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Breakfast Makeover

Breakfast often answered the question of what's for dinner in Braden Hitt's family.

It only follows that when the Oklahoma native became a chef, he gravitated toward breakfast, brunch and egg cookery in general.

"There's so much you can do with the egg," says Hitt.

Dreams of opening a breakfast restaurant lured Hitt, 40, to Medford from Portland several years ago. He lent his expertise to fellow chefs at Smithfields in Ashland and Elements Tapas Bar in Medford, devising some new dishes for their brunch menus.

"I've always worked brunch," says Hitt. "I like the early mornings."

Also a fan of local, sustainable agriculture, Hitt says wanted to open an eatery appealing to like-minded diners and filling the void between Medford's "greasy spoons" and "corporate stuff." When those plans didn't pan out, Hitt decided to take some time off from running kitchens. He has been using the break to show home cooks how to prepare beautiful brunches, among other mealtime spreads.

"These are the techniques that you can apply "¦ in your own home," says Hitt. "I find a real reward in teaching people how to cook."

An instructor for more than two years at Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, Hitt started hosting classes, many sold out, at Medford's Downtown Market Co. in January. He's expanding his concepts for brunch, Italian fare, tapas and uses for a whole chicken to Ashland Food Co-op during May, June and July.

"Each culture has its own take on breakfast," says Hitt, explaining that he favors savory — rather than sweet — ways of starting the day.

Portuguese-style eggs baked with peppers and onion was the most popular brunch recipe at a recent Downtown Market Co. class, he adds. The Middle Eastern dish shakshuka spices up eggs for breakfast or dinner. Crepes appeal at any meal if their classic sweet profile turns savory.

Taking a familiar dish in a new direction is Hitt's specialty. The Monte Cristo sandwich becomes French toast with prosciutto and a mustard-flavored cranberry compote, while eggs Benedict gets a makeover with homemade sausage, arugula and "perfect" Hollandaise for Hitt's Thursday, May 22, class at the Co-op.

"The students are involved," he says. "You'll make a dish or a component of a dish."

Each participant in Hitt's July 10 class gets a whole bird, furnished by Smart Chicken. Dishes using the legs and breast precede a lesson on making stock from the carcass, which Hitt says he often does after amassing remains from several chickens, kept frozen until he's ready to extract their essence in the stockpot.

"I think there's real value in buying a whole chicken," he says, adding that they're usually priced about $2 less per pound than cut-up chickens.

Classes in Italian and Spanish cuisines are set for Thursdays, May 29 and June 19, at the Co-op.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Motherís Day on a tray, the ultimate starter. Herb and Cheese Crepes With Lemon-Herb Butter. Illustrates FOOD-MOTHERS (category d), by Kathy Gunst, special to The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey) - The Washington Post