Food & Drink

Big Bad Breakfast Egg Bake

Chef John Currence’s ultimate one-dish breakfast

Photo: Ed Anderson

Chef John Currence is a believer in the power of the morning meal. At his Big Bad Breakfast restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama, the New Orleans native awakens diners with plates of eggs with Andouille sausage and grits, pain perdu, and a behemoth known far and wide as the Pylon—a mountain of griddled hot dog, chili, slaw, cheese, onions, and jalapenos heaped on top of a waffle. Now, with his new cookbook, Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day, the James Beard Award­–winning chef is spreading the gospel of a made-from-scratch breakfast to home cooks everywhere. “We’re told our whole lives that breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Currence says, “but we don’t ever treat it with that sort of respect.”

In his trademark unfiltered (and sometimes a bit salty) voice, Currence aims to change that, beginning with his breakfast commandments—“Thou shalt slather with butter,” for instance, and “Try the yolk runny, people.” His recipes are playful, too, from homemade pop tarts to sausage cinnamon rolls to a spicy michelada paired with a shot of tequila, a combo that saved him after a particularly long night in Mexico (“I might not be here today if it hadn’t been for that drink that morning,” he writes). Want to try your hand at one of his standbys? The Big Bad Breakfast Egg Bake highlights one of the chef’s favorite tricks—pile all ingredients into a single bowl. You could even call it slightly healthy since it’s baked and not fried, and it’s sure to feed your soul over the long weekend. “I love the idea of a one-pot meal where you just dive in,” he says. “The flavors of bacon, eggs, and grits are in each bite.”

“In an attempt to create something that was arguably ‘healthy,’ we came up with this little gem. It is a wonderful spoonful of everything that’s great about breakfast, but baked, rather than fried. (Keep in mind that the public perception of health and actual healthiness, as far apart as that can be, makes serving a ‘healthy dish’ both a challenge and a great sleight of hand.) We use a tinned Charlotte mold for this dish, but an 8-ounce, ovenproof ceramic cup works just as well.” —John Currence.


  • Big Bad Breakfast Egg Bake

    • 1 slice whole wheat bread

    • 1/4 cup diced country ham or cooked bacon (chopped into 1/4-inch bits)

    • 1/4 cup Garlic Cheese Grits (recipe below)

    • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

    • 1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs of your choosing

    • 2 eggs

    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

  • Garlic Cheese Grits

    • 2 cups whole milk

    • 2 cups chicken stock

    • 1 cup stone-ground grits

    • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

    • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. For the egg:

    Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 10-ounce Charlotte mold or an 8-ounce ceramic ovenproof cup with nonstick spray.

  2. Toast the bread and cut into two 3-inch rounds. Place one toast round in the bottom of the cup, followed by half of the ham, half of the grits, and a pinch each of the Parmesan, cheddar, and herbs. Add another layer of toast, followed by the remaining ham and grits, and a pinch each of the Parmesan and cheddar. Crack the eggs over the top, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and cheeses. Place the cup on a small baking sheet and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the visible egg whites are just cooked, about 8 minutes. If you like your eggs completely set and hard, bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

  3. Serve immediately. (Serves 1)

  4. For the grits:

    Combine the milk and stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the grits and salt. Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the grits are tender and cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the butter, Parmesan, and garlic until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or hold warm for up to 30 minutes and serve. (Serves 4-6)

    NOTE: If the grits sit for very long (longer than about 30 minutes), they will get stiff. Just add a little warm milk, water, or stock, and stir until well blended. Taste for seasoning each time you add more liquid. By following this method, you can bring grits back to life hours after cooking them without compromising their integrity.

Recipe and text reprinted with permission from Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day by John Currence, copyright © 2016. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.