xoFOOD: 20(ish) Idiot-Proof Steps To A Gourmet Brunch

Quickly a small brunch for five became a brunch for 15 as the rain brought all other weekend activities to a halt. But there is something intoxicatingly lovely about baking and cooking on a cold and rainy morning and feeding a crowd.

Oct 5, 2013 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

The weekend started with me taking a shower -- under my hose, outside, in the driving rain. Which would have been great if I were trying to take a shower in the rain, but I was, in fact, trying to clean my gutters. 
 
Not a metaphor. 
 
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So I found myself in rainboots, rainhat and raincoat, still somehow getting soaking wet while dressed as an electric blue human condom while the gutter hose attachment oscillated 8 feet above me. Satisfied that my gutters were now cleaner, if not emptier, and that I was colder, if not cleaner, I gave up. We were expecting 10 inches of rain, it was all the news was talking about, and when a city where it rains 364 days a year talks about bad rain, you take notice.
 
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So I was glad that we’d decided to have brunch instead of our regular Sunday Dinner. I’m one of the few adults I know here in PDX with a car, and it never ceases to amaze me how friends bike in from 7, 8, 10 miles away. In the rain. And then bike back in it. Drunk, dark and in the rain is not a good mix, and I’d just canned gallons of Bloody Mary mix, so it seemed the time was right for a brunch.
 
Quickly a small brunch for five became a brunch for 15 as the rain brought all other weekend activities to a halt. But there is something intoxicatingly lovely about baking and cooking on a cold and rainy morning and feeding a crowd. So, here’s my recommendations for a Sunday brunch that will keep you free to mingle, minimize your time in the kitchen, but still knock people’s socks off. It requires no prep before the day-of except shopping, and guarantees a wow. 
 
Normally, I’m a “throw shit in pots and cross your fingers” kind of cook. But today, dearies, today you’re going to understand what I do for a living as I organize and idiot-proof the hell out of brunch. 
 
Menu: 
 
  • Crumble top blueberry muffins
  • Pancakes w raspberry butter and maple syrup
  • Ham and asparagus cheese frittata
  • Sausage and bacon
  • Spicy brown potatoes
  • Spinach and cheese souffle
  • Mimosas, Bloody Marys, coffee
Shopping List: 
 
  • a fuckton of sausage
  • more bacon than you could imagine you could need
  • 1 3lb bag of potatoes
  • 2 Italian peppers
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 good handful of spinach
  • 4 oz of grueyere
  • 4 oz of fontina
  • 1/2 lb of asparagus
  • 8 oz of ham
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 box of butter
  • 24 eggs
  • 1 quart of milk
  • 2 cup of flour
  • 5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • vanilla extract
  • pancake mix
  • vegetable oil
  • cream of tartar
  • sprayable olive oil or vegetable oil
  • tell "what can I bring?" friends to bring the following: maple syrup, vodka, coffee carafe from Starbucks, Bloody Mary mix, orange juice and cheap champagne.
You’ll Need: 
 
  • 1 muffin tin
  • 1 ovenproof saute pan
  • 1 ovenproof souffle or Corningware dish
  • 1 fry pan
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • 1 cookie rack
  • 1 small ovenproof pan
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fry pan, saute pan, baking dishes, cookie sheet, broiling pan

For me, brunch has to have a few components -- something for everyone, multiple options, and the ability to be served at a buffet. I want to be free to join my friends to eat and enjoy. By making everything at once, you can reuse dishes and utensils and use your oven for multiple things at once. I have an exceptionally small kitchen (like seriously, it's 6 ft by 6 ft) so I know you can do it, too! 
 
3 hrs before breakfast: 
 
  1. Take the gruyere and fontina cheese and place them in the freezer. 
  2. Make muffins: preheat oven to 375. Put muffin cups in muffin tins. I used the jumbo muffin tins, but you can use regular or even mini muffin tins. To make the muffins themselves, mix the following in your mixer or in a bowl by hand: 1 cup of flour, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of baking powder and ½ tsp of salt. Add 2 eggs, ¾ cup of milk and a splash of vanilla extract and mix well. You should get a smooth batter. Pour in 1.5 cups of blueberries, I just add frozen berries (undefrosted) and fold them in. Now split the batter up between your muffin tins. Wash the bowl, then toss in ½ cup of flour, 2 tbsp of brown sugar, 1 tbsp of white sugar, a pinch of baking powder and mix. Mix vigorously while pouring in 6 tbsp of melted butter (30 seconds in your microwave in a bowl). You’ll get a crumb texture, and now just spoon a generous helping of it on top of each muffin. Put it into the oven and set the time for 30 minutes. Put the sugar, baking powder, and milk away.

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    Oven at 350, muffins on top rack.

  3. Wash the mixing bowl and now use it to make pancake batter using your favorite mix (which I do) or recipe. Using the fry pan, spray it with olive oil and keep it on medium high. Ladle in enough batter for a 4” pancake. When the edges are bubbly and solid, flip using a spatula. The first pancake is always a dud, but if it makes it, lay it on a baking sheet. Keep making pancakes one at a time (unless you have a skillet for such a thing). As they are done, lay them out on the baking sheet.
     
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  4. As the pancakes are cooking, in between flipping, lay out bacon on a baking sheet with a rack, or a broiler pan so they can drip grease. The bacon can go in the lower rack of the oven, beneath the muffins. 
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    Clementine helped w bacon prep. Mostly by not eating it. Still- that's helping. 

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    Oven at 350: muffins on top, bacon on bottom. 

  5. Once the pancakes are done, cover them with a towel and put them aside, somewhere your dog can’t eat them. (No? Just me?) 
  6. The timer for the muffins will be going off about now, so use a toothpick, poke it into the middle of a muffin and make sure it comes out clean and not wet. If it does, no worries, just keep it in the oven until the toothpick is clean. When they’re done, just place the muffin tin aside and covered with a towel. 
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    You don't need as many muffins as you think- no one eats a whole one. Slice them in half, people are more likely to take one.

  7. Fill your saute pan with 1“ of water and a good handful of salt. Wash all the potatoes. Chop them, with the skin, into small bite size pieces by slicing them in one direction to get slabs, and then another to get sticks and finally one more to get small uniform cubes. Put in saute pan and water as you go. Once done, place on the stovetop, covered, at medium high. Set the timer for 15 minutes. 
  8. Take out the ham and chop into bite size pieces. Place in skillet on medium high and allow to cook.
  9. Meanwhile, take out your cheeses. Use a microplane or Cuisinart or grater to shred 2 cups of each and put aside. Stir the ham every 2-3 minutes so it doesn’t burn. When it's browned, take it off the stove. 
  10. Take our your sausage and place in the small baking dish. Put the sausage in the oven where the muffins were. 
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    Oven at 350: muffins are gone, sausage on top right, bacon still on bottom. 

  11. Take the saute pan off the oven and pour into a colander so the potatoes drain. Shake them off really well and then pour into the large baking dish. Clean the peppers by cutting them in half, pulling the seeds out and then slicing them thinly.
  12. Toss them into the potatoes. Pour olive oil over the potatoes, season with salt, pepper and paprika, and then toss with your hands. Put the pan next to the sausage in the oven. 
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    Oven at 350: potatoes on top left, sausage on top right, bacon on bottom. 

  13. Pull out the asparagus and cut it into 2 inch pieces, trimming off the woody ends entirely. In a mixing bowl, break 10 eggs and beat with salt, pepper and 1 1/2 cups of milk and 3/4 cup of each cheese. Wipe the saute pan you used for the potatoes clean, and oil it generously. Pour in the eggs, and sprinkle in the ham and asparagus with your hands to evenly spread out. 
  14. Take the bacon (which is done and crispy by now) off the pan and place it on a plate and cover it with a towel.
  15. Take out the souffle pan. Spray it with the olive oil and then dump in ½ cup of cheese and turn the pan until the cheese coats the entire inside. 
  16. In the fry pan, put 3 tbsp of butter and cook until melted. Add 2 tbsp of flour and stir them together, continue stirring for 3 minutes. Now add 1 cup of milk and stir, stir, stir. Add in 5 egg yolks and keep stirring! When you have a nice thick-but-smooth mixture, take off stovetop and put side.
  17. In mixing bowl, add all the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Now beat until you have nice stiff peaks. Toss the spinach into the yolk mixture and stir in; then put ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and FOLD it in. Keep adding whites in until it's all together and then pour into the souffle pan and smooth the top. Turn oven up to 400 degrees. 
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    Oven at 400: Potatoes top left, sausage top right. Frittata bottom left, souffle bottom right. 


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  18. Place the souffle and the saute pan in the oven next to each other. 20 min later, carefully remove the potatoes and place on the buffet. Put the pancakes on the top rack in the oven to reheat. Pull out the sausage and place on plate next to bacon.
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    Oven at 400: Pancakes on top shelf, Frittata bottom left, Souffle bottom right. 

  19. Cut the muffins in half. Beat 1 stick of softened butter together with a handful of raspberries and put in a bowl with a spreading knife next to the muffins. Put out your maple syrup. 
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  20. As your friends arrive, make the Bloody Marys in one pitcher and the mimosas in a second. Put out the coffee and cups. When the time goes off, use a toothpick to check the souffle. If it comes out clean, the souffle is ready. Put out the souffle and the frittata, making sure to remind everyone the pans are hot (I wrap the handle of the frittata pan with a towel) and let everyone go to town!!! There’s something for everyone: the dairy free, the vegetarian, the gluten free -- and the rest of us who just want to get drunk.
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  21. Let your friends do the dishes. They’ll offer. 

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a subtle reminder to everyone to guard their food. also: why i should not be allowed near knitting needles. 

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this is what PDX professionals look like on weekends. 

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Sometimes, they leave booze behind. Cheap booze, but a Tuesday Mimosa does not demand much. 

SO, xoJaners, talk to me about BRUNCH. What's on your menu? What's been a big hit with your friends? Could we solve the government shutdown with 20(ish) steps and pictures?