Calcifer’s Breakfast Skillet


Inspired by the copious amounts of bread and cheese, and bacon and eggs, consumed in Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle, plus the inclusions of it in the Studio Ghibli film, here’s a tasty breakfast–or any time of day–combination! I decided to do this in a cast iron skillet because that’s what is used in the film! Onions are also included because they taste great in this dish, and because chopped onions feature in a scene in the book too. 😉

Calcifer’s Breakfast Skillet

  • 1 pkg. Thick Cut Bacon
  • 1/2 Large Onion, julienned
  • 1/2 Loaf Sourdough Bread Round
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 10 Eggs (plus 1 egg white, see below)
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (freshly shredded is best!)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Thinly Sliced Ham for biscuits (“Country Ham Biscuit Slices”)
  • 1 Egg White
  • Small Slice off the side of a tomato OR Red Bell Pepper (roasted or fresh)
  • Large Black Olive

Heat your oven to 350ºF. In an iron skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until done, but not too crispy. Drain the grease in between batches, reserving just a small amount. Place the bacon on a paper towel-lined plate, & then cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces.

Put a small amount of bacon drippings back into the pan & sauté the onions until just tender. Drain if needed & put the cooked onions with the bacon pieces off to the side.

Melt the butter in the pan. Slice & cut the sourdough into about 1″ chunks, & then lay them in the pan & coat them with the butter. Cook the pieces until slightly golden & toasted, & then turn off the heat. Position the bread pieces to cover the bottom of the pan.

In a bowl, whisk the 10 eggs with the milk, adding in salt & pepper to taste. Stir in the bacon pieces, onions, & 1/2 of the shredded cheese. Pour this mixture over the bread, & then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Cut the ham slices as needed & position them on top of the skillet to create Calcifer’s body. Slide into the oven & bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the egg is no longer runny or jiggly.

While the skillet is baking in the oven, melt a little bit of butter in a small clean pan (or use oil) & cook the egg white on low heat with the lid on. Once solid, but not browned, remove the egg & cut out 2 circles for Calcifer’s eyes. Place the eyes on Calcifer’s ham body when the skillet comes out of the oven.

Cut 2 small circles from the black olive & place them on the egg white circles to be Calcifer’s pupils. Cut a bowl shape/half circle from the tomato slice (make sure this slice is from the side of the tomato so that you have the smooth skin) or pepper slice, & place it for Calcifer’s mouth.

howls-moving-castle-skillet-slice Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 49: Howl’s Moving Castle

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Holidazzle Eggs

Dale: OK, for those who’ve just joined us, Katie is gonna show us how to make Holidazzle eggs at home. Now, Katie, I gotta admit.
Katie: What?
Dale: I was a little bit surprised when I first picked this up. This is an empty egg.
Katie: That’s right, Dale.
Dale: There was an egg in here, right?
Katie: Yeah.
Dale: OK, well, how do you…You don’t have an empty chicken somewhere that lays empty eggs?

–”FARGO”, 1996 film by Joel & Ethan Cohen

Right before as well as during the wife-kidnapping scene in the “Fargo” film, the TV is turned to a morning show and the hosts are talking about Holidazzle Eggs. One co-host describes them as “empty eggs” and makes a silly joke about empty chickens. The Holidazzle celebration is a real event in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, but I wasn’t able to find any information specifically linking the craft of blowing out eggs, or “empty eggs” as they said, to the occasion. As a child my mom, sister, and I would make these eggs for Easter, but, because they can be strung up like ornaments, they would be great for Christmas too.

Note: The above quote is from a transcript of the film, with the dialogue just as I remember it, but a script I found for the film which perhaps is from before the film was completed, has the host saying “So I separate the – how the heck do I get the egg out of the shell without breaking it?” and the hostess says “You just prick a little hole in the end and blow!”. So there you have a little more insight into what they’re talking about.

Holidazzle Eggs (AKA Empty Eggs)

  • 1 Raw Egg, room temperature (or however many eggs you’d like to make)
  • An Awl or Thumbtack or Pin
  • Ribbon or Floss
  • Craft Paint or Glitter Glue (or glitter + glue)

Shake the egg vigorously to break up the yolk & white inside. Over a bowl, carefully puncture one end of the egg with the pin or awl, creating a hole 1 – 2 mm in diameter. Flip the egg over & repeat this to the other end.

Gather your breath & blow hard into one end to expel the broken up yolk & white out of the opposite end & into the bowl, pulling any clump of white or membrane out at needed. Once you’ve gotten all of the innards out that you can, put some hot water into a separate bowl & place the egg into the water, bottom opening down, & suck in just enough to get some of the water into the shell. Lift the egg, close off the holes with your fingers, & shake vigorously to clean out the inside. Blow the water out into the sink & repeat until the inside is clean. Sit the egg aside over night to dry. Fry up the blown-out egg yolk & white to make scrambled eggs ’cause “you gotta eat a breakfast”.

Once the egg is dry, thread a needle with floss or thin ribbon & pull it through the egg to make it hangable. Paint the egg shell however you’d like, or use glue & glitter to make it dazzle!

Listen to the episode! Episode 28: Fargo

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Marketplace Tea Eggs


Some of my favorite scenes in Cinder took place in the market, where Cinder has her fix-it shop. I imagined crowded shops, charmingly messy displays, and lots of passersby. If you’re doing market shopping, you definitely need to keep up your strength with some market snacking, like some kids in the book who were munching on tea eggs. These are a classic Chinese street food, lightly salty and delicately flavored with spices and citrus. The striking spiderwebby pattern is lovely and interesting.

Tea Eggs

Recipe from Inn at the Crossroads

  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tea bags (black)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 3 strips orange peel

Place the eggs in a medium pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring ta boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the eggs (leaving the water in the pot) and let cool under cool water.

When cool enough to handle, gently crack the eggshells with the back of a teaspoon, being careful to keep the shell intact. The more you tap, the more intricate the marbled pattern will be.

Return eggs to the same pot with the boiling water and add in the soy sauce, sugar, tea bags, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and orange peel. Bring to a boil then immediate reduce to a very low simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes, then cover and let steep for a few hours minimum, ideally overnight.

Listen to the episode! Fiction Kitchen Episode 17: Cinder

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