Monday, February 1, 2010

stress-free sunday brunch

Making brunch is all about choosing your battles. If you pick wisely, you will triumph. I'm talking about making a Dutch baby (yes) over pancakes (no), scrambled eggs (yes) over omelets (no), coffee cake (yes) over made-to-order crepes (uh, no). My philosophy is: you just got out of bed, go easy on yourself.

A few weeks ago we invited two of Dan's former co-workers along with their partners and their little girls over for Sunday brunch. I've written before about not quite knowing what to do with kids, especially what to feed them, but luckily, both moms came prepared with snacks and toys and a whole bag of tricks, as moms do. An important thing I learned is that when you offer new parents the choice of mimosas, beer, tea, or coffee, they all want coffee. Which makes complete sense. I also learned that one-year-olds like mini bagels.

For the grownups, there were scrambled eggs, lox spread and the aforementioned mini bagels, coffee cake, the prettiest citrus salad I have ever made, special pastries from a Greek bakery, and a little something called candied bacon. Can you guess what everyone liked the best? (Hint: the bacon.)

The recipe is dangerously simple: you take your favorite plain old bacon and sprinkle it with a mixture of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and ground black pepper. Bake the strips in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, flip the strips over and cover the other side with the spicy sugared topping, then bake for about 20 more minutes. The bacon emerges from the oven with a deep red, sticky, caramelized glaze. And it is as delicious as it sounds.

Another brunch trick to keep in your back pocket: homemade lox spread. It's a step up from plain cream cheese and a little more surprising than the traditional lox-capers-red onion-tomato platter you serve with bagels. All you have to do is chop up some smoked salmon (about four ounces) into tiny pieces and mix it into eight ounces of softened cream cheese, maybe add a handful of chopped chives. Mound it into a pretty bowl and serve with toasted bagels.

I was very pleased with how this brunch turned out, although as I've noticed before, the food is totally secondary when you've got cute kids running and crawling around the room, gumming mini bagels and doing other adorable things. But candied bacon and a mimosa won't hurt.

Sunday brunch for six (plus two)
Coffee and mimosas
Scrambled eggs with sour cream and chives
Candied bacon
Lox spread with mini bagels
Citrus salad
Big crumb coffee cake

Candied bacon
Gourmet calls this recipe "sweet and spicy bacon" but I think candied bacon is more fitting. I found that the original recipe did not yield quite enough topping to cover all of my bacon, so I doubled the proportions below.
(Serves about 6 people)

1 1/2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
Rounded 1/4 tsp. cayenne
Rounded 1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. thick-cut bacon, about 12 slices (I cut mine in half, for more manageable pieces)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together brown sugar, cayenne, and black pepper in a small bowl. Arrange bacon slices in 1 layer (not overlapping) on rack of a large broiler pan. Bake 20 minutes. Turn slices over and sprinkle evenly with spiced sugar. Continue baking until bacon is crisp and deep golden, 20 to 35 minutes more (check bacon every 5 minutes). Transfer to paper towels to drain.


Margaret Pinard said...

That not only LOOKS fabulous (the jewel tones of the citrus), it also sounds delicious! And as my mind automatically does, I started thinking in terms of the four food groups- and you've got them all! My mom and the public school system would be proud. :)

The Single Gal said...

As always, I think you are brilliant. I've got a friend coming to stay with me next weekend and I'll be making this exact menu Sunday morning. Probably with a double order of that bacon!

Cold Cuts said...

Everything is making my mouth water.

Lisa said...

Margaret: Does candied bacon count as a food group? :)

TSG: Aw, thanks! I hope you and your friend enjoy it.

Julie: I admit, I salivated a bit at the photo of the bacon this morning. Made my granola bar breakfast look kind of sad.

baby crib said...

This really looks fabulous! I like it. I am always amazed with all your creations. Thanks for sharing.

Maggie said...

I love reading about your menus—brunch is one of the trickiest parties to have, since things MUST multiply well and not require too much attention. Yours is such a perfect plan. Also, that citrus salad is lovely.

Lisa said...

Baby crib: Thank you for reading!

Maggie: Thanks so much! I agree, a menu that doesn't require too much attention is definitely key.

Daniel said...

How come when the kids crawl around the room and gum their mini bagels it's considered "cute," but when I do it it's considered "weird"?

Paulita said...

I'm having a brunch at my house Sunday with a few girlfriends. We are all going to craft something :)

I am making the lox spread and candied bacon....

Lisa said...

Mme P: Fun! I know everyone will love both--but I promise the bacon will be the favorite. :)

Large Wall Mirrors Gal said...

It really looks tasty ! I like it. But for me it's too bad for my age. Thanks for sharing.

Large Wall Mirrors Gal said...

This is so YUMMY ! I like this recipe & every thing is under control.

rosiiieee said...

Lisa! Again, I turned to you for inspiration for my Saturday girls' bookclub brunch, and took the candied bacon and homemade lox recipes! My bacon shrunk up a lot, so instead of serving them on a plate, I served them in a tall glass (like breadsticks!). The girls all loved the finger-licking treat. As for the homemade lox, I loved that you kept in so simple - cream cheese, lox, chives. I found that using Whipped cream cheese is better than regular cream cheese - because it's lighter and makes it easier to fold the lox in. Again, such an easy thing to make, but makes a whole world's difference. Thanks Lisa!


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