In the Bag
Breakfast Grub for the Troops Upgraded for Brunch
Like most young men eligible for service, my father tried to enlist in the military during World War II. But he failed the physical and wound up joining the Merchant Marines. After completing Cooks and Bakers School, he shipped out with a convoy of military and supply ships that were at sea for months at a time. This meant preparing three meals a day for the 50-man crew, with very little fresh fruit or vegetables. Most of the staples were salt-cured meats and canned or dried fruits and vegetables. This, in my father’s words, led to some very creative but not necessarily good meals.
My brothers and I, when we were around 10 or 11 years old, read my father’s handwritten recipes and, as would most kids, we found the quantities of ingredients—such as 50 pounds of flour and 25 pounds of sugar for a cake—really cool. We could only imagine a cake that big.
One of the notebooks contained a recipe that intrigued us because of the name. We laughed every time we read “Eggs in a Duffel Bag.” We knew what a duffel bag was, but we couldn’t make the connection to eggs. The name, it turns out, came from some unknown sailor who not only thought the dish looked like a duffel bag but also found it practical because it could be picked up and carried if a battle situation broke out during breakfast.
As an adult, I tried the original Eggs in a Duffel Bag recipe from my dad’s notebook—scaled down of course—and found it dry, tough, flavorless and greasy. And I used fresh ingredients where my father had to use powdered eggs, dried milk, Spam and lard! Nonetheless, I was still fascinated with the idea and played with this recipe off and on for years. My final version of Eggs in a Duffel Bag is not only delicious, but it remains true to the original concept; should you need to, you can pick it up and carry it with you. Of course, I use frozen pastry sheets, fresh eggs, fresh vegetables, good smoked meats and other ingredients my father could only have imagined.
—By Roy Creekmore
—Photography by Paul Skrentny
—Photography by Paul Skrentny
Eggs in a Duffel Bag
1 box frozen puff pastry
½ medium onion, diced
¾ cup diced sweet peppers, any color you like
4 slices smoked bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, your choice
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled All-purpose flour for rolling the pastry dough
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Thaw one sheet of puff pastry according to instructions. Place the diced onions, peppers and bacon in a small bowl and mix to combine. Mix 6 eggs in a medium bowl and add the chopped herbs. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion, pepper and bacon mixture and cook for about 3 minutes or until the onions are transparent. Add the egg and herb mixture and cook while stirring gently until partially cooked, about 3 minutes. Add the crumbled goat cheese and continue cooking while stirring to combine. Stop cooking the eggs while they are still wet and not completely cooked. Remove them from the heat and place them in a bowl to stop the cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly mix the remaining egg with the tablespoon of water in a small bowl and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll the thawed pastry dough into a rectangle about 12 inches by 10 inches. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking pan large enough to hold the sheet of dough. Place the dough on the parchment. Spread enough of the cooked egg mixture on the dough to cover the middle third of the dough lengthwise. Notch the dough at either end so you can fold the ends over the eggs. Fold one side of the dough over the eggs. Brush the other side with some of the egg-water mixture and then fold that side over the first and seal the edges. You should have the egg mixture completely enclosed. Turn the complete “duffel bag” over so the seam side is down. Brush the entire top surface of the dough with the remaining egg-water mixture and cut three to four slashes across the surface at a slight angle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown all over. Remove from the oven, slice and serve warm. Serves two for breakfast or four for brunch with a salad.