According to most accounts, cowboy breakfasts originated in the Wild West when Texas cattlemen gathered around to fuel their bodies for a long, rough day of riding and roping. Whether they ate next to a campfire or in a family farmhouse, the breakfast was hearty and full of protein to give them energy throughout the day. The term is now used to describe large breakfast spreads served throughout the country, and the menu items vary by region.
Eggs cooked in a variety of styles are central to cowboy breakfasts. Fried and scrambled eggs top the list, followed by three- or four-egg omelets filled with meat, cheese, vegetables and savory spices and flavorings. Before breakfast casseroles were conceived, a cowboy's first meal of the day often included hashes made from eggs, potatoes and meat.
Bacon, ham and traditional sage-infused breakfast sausage are commonly found on these breakfast menus. In some regions, chorizo or kielbasa replaces breakfast sausage. Pork-filled tamales and breakfast tacos with eggs, cheese and a variety of meats are also frequently part of morning cowboy meals. Upscale cowboy breakfast fare includes pork chops, chicken-fried steak, rib-eye steaks and beef tenderloin.
Breads and Grains
Fluffy buttermilk biscuits smothered in rich, country, milk gravy are a common offering, sometimes with sausage chunks in the gravy. Corn and flour tortillas as well as pancakes are on many breakfast menus designed for cowboys. The tortillas are served plain or dressed up with cheese, hot pepper sauce or salsa. Texas Toast, thick sliced white bread browned to perfection, is a good complement to the other foods.
Fruits and Vegetables
Although authentic cowboys had little access to citrus fruits, there were plenty of apples and pears available. These fruits were often transformed into compotes by frying them with a little sugar in hot bacon drippings. Simple fried pies with fruit fillings are still part of many cowboy-style breakfasts. Besides home fries and hash browns, hot and mild peppers, garlic and onions are popular components in breakast feasts. Slow-cooked pinto beans topped with piquant pico de gallo is an ideal cowboy-inspired breakfast side dish.
Hot, strong black coffee jump-started the day for early cowboys. These days, rowdy cowboy breakfast diners have been known to spike their coffee with a bit of brandy or whiskey. Modern cowboy breakfasts still include coffee but tea and hot cocoa are also offered. Another beverage offered at contemporary cowboy morning repasts is juice, a drink few original cowboys had the pleasure of enjoying.
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