Tuesday, November 18, 2008

dinner on the cheap: brunch

Yeah, I know. Brunch isn't dinner. When I was a kid, sometimes my mom would make eggs and bacon for dinner, which always seemed exciting for some reason, but that's not what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about having people over for brunch instead of dinner. It's a great alternative for lots of reasons, especially cost-wise. A dozen eggs can cheaply feed a lot of people—at least six or more, depending on whether you're making them sunny side up or in a quiche. Don't like eggs? Brunch-y baked goods like pancakes and waffles are equally affordable when made from scratch, although they can be a bit more time-consuming. That's why I'm in the egg and bacon camp.

Still not sold?

--Brunch is inherently more casual. Which can be extra nice for people with kids or people who aren't into cocktail parties.
--There are less courses, meaning less money and clean-up.
--Usually, brunch isn't as much of a time commitment as dinner. A few hours, tops.
--Brunch is a good alternative for a non-drinking crowd, but if your guests are into drinking, you can serve mimosas, bloody marys, or seabreezes.

--You (and your guests) have to wake up early.
--You need to serve coffee. Or tea. Or anything with caffeine. Otherwise you might have a group nap on your hands.
--Brunch doesn't have as much of a dress-up, special occasion feel.

Mainly, though, it's a nice kick-off to the weekend. A homemade morning meal puts everyone in a good mood and then leaves you the rest of your day to do whatever you want.

A few weekends ago, my friend Amanda came over for brunch. We ate eggs, caught up on each other's lives, and then went on our merry, separate ways to the gym. There's something really satisfying about making time for friends without it being a big production. Sure, we could have gone to a restaurant, but it was nicer to linger in the living room rather than being stared down by a hungry line of brunch-goers waiting for a table.

Brunch for Amanda
Mushroom and parmesan frittata
Spicy roasted potatoes
Fruit salad with yogurt and almonds

Mushroom and parmesan frittata
If you don't like mushrooms, you can substitute any type of sauteed greens, tomatoes, or cubed, roasted potatoes. You can also use any other type of cheese.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)

3 tablespoons butter
4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used criminis, or baby bella mushrooms)
1 Tbsp. thyme
6 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan
pinch of salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and thyme and sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cheese, salt, and pepper until combined. Drain any liquid from the mushrooms, patting them dry with a paper towel, if needed. Add the mushrooms to the egg mixture. Pour the mushroom-egg mixture back into the skillet (make sure it is oven-proof) or into a 9-inch ovenproof casserole dish. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the frittata is puffed and golden around the edges and slightly soft in the center. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Spicy roasted potatoes
This recipe came together sort of spontaneously--I had potatoes, tomatoes, and an onion in the fridge, all of which went into a roasting pan, creating a spicy, savory version of hash browns.
(serves 4 people)

1 lb. fingerling potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, whole
1 onion, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
pinch salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place the vegetables in a roasting pan, and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle on the red pepper flakes, paprika, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes, then toss the potatoes, and bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until they are browned and soft inside. Add a sprinkle of coarse salt and serve hot.


Daniel said...

"What is brunch?"

"It is not quite breakfast, it is not quite lunch, but there is a slice of cantelope on the side. You will love it."

Paulita said...

I need to stop reading your blog when I am hungry

Megan and Butch! said...

Is there any situation the The Simpsons cannot provide an appropriate quote for? Funerals, weddings, blog comments -- a memory for episodes of the Simpsons is better than a book of Bartlett's quotations.

I now have a terrible, hobbitlike craving for eggs and mushrooms.

Anonymous said...

i like the idea of brunch and I like your frittata recipe.

Maggie said...

I am all about brunch. Important to find recipes that multiply well—making thousands of pancakes is NOT fun. Frittatas are great, and baked french toast works too.

Lisa said...

Thanks guys! Glad everyone's so into brunch. I need to do more daytime dinner parties, I think.

Dewi said...

Sometimes I like to have people over for brunch, especially friends that have very young children, but I myself, prefer having them for dinner actually.

Your dishes"Mushroom and parmesan frittata, Spicy roasted potatoes, and Fruit salad with yogurt and almonds", sounds like a delicious dish for brunch.

Vanessa said...

We had a brunch party last week for T's bday and it was awesome. I hardly had to do anything and since everyone likes to bring a little something, it turned into a ridiculous feast! I was skeptical but Trevor knew all along it was the way to go.

What I'm most impressed with is that you went to the gym afterwards. Brunch can be kind of devastating sometimes.

Lisa said...

Thanks, Elra!

Vanessa: I saw photos of your brunch--that fruit basket cake looked crazy!

lil miss dubin said...

Totally trying the frittata. I figure it's a losing proposition to start eating right now, as the holidays approach, so I figure I can eat cheese with abandon for another six weeks or so.

Cheryl said...

I am hosting a brunch tomorrow for a baby shower! I am contributing goat cheese and pear tarts that i just got off of Design* Sponge blog, and I am making up a recipe for stuffed french toast. As long as it is successful I will post that on my blog and you can steal it if you want. Do you ever do any raw food? I have been expirimenting with that some too.

Lisa said...

Hi Cheryl--yes, I saw that recipe and it looks great!

I haven't really ventured into the raw foods world beyond different types of salads--maybe something I should try?

Good luck with your shower!

ellen said...

I am a huge proponent of brunch parties -- this is especially great for having and dealing with a larger crowd. And it's perfect for hosting your extended family.

ellen said...

Oh! And I forgot to mention -- "egg casserole" type dishes (frittas, stratas, etc.) are great because they often need to be prepared the night before. The last "big brunch" I had, I served two dishes that needed this type of preparation (a strata and a french toast casserole ... I think, lol). It was so easy to wake up the next morning, pop those dishes in the oven, get the coffee started and then focus on the quick, easy dishes that needed to be prepared that morning.

Brunch can also be great when you feel pressured to "assign" people dishes to bring. So much better than other types of parties where I usually want to coordinate everything, and I feel too guilty anyway, to ask. People often want to bring SOMETHING, and it's great to just ask people to bring some sort of juice, champagne for mimosas, or a fruit salad (that's what my mom always offers to bring) ... that type of thing.

Can you tell I love brunch? Thanks for the great post :o)

Lisa said...

Hi Ellen!

Totally agree with you about everyone being able to bring something. It's hard for me to do that because I always want to make EVERYTHING, but I am trying to be better about that. And brunch is a fine place to start.

Nancy Rothstein Photography said...

First, yes...bacon..here, here. As a fully recovered vegetarian I do not miss the significance of a meal where bacon is at home.

Second, I love your brunch suggestions. I personally love to add cardamom to my pancakes or french toast...I think you would love it too!

Jennifer said...

My friends and I have done a holiday brunch for the past three years--- it's the perfect way to get everyone together because we all have such busy evening schedules with company holiday parties and family gatherings. We were also sold on the brunch idea because most brunch dishes can be served room temperature, so you can lay it out buffet style and allow it to be an open house with a window of time people can come over. My favorite dishes to make are strata (very versatile because you can do anything you like between the layers of bread and egg) and baked french toast. Both of these dishes are prepared the night before so you can just pop them in the oven the next morning. This post reminded me how much I love brunch! I strongly suggest if you are timid about hosting dinner parties you try a brunch and see how it goes- a good way to get your feet wet with casual entertaining.

Lisa said...

Hi Nancy & Jennifer!

I'm impressed with this outpouring of affection for brunch! Definitely a sign that there should be more recipes here...


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