by Prof. Steve Holzinger
The holiday season is a great time to have a brunch. Sometimes, after a big party, it is a good way to taper off the festivities, and sometimes a big party is too much, and a brunch fits well into the scheme of things. One thing I like to think of at a brunch is an appropriate table setting, complete with flowers and linen. A big showy centerpiece for the table sets the entire theme of the meal. Will it be elegant or rustic, expensive or homemade, perhaps with holly and pine boughs? Use your creativity to the maximum here.
Brunch coming as it does between breakfast and lunch shares some of the characteristics of both. I think a good way to start off is with Mimosas, champagne mixed with freshly squeezed orange juice. This is the time to make the effort and squeeze the oranges! There is no comparison between freshly squeezed and what comes in a paper container. For the champagne, you can use one of the least expensive Spanish sparkling wines, as once you mix it with orange juice, it is impossible to tell the difference, which some people take as a criticism of Mimosas. I don't. I just buy a few extra bottles of an excellent but affordable California Champagne, and offer a glass, unmixed to the complainers.
Fresh fruit is the first course of a brunch, and you can build your floral centerpiece around a platter of fresh fruits and berries. You can find complete instructions in eGGsalad #6. You can make it the night before, if you have time, or do all the cutting even earlier, plastic wrap the components, and lay out the platter in moments.
Hot cereal is a brunch item that may be dying out. Too bad! You need to know your guests preferences in this. I like buttery grits, others swear by stone cut oats. I use only salt, others demand cream and (ugh) sugar. It does stay well in a chafing dish, and isn't much trouble. Don't forget a bowl of sweet butter, cream and brown sugar to go with it, to please both camps.
Side meat is a big favorite. Make plenty of bacon and sausage. It keeps well in a chafing dish if you put some slices of toast under it. I tend to splurge on sidemeat, and buy a honey or maple glazed spiral-cut ham. My son loves it, so whatever will be left of it will go his way!
Potatoes are much appreciated with a meal like this, and I find that hash browns or Lyonnaise, which are hash browns with onions, are the choice of thousands. Boil small red potatoes well in advance, and slice them when cold, and add onions if you like. Toss them with melted butter and some salt and pepper. They are supposed to be done in a pan, but I do them on a sheet pan in a 400 F oven for maximum crispness. Avoid using paprika, as it burns. Take your time, and turn them once or twice with a spatula, and let them brown well. They even reheat well.
Hot Breads are mandatory! I just can't imagine not having biscuits, cornbread, tiny blueberry muffins, toasted English Muffins and rye, white or whole-wheat toast. Don't forget the sweet butter and an assortment of marmalades. Did I forget Danish Pastries? Fresh, hot buttery Danish? Maybe split, buttered and grilled in the pan? No, I didn't. Couldn't live without them with my....
Coffee! Hot fragrant coffee, love of my life, freshly brewed is the sine qua non of a brunch. Better think about having some decaf too. Cappuccino, and Viennese Cappuccino (whipped cream on top) are perfect for brunches. If your blend of coffee is rich and strong, you will want some heavy cream to go with it. You will need some teabags and Sweet and Low as well.
Eggs. I'll bet you thought I forgot eggs. No, I didn't. I was saving the best for last. Brunch, being in-between breakfast and lunch is the perfect time to serve omelets. I was taught that three large eggs, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper is what it takes to make an omelet, and from a point of view of technique, I find this to be so. Less than three eggs, and I find it hard to make a presentable omelet, so I suggest that you make them all from three eggs, and offer half an omelet to anyone who feels, as many do today, that three eggs is too much. Many people are glad to share this way.
© 1997, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified August 2007