Sunday, December 27, 2015

Make The New Year Simple, Host a Brunch!

For the last few Christmases, I've hosted a small brunch for my immediate family (about 8 to 9 people).  It was born out of necessity--an event tucked into the few hours between opening gifts with my daughter in the morning and when we have to leave in the late afternoon to travel to my wife's family's gathering.

The first couple of years, we kind of went all out, with me and my father trying to pull off two kinds of quiche, home fries, baked ham, his famous "French Toast Casserole" (basically, a bread pudding) and a beautiful table spread.  To be honest, it was hectic, and always ended-up with too much food.

This year, I think we got it just right, and it occurred to me that it was so low-stress and delicious that it might just be great for those of you who spend New Year's Eve out on the town and would like something delicious to tuck-into with your friends the next morning, late morning of course, after catching-up on some sleep.

Here are the basic pointers:
  • Choose dishes that can be prepped the night before and finished quickly in the morning.
  • Choose dishes that can be cooked unattended in the oven or a slow cooker.
  • Choose dishes that can be placed on a buffet so guests can help themselves.  This saves time setting the table and gets the food out faster while it's still hot.
  • Choose dishes that still taste great at room temperature.

Here are some dishes that have worked well for us:

English Muffin Toasting Bread - This bread is incredibly easy to cobble-together and it's a hit at whatever party I bring it to.  When it is sliced and toasted-up, it tastes exactly like English Muffins.  Since it's a batter-style yeast bread, there's no kneading and forming involved.  Just toss the ingredients into a stand mixer, let it do the hard work, then scrape it into a bowl, let it rise, and pop it into the oven.

I like to bake it days or weeks ahead of time and freeze a couple of loaves.  I then take them out the night before.  Serve toasted with Honey Butter (see below) and some quality fruit jams.  It also makes an interactive appetizer if you set out the loaves, cutting board, bread knife, and a toaster.  Guests can help themselves while you're getting the rest of the food out.

Honey Butter - If you want to make a dinner party or a brunch fancy without any work at all, serve this with the bread.  Take a stick of unsalted butter and beat it smooth with an electric mixer.  Add a couple of tablespoons of honey and a pinch of salt to taste (seriously...just taste it with a spoon).  Scoop it into a custard cup, top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate indefinitely.  Let it sit out at room temperature before serving for soft whipped butter.

Baked Egg Frittata/Casserole - This is the easiest and quickest way to get both the eggs and the meat onto the menu.  To save time, crack the eggs into a jar or plastic container in advance and chop all of the vegetables and meat and store in zip bags.

To Make:  Crack a 12 eggs into a mixing bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of milk and beat thoroughly with a fork or whisk.  Chop 3/4 pound of kielbasa, baked ham, or breakfast sausage.  You can also use leftover turkey, beef, pork or even deli meat.  Chop 6 to 8 oz of frozen broccoli.  Finely mince 1 small onion.  Dice 8oz of cheese (American, Jack, Cheddar, or or similar). Quarter 1 pint of cherry tomatoes. 

In a frying pan, sweat the onion until they soften.  Add the meat to warm through (if using cooked meat) or brown (if using raw meat).  Add the broccoli to warm through.  Grease the bottom of a 13x9 glass baking dish.  Layer in the hot ingredients, followed by the cheese, then tomatoes.  Pour the egg mixture over the other ingredients and work-out any air pockets with a fork.  Bake at 375 degrees until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 30-40 minutes.

Dutch Baby Puffed Pancakes - This is a great way to get something like pancakes on the table fast and it has the added advantage of being unique and impressive when it comes out of the oven.  They're essentially large popovers that taste like a cross between a French crepe and an American pancake.  Serve slices with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Cinnamon sugar works well, also.

I recommend mixing the batter the night before and storing it in a sealed plastic container in the fridge.  It will actually rise and brown better than batter made fresh (see the science here).  Make one Dutch Baby for every 4 to 5 people, so you may need two pans.  The Alton Brown recipe above is baked for roughly the same time and temperature as the Fritatta, so they can be baked together.  Just have separate timers on-hand.

Beverages - Have coffee set-up and ready to brew the night before so you can just press the button.  Put the brewer right onto the buffet if you can with mugs, cream, and sweeteners.  Set-out a thermos pot with hot water and tea bags or an electric kettle if you have one.  Juice is nice for those who don't drink coffee or tea and packets of hot cocoa mix would be great for kids with fresh mini marshmallows or a can of whipped cream.

Granola & Yogurt - Homemade or good quality store-bought Granola (such as Cascadian Farms) with milk and a fancy bowl of quality yogurt make for a great offering if you want to do less cooking or you want lighter fare.  I recommend using Whole Milk plain organic yogurt (Such as Stonyfield or Brown Cow), as it tends to be creamer and less tart (and thus, more decadent and special).  Instead of buying Vanilla flavored yogurt, try sweetening plain yogurt with real Maple Syrup.

Fresh Fruit - A fruit salad or sliced fresh melon is nice.  You could also just set out a bowl with bananas and Clementine oranges.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome comments. However, please be courteous of others when commenting. I always reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.