplock bag of leftover crudites from your last dinner party, awaiting the long, lonely ride to the composter.


There’s no need to peel or seed anything (except the onions). After a long simmer, the food mill sorts it all out for you, leaving behind a heap of fibers, papery tomato skins, and a big pot of smooth, brilliantly red sauce.

Carrots add a little sweetness and enhance the gorgeous tomato-red color of the sauce, the tomato paste dials up the distinctive flavor of fresh tomatoes, and the remaining vegetables add depth and interest. It’s the best tomato sauce you’ll ever use.

And: don’t season the sauce – not even salt. Later you can season it for Italian, Indian, or Latin American dishes – whatever presents itself when you’re ready to cook.




You’ll need an 8-quart pot, and a food mill.

No need to be too precise with the measurements or the ingredients. As long as you start with 10-pounds of tomatoes, everything else will pretty much fall in line.

If you’re feeling especially lazy, you may skip the part where you soften the vegetables in the olive oil. Omit the olive oil and toss everything except the tomato paste into the pot, then take it from Step 6.

  • 10 pounds whole tomatoes, washed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions (14 ounces/400 grams) – peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 carrots (8 ounces/225 grams) – scrubbed or peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery – scrubbed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (any color, any size), washed and seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can tomato paste
  1. Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large, 8-quart pot.
  2. Peel and coarsely chop the onions. Add them to the olive oil, and stir occasionally, cooking for about 5 minutes until they start to become translucent.
  3. Add the cloves of smashed garlic; stir
  4. Scrub (or peel) the vegetables and chop coarsely. Stir them into the pot with the garlic and onions.
  5. Wash and core the tomatoes; chop them into large hunks and add them to the 8-quart pot.
  6. Bring the tomato-vegetable mixture to a simmer; cover and cook until everything is very, very soft – about an hour.
  7. Run the tomato mixture through a food mill – the sauce will be watery – then return it to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste.
  8. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, uncovered, until it is reduced to a consistency you like.
  9. Pour into containers, label and freeze.