Monday, March 11, 2013

a tale of two brunches

I go a few weeks without posting and suddenly I have a backlog of recipes to tell you about! Although not of the dinner variety. Our house has been brunch party central recently and it got me thinking about cooking in the morning for people. Things like individual omelets or pancakes are best left to diner professionals. Don't go down that path. You really only have two courses of action if you don't want to run in the bathroom and hide before everyone's second round of mimosas.

Brunch game plan #1: Make-ahead everything
And I mean everything. Prep all your food the night before, so all you have to do is make yourself a cup of coffee, stick something in the oven and lay it all out for your hungry guests.

But brunch means eggs, you say. And don't eggs need to be cooked right before you eat them? Not necessarily! If you can't imagine brunch without something eggy, make a breakfast casserole, a frittata (just prep all the ingredients and leave them in a bowl in your fridge overnight, then cook the frittata in the morning), a one-pan French toast or do as I did a few weeks ago and bake a big, puffy, eggy strata.
A strata is essentially a savory bread pudding. And it's awesome for brunch because it's supposed to sit in your refrigerator overnight so the cubes of bread fully soak up the eggs, milk and whatever else you put in it. When morning rolls around all you have to do is pop it in the oven and let it bake (and perfume your house) before everyone arrives.

I worked off of a Smitten Kitchen recipe that called for spinach and lots of cheese. It puffed up so impressively high I had to remove a rack from my oven, so consider doing this beforehand. Also be sure to allot a little over an hour for it to bake, because my friends and I spent about 30 minutes poking the strata with a knife to see if it was still runny in the middle. It was a very, very large strata, as you can see.

More make-ahead favorites:
Granola with yogurt
Fruit salad
Muffins or quick breads
Homemade sausage patties (form them the night before, fry up on the day-of)

Brunch game plan #2: Big-batch stuff on the fly 
Maybe you don't want to serve brunch family-style. And that's okay. But you can still make single-serving dishes in big batches. For example, you can scramble or fry lots of eggs in one pan, bake eggs in little ramekins (don't overcook them!), make yogurt and granola parfaits in individual bowls or jars, or delicious open-faced cheese-prosciutto-egg sandwiches, like I did last weekend.
When I first saw the recipe for these sandwiches in Food + Wine, I was both turned on and intimidated. It had a few moving parts -- a frisee salad, bread toasted with butter and then a layer of cheese, a layer of prosciutto and a runny fried egg on top. None of these elements are complicated on their own, but timing and assembling everything for a large group seemed a little tricky.

But when I looked at the actual steps, it made complete sense. You make all the cheesy toasts at once on a sheet pan, and while they cook, you fry up the eggs. The salad can be tossed together ahead of time, and the prosciutto needs nothing more than to be draped over the toast. So it actually comes together in an efficient, not scary way. And, man, was it delicious. So. Good.

More single-serving dishes in big batches:

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and dill
Dutch baby

I suppose you have three courses of action if you want to buy bagels, cream cheese and lox at the store. That would be the easiest, and possibly most delicious way to go. Although it does not allow you the pride that comes with placing a mammoth homemade strata on the table.


Anonymous said...

Love this! Even though you don't post as often, I always return to your blog when I'm hosting a dinner party. Hope you're well, Lisa!
Kate (anne and colin's friend)

Daniel said...

If you're someone who can't imagine brunch without something eggy, you may puff up just as impressively as this stratta. Then again, who cares?

lil miss dubin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alice said...

I intend to make this tomorrow morning for brother- and sister-in-law! Thanks for the delicious/easy-sounding idea.

Lisa said...

Yay! Let me know how it goes :)

Alice said...

Turned out great! And you know what? So I served it for bro- and sis-in-law brunch with bagels, scones, fruit, yogurt. Turns out my folks are also stopping by for an early dinner, and I'm going to serve the leftovers with some kind of green veggie instead of brunch-y stuff on the side (maybe asparagus). To me this seems like it's not super weird for dinner -- rather European in fact. Thanks for this new standby! PS: For others, FYI: This recipe serves approximately 9 million.

Lisa said...

I know, right?? I actually froze some of it, experimentally, but it reheated quite nicely. I'm so glad brunch was a hit!


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