Wednesday, April 15, 2009

easy like (easter) sunday morning

Dan and I spent Easter at our friends Mike and Johanna's new apartment in Brooklyn Heights. We, and a few other friends, ate doughnuts and the gorgeous Spanish tortilla you see above in their sunny living room until the sun actually started to set and we wondered where the whole day went. It was the nicest Sunday afternoon I've spent in a long time, and a perfect example of how to feed a group of friends without making yourself crazy.

Everything was delicious, a perfect ratio of homemade and store-bought stuff. I brought a salad and Mike made the tortilla: puffed and golden layers of egg and onion and potatoes, cut into wedges. There were also bagels, cream cheese, and lox, and completely over-the-top doughnuts from Doughnut Plant. People helped themselves to a big pitcher of bloody Marys and Jo poured (and poured) mimosas.

Later in the afternoon there was a giant chocolate Easter egg from Jacques Torres that we cracked open with a wooden spoon. It took many tries, which I think was more of an indication of the cocktails consumed, not our communal strength.

And out came a little chicken! And an egg! Aww.

Even though this might have been the largest gathering Mike and Jo have had in their admittedly small (Mike called it a "view with a room") studio, they were not flustered in the least. The food and drinks seemed totally effortless on their part, although I know it never really is. I think part of the reason it looked so easy is because they did some careful shopping along with a little cooking.

You don't have to make everything from scratch. Sometimes you feel tremendous, irrational pressure to put out a fabulous spread and cook everything yourself. At least I know I do. And sometimes you're in the mood to cook up and storm and it's fun. And sometimes you don't want to cook at all and just order in. All of which are fine options--well, not option A, but it happens. So save yourself the angst and do a little of both: cooking and shopping. Everyone will think the meal is wonderful, and more importantly, that you're wonderful.

Having a killer view doesn't hurt either.

Easter brunch at Mike & Jo's
Bloody Marys
Spanish tortilla
Bagels with lox, cream cheese, tomato, and red onion
Assorted doughnuts
Arugula with pears, endive, and hazelnuts
Humbolt Fog cheese
Chocolate Easter egg

Spanish tortilla
This was so good. And it's so smart for brunch because you can serve it warm or at room temperature. Not to mention that it feeds a crowd for next to nothing. Mike says: I used two skillets of about the same size for this, but it could be done using just the one, especially if it's non-stick. Your skillet needs to be large (the size of the tortilla) and fairly deep, about 2 to 3 inches.
(Serves about 8 people)

8 eggs
1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 or 2 onions, roughly chopped (depending on how oniony you'd like it)
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Beat the eggs in a bowl. Season them with salt. Heat a frying pan with abundant olive oil and fry the potatoes. Turn them to try to brown both sides. Once the potatoes have browned a bit, add onions to the pan, stir. After 3 or 4 minutes, cover the pan to let potatoes get a little mushy, but keep stirring and flipping them so they brown and cook evenly (I didn't see any browning once I added the onions, so you'll probably want to brown them to the level you want before adding). When the potatoes break easily with a spoon, they're ready. Transfer the cooked potatoes and onions to the eggs, reserving the oil in the pan. Mix it up well. If necessary, add more oil to the pan. It doesn't have to be as much now as when cooking the potatoes, but you don't want sticking; if you're using two pans, well-oil the clean one now. Cook over low-med heat. When the pan is hot, add the mixture and quickly distribute it around pan. When the edges of the tortilla are hard but the center is still runny (around 5 minutes), it's time to flip it. Use a plate larger than the skillet of course and do it over the sink because a lot of eggy, juicy stuff will run over the edges of the plate. Transfer back to pan immediately to cook the other side. It will cook through in around 5 mins. That's it!

Alternatively, if you wanted to avoid flipping, you can just transfer the pan to the oven once you've poured your eggs/potatoes/onions back into it. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned. (I've never tried this version.)

Arugula with pears, endive, fennel, and hazelnuts
Although it's not really Latin at all, this salad is inspired by a recent dinner at Palo Santo, a very, very good Latin American restaurant in our neighborhood. I served it with a wedge of Humbolt Fog on the side, but you could crumble blue cheese into the salad instead.
(serves about 6 to 8 people)

For the salad:
3 pears, cut into 1/2 inch-wide slices
1/2 lemon, juiced
4 handfuls baby arugula, washed
2 endive, washed and sliced into 1/2 inch-wide slices
1 small head of fennel, washed and sliced into 1/2 inch-wide slices
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
3 Tbsp. grainy mustard
4 Tbsp. white wine or Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, toss the pears in the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. In a large bowl or on a large platter, arrange your greens and top with the pears. Sprinkle the nuts on top. To make the dressing, whisk the first three ingredients together until blended. Slowly whisk in the oil until it's emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad just before serving.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,
Anne introduced me to your blog and i LOVE IT! i host "family dinners" for my friends quite frequently and am always looking for new ideas - you've got some great ones!
Question: where did you find humboldt fog?!? i am always on the lookout but haven't yet found it!
be well,

Lisa said...

Hi Kate! Thank you so much--you made my day.

I find Humboldt Fog at a lot of cheese shops and specialty markets in Brooklyn near where we live (Union Market, Blue Apron, Bierkraft). Murray's also sells it:

I'm pretty sure you could also find it at Fairway, Whole Foods, or Zabars. It's worth the hunt!

The Single Gal said...

That sounds like it was a perfect day - and a killer meal. I'm going to re-enact it for some friends sometime soon!

Daniel said...

Between the tortilla, the donuts, and the bagels, I was carb-loading like I was running a marathon the next day. Of course, I did not run a marathon the next day. Instead, I took the day off work and got a massage. Thanks Mike and Jo for turning me into the Kobe beef of people.

Lisa said...

TSG: Glad you liked it! Hope your brunch turns out just as well. Be sure to stock up on doughnuts!

Daniel: Wahhh! I don't want to be married to Kobe! Hmmm...wait. On second thought, Kobe is pretty rich. But, no. No. L.A. is a terrible place to live. I definitely don't want to be married to Kobe.

ofifteen said...

Thank you for sharing the recipe, looks DELICIOUS

Lisa said...

0Fifteen: Thanks! It really was delicious--and Mike said it was a cinch to make.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lisa! I've picked up my humboldt fog and tonight I'm making your curry chickpeas and the salad you made in Philly. Cheers!

Lisa said...

Kate: Glad you found the cheese. Try some of it with honey--soo good. And please let me know how your dinner turns out!

Table Talk said...

Hey Lisa!
I am a huge arugula/rocket fan...looking forward to the first farmer's market days...still a few weeks away.
Love your blog!

Lisa said...

Thanks, Table Talk! Me too. Hopefully going to the market this weekend to see what's there.

Mike said...

Hey Lisa! It actually took me this long to visit your post, sorry... but what you said was so nice, thank you. It really was a perfect day, truly. We had such a great afternoon, and I'm glad you guys enjoyed it as much as we did. I'm happy to turn Dan into Kobe. I love Kobe. Looking forward to seeing you guys again soon! xox-Mike

Lisa said...

Mike: Aww...thanks for having us over! And for that gorgeous tortilla. Yum.


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