When anthropologists of the future look back at the last half of the 20th century, they may give credit to McDonald’s for one thing above all else: inventing the breakfast sandwich.


Searching for a way to get customers through the doors in the morning hours, someone at the fast-food giant came up with the perfect solution. They took an English muffin, placed a muffin-shaped egg on top of it along with a slice of Canadian bacon and American cheese, and in a stroke of marketing genius called it an Egg McMuffin.


I hadn’t even heard of Canadian bacon before the Egg McMuffin made it famous.


Not only did McDonald’s profits skyrocket with the new product, but that also forced its competitors to come up with breakfast items of their own.


And thus the breakfast sandwich became a uniquely American tradition.


But you don’t have to go through the drive-thru to get a breakfast sandwich. They are easy to make at home, and relatively fast.


Breakfast sandwiches require a bread product of some kind, an egg, a breakfast meat (or none at all, as you shall see) and a few complementary ingredients for added flavor.


The variations are endless; you are limited only by your imagination.


Unfortunately, my imagination turns out to be rather limited. So I made six breakfast sandwiches, all based on familiar flavor combinations and ideas. Maybe I added a twist or two, but these recipes are meant to inspire you to create your own breakfast sandwiches.


Unless, like me, your imagination is running a little low. Then you might want to try some of these recipes, because they are all excellent. That’s what happens when you stick to familiar flavor combinations and ideas.


Perhaps the most familiar is the Sunday-morning standby, bagels and lox. It’s a straightforward bagel-and-lox sandwich, with one of those twists: I added a scrambled egg.


Think of it as an Egg McLox Bagel Sandwich.


There is a trick to making it, though it is easy to master. Ordinary scrambled eggs would be too lumpy; when you pressed down on the top, they would squeeze out of the sides. The trick, then, is to make the egg flat.


It’s simple to do. Pour a beaten egg into a well-buttered, medium-hot skillet. Don’t let the egg spread too far. Cook without touching it until nearly all of the liquid on top is done. Use a spatula to fold the sides over toward the middle, and immediately place this flat egg on your sandwich.


My next breakfast sandwich is an even simpler twist on an equally familiar idea: avocado toast. The twist? Bacon. Remember how, a few years ago, everyone started saying that bacon makes everything better?


Bacon really does make avocado toast taste better.


I fried a couple of strips until they were crispy, crumbled them for ease of eating and sprinkled them over a piece of multigrain toast that I had slathered with smashed fresh avocado. I added some chopped tomatoes and red onion, a healthy squeeze of lemon and lots of flaky salt and pepper.


Bacon (or sausage, which is what I used) plays a key role in my next variation too, a breakfast burrito. This southwestern classic is more than just bacon and eggs (or sausage and eggs) in a tortilla.


First of all, you need beans. If you don’t have beans in a breakfast burrito, it just isn’t a breakfast burrito. I don’t know what it is, frankly. And you also need potatoes. Potatoes do more than merely add heft and filler to the burrito; they add a satisfying depth to the flavor, an underlying foundation on which the other ingredients can be built.


Don’t forget the salsa. The salsa is key. It provides the fresh bright top notes that play as a counterpoint to the potatoes.


Next up was a simply wonderful sandwich that is more of a surprise: I made an omelet pita. Which is to say I made an omelet and placed it in a pita.


It was a particularly good pita, which helped. (In contrast, the bagel I used for my Egg McLox Bagel Sandwich was particularly bad. Sometimes, it really helps to buy quality ingredients — or, in the case of the bagel, to avoid buying horrible ingredients.)


Into this pita paragon I placed what is probably my favorite omelet combination: mushroom, onion, asparagus and cheese. I loved this sandwich, which makes sense because it was, as I said, my favorite omelet. If you make your own favorite omelet, you will like it as much as I did.


Another vegetarian option was equally good — but then again, I used the same type of pita. I’m calling it an Israeli Salad Sandwich, because the heart of it is an Israeli salad. That is chopped tomato, cucumber, red bell pepper and scallion, tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.


This time, I added two twists. One is a chopped hard-boiled egg, to make it more breakfasty, and the other is hummus smeared on the inside of the pita before it is filled with the salad.


It was bright-tasting and fresh, and remarkably refreshing. Try not to eat it too quickly; you’ll want to savor every bite.


My final breakfast sandwich is based on a classic diner dish that is perhaps more familiar. I made a Steak ‘n’ Eggs Baguette.


The steak ‘n’ eggs part is obvious. I cooked a steak, cut it into bite-size pieces and topped it with a sunny-side-up egg. I wanted the yolk to run all over the rest of the sandwich and down my chin.


Between the steak and the egg, I placed chopped tomatoes and sautéed onions, which added a lovely sweet-caramelized flavor. Shredded cheddar cheese went on top.


The twist here is the baguette part. Typically, a baguette has too much bread to make it of much use in a sandwich. So I used a technique from a French sandwich called a pan bagnat — I hollowed out the baguette before adding the other ingredients.


That trick yielded the perfect ratio of bread to steak ‘n’ egg, and made it easy to eat.


And was it amazing? How could it not be? It was steak and eggs. In a sandwich.


Somewhere at McDonald’s, someone is jealous.


Omelet Pita


1/2 tablespoon butter, plus more if needed


1/2 cup sliced onion


3 large (or 4 small) mushrooms, sliced


2 asparagus spears, bottom few inches discarded and the rest cut into 1/4-inch pieces


Salt and pepper


1/4 cup shredded cheese


2 eggs, lightly beaten


1 pita, cut in half


Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat, and add onions. Cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and asparagus, and cook until mushrooms lose their moisture, another 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove and keep warm.


Add more butter to skillet if needed. Season eggs with salt and pepper, add to pan and cook, pushing eggs to the middle with a spatula and turning and swirling the pan to fill the gaps until almost completely cooked. Add cheese to one half of the eggs and top that half with onion-mushroom-asparagus mixture. Fold the other half of the egg over that half and remove from heat.


Cut omelet in half and place each half inside half of the pita. Serves 1.


— Recipe by Daniel Neman


Avocado-Bacon Toast


1 slice multigrain toast


1/2 ripe avocado


1 slice bacon, crumbled


1/2 tablespoon chopped red onion


2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato


1 lemon wedge


Salt and pepper


Mash the avocado and spread it onto the toast. Sprinkle with bacon, red onion and tomatoes. Squeeze the lemon wedge over the top and season with plenty of salt — flaky salt, if you have it — and pepper. Serves 1.


— Recipe by Daniel Neman


Israeli Salad Sandwich


1/2 cup chopped tomatoes


1/2 cup chopped cucumbers


1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper


1 scallion, sliced thin


1 hard-cooked egg, chopped


Salt and pepper


1/2 tablespoon olive oil


1 wedge lemon


2 tablespoons hummus


1 pita


In a bowl, mix together tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, scallion and egg. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Add olive oil and juice from lemon wedge, and mix well. Spread 1 tablespoon of hummus on the inside of each half of the pita, and fill the pita halves with the mixture. Serves 1.


— Recipe by Daniel Neman


Egg McLox Bagel Sandwich


1 bagel, savory flavors only


1 tablespoon cream cheese


2 slices smoked salmon


1 slice red onion


1/2 teaspoon capers, optional


1/2 tablespoon butter


1 egg, beaten


Toast bagel if desired. Spread cream cheese on both cut sides of bagel, and top one side with smoked salmon, red onion and optional capers.


Melt butter in skillet (nonstick is best) over medium heat. Add beaten egg, trying to keep it from spreading too much in the pan. Gently cook without touching until the liquid on top is almost completely cooked. Fold up the sides toward the center until the egg is the approximate size of the bagel. Place the egg on top of the other ingredients, and top with the other half of the bagel. Serves 1.


— Recipe by Daniel Neman


Breakfast Burrito


2 slices bacon or 2 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) sausage


1 tablespoon butter, divided


1/2 cup potato cut into 1/2-inch dice


Salt and pepper


1/4 small or medium onion, sliced


2 eggs, beaten


1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained


1 flour tortilla


1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


1/4 cup salsa


Sour cream, optional


Cook bacon or sausage. Crumble bacon or cut sausage into small pieces. Clean pan.


Melt 1 teaspoon (1/3 tablespoon) butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add cubes of potato, sprinkle liberally with salt, cover and cook, tossing frequently, until potatoes are browned and cooked all the way through, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan.


Melt remaining 2 teaspoons (2/3 tablespoon) butter in pan and add onions. Cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, beans and cooked potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and scramble until eggs are almost done (they will continue to cook off the heat).


Place mixture on tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Spoon salsa on top and fold tortilla over to form a burrito. Top with sour cream, if desired. Serves 1.


— Recipe by Daniel Neman


Steak ’n’ Egg Baguette


3 (5-inch) pieces of baguette


1 tablespoon butter, divided


1/2 medium onion, sliced


1 (8-ounce) steak


Salt and pepper


1/2 cup shredded cheese, optional


1/2 tomato, chopped


3 eggs


Slice the baguettes in half and hollow them out.


Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they turn a light brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.


Season the steak with salt and pepper and cook to your desired level of doneness. Allow to rest a couple of minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces or smaller. Divide steak pieces among lower baguette halves. Top with cheese if desired, onions and pieces of tomato.


Melt remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Gently crack eggs into pan, season with salt and pepper, and fry or cook sunny-side up so that the yolk is runny. Trim eggs and place in each sandwich; cover with top piece of baguette. Serves 3.


— Recipe by Daniel Neman