Photo by Stacey Ballis

The secret is a cheese pocket

Stacey Ballis
September 24, 2018

Any New Yorker will tell you, one of the best morning treats available is a BEC, or a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, available at pretty much any deli or bodega you walk into. The premise is at once genius and simple: a large kaiser-style roll, known for its strange combination of soft interior and slightly chewy exterior, sometimes sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal; a slice or two of crispy bacon; a folded over slab of egg that has been cooked into more of a pancake than a scramble; and American cheese—all wrapped in parchment paper, then foil.

The wrapping lets the heat of the egg and bacon melt the cheese and steam the bread, and by the time you are settled wherever you are al-frescoing (or walking to), you have a sandwich that has melded into one cohesive, easily eaten one-handed breakfast. The egg patty doesn’t drip, like a fried egg would, or fall out in curds like a true scramble, the bacon is crispy, so it is easily bitten through, and doesn’t pull out of the sandwich, the bread isn’t a challenge since the crust is soft, but still provides pleasant chew.

There is not a thing wrong with a BEC, and often even a sort of mediocre one is terribly satisfying. But they do have an immediacy about them, and depending on the assembly, the one thing that can go a bit sideways is the cheese melting. Some places melt the cheese right on top of the eggs, but then by the time everything is assembled, you can get that plasticy skin on the top of the cheese. Mostly they just slap the cheese raw right on top of the eggs, but if the cheese is slightly too thick-cut or super cold, it doesn’t fully melt.

And then there is the problem of not living in New York—which a lot of us do not—but that should not keep the rest of us from the perfection of this breakfast sandwich.

Can you hack an awesome BEC at home? Of course! Kaiser roll, crispy bacon, egg patty, cheese, a child could do it. But could I maybe give it a bit of a home-cooked upgrade?

Yes. Melt the cheese inside the egg patty.

I figured I could make a large crepe-like thing out of the beaten eggs, as if I was going to make an omelette, and then place my slice of cheese slap in the middle, folding the edges over a bit at a time encasing the cheese in the egg, which starts the melting process immediately, and gives me essentially a round-ish omelette to pop onto my roll. You can even make a few ahead and store them in the fridge; a few seconds in the microwave revives them for a fresh sandwich in the morning.

Cooking the bacon on a rack in the oven makes for perfect all-over crispness. I also shifted to pancetta for the bacon part, because it comes sliced in lovely rounds which make for no sloppy bacon edges poking out (and also, I had it in the freezer). If you are using regular bacon, I recommend folding the slices in a wide V shape before cooking to make them fit a bit better on your roll.

Again, this isn’t so much a recipe as a technique. Beat two eggs well, and pour into a hot, buttered, smallish, nonstick skillet, and roll around to make a large sort of egg crepe. Place one slice of American cheese in the center and fold the egg crepe around it in about five or six sections to enclose the cheese. Cook for one more minute to melt the cheese, then put this on top of the cooked bacon situation of your choice on the roll.

If you are making a bunch to stash for the week, do them one after another in the pan, let cool on a plate, then store in individual zip-top bags, and reheat in a microwave on a plate next to your cooked bacon for 30-45 seconds before assembling sandwich. I don’t recommend assembling the whole sandwich and microwaving, as the roll will get rubbery.

And the next time you are in New York, forget the room service or fancy hotel breakfast and hit up that deli or bodega next to your hotel for a BEC and eat it on the street on your way to wherever you are going. There is no better breakfast.

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