In Portland, restaurant line sitting is a sport. Asking for a reservation at most places here is akin to asking someone to hand over paper evidence of their last STD screening- offensive, though it shouldn’t be, so proprietors put on a cheeky face as if to pretend you’re the one who’s nuts. So my friends are an easy sell on house brunching: there’s no line at my front door, and if you can get past my psychotic doberman Clementine, YOU'RE IN.
Pre-Italy, post Xmas, I gathered all my friends for the last brunch of the year. I’ve covered some basic brunch ideas before, but it was time to take it up a notch. It’s not too late -- you still have time to make that Facebook invite and gather your people for a New Years Day brunch.
Peach & Ricotta Stuffed Challah French Toast and Peach Syrup
Tons of Bacon
Roasted Tomato, Chevre and Arugula Frittata
Red Flannel Hash Cakes
Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
It only looks intimidating, everything on here is pretty easy if you just look at it individually. Start a day ahead with a loaf of Challah. Since we’re going to soak the hell out of it in egg, don’t worry about the quality of the Challah, and stale bread=better french toast. Gah. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT #noonetellsyouthesethingsbutme.
1. Slice it very thinly and place a layer of it in a long pan. Try to cover all the gaps, even if it's just with a tiny bit of bread. Spread a layer of ricotta on top, using a spoon. Doesn’t need to cover the whole thing or be a heavy layer. Now, open a can of peaches and pour out all the syrup into a pan. Slice the actual peaches and layer them on top of the ricotta. Do another layer of bread, another layer of ricotta and peaches, and finally, a layer of bread on top.
In a bowl, break 6 eggs, and wisk with a healthy amt of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 3 tbsp of maple syrup (I used dark corn syrup. whatevs) and 1.5 cups of milk. Pour it over the whole shebang, cover w wrap and place in fridge overnight.
About 3 hours before your company arrives, turn the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Prep the bacon and the tomatoes
Halve a few roma tomatoes (make sure you take all the stickers off) and throw them in an oven safe bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Place in bottom rack of oven.
Lay out bacon onto a cookie sheet with a rack on it, and place on the bottom rack as well.
2. Red Flannel Hash Cakes
These are going to take an hour to make, so leave enough time to get through them. Simply, in a food processor on the shred setting, shred 3 parts potato, 2 parts beet, 1 part onion. I made enough for 20 people with 5lbs of potatos, 1 onion, and 3 beets. Throw the mix together in a bowl, and press out the water as much as you can. Toss it with a few tbsp of flour and a few eggs. (I used three eggs for the massive batch I made).
In a pan with 1” of vegetable oil on medium high (you want it to bubble) you’re going to place a heaping tablespoon of the mix in all four corners of the pan, not touching. Allow them to brown on the bottom, I found about 6 minutes to work, then flip over with a spatula. As they finish, take them to a bed of paper towels to drain, and then lay them on a cookie sheet.
As soon as you start frying up the hash cakes, its time to start on the biscuits, which you can do as you’re frying, stopping to turn whenever necessary.
3. There are two approaches to biscuits and gravy. The first is to skip the pretense and buy biscuits, and the second is to make them from scratch. Or, like me, hedge your bets, make them, but have a backup. The recipe I used to some success is The Pioneer Woman’s: 3 cups flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, a dash of salt, followed by a metric fuckton of cold butter and just over a cup of buttermilk. She can explain it better, but I’m definitely a fan of the dough mixer for this. It turned out perfect dough.
Use a small scoop, as I did, to get nice even biscuits that my friend said were made more pleasant by their slight sweetness (I attribute this to the buttermilk). As soon as they’re done, start cranking them into the oven, which you preheated earlie, on the top rack. About 16min a piece. As they’re done, let them cool on the cookie sheet.
So at this point you have biscuits on top rack, bacon and tomatoes on the bottom. Watch that bacon, and be sure to remove it when its crispy. When its done, throw it into an oven safe dish.
It's time to remove the french toast from the fridge so it can get to room temp.
4. Roasted tomato, chevre and arugula frittata
Remove the (hopefully) well roasted tomatoes and pour off the tomato juice. Chop the tomatoes.
Using an appropriately sized casserole dish for the amount you’re making, butter the pan lightly or spray with oil. In a big bowl, mix in a 4 tbsp of chevre at room temperature (you can just squish a package of it between your hands until it gets to room temp) and 1 cup of heavy cream. Add 12 eggs, make like MJ and beat it. Throw in salt and pepper.
Scatter the tomatoes in the bottom of the pan and pour the egg mixture over it.
5. Sausage gravy
By now, it should be about an hour before company arrives. The bacon should be out. The biscuits should be out. So on your top shelf, place your uncovered french toast, and on the bottom, your frittata. Set the timer for 40 minutes.
On the stovetop, you’re going to use a large saucepan and 1lb of spicy sausage (but not in the casing, you just want the sausage mix. Brown it well on medium high heat, making sure it break it all up as much as possible, which means stirring it every few minutes so it doesn’t burn. Once its fully browned on all sides, throw in 2 tbsp of butter.
Once the butter is melted, toss in a 3-4 tbsp of flour and stir it into the mix well. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes, while stirring. Congrats! You made roux. Have a drink. And while drinking, add 2 cups of milk to the pan, still stirring. Allow the entire mixture to come to a simmer, still stirring. You’re going to notice it thicken up. Turn the heat off, cover it and set it aside.
6. Halve the grapefruit. An early guest is a great stooge to get to segment them for you. Once they’re done, lay them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle decadently with sugar and brown sugar and put aside.
Turn the heat on under the peach syrup, and dump in whatever actual maple syrup you’ve got. I fancy it up with some vanilla extract and cinnamon. Let it simmer so it reduces, on medium heat.
Check the eggs. You’ll notice, if you’re checking as you go, that they firm up on the outside first, so the middle is soft. You’re not waiting for the middle to completely firm up, but you are waiting for it to turn opaque. Once it does, pull it. The middle will be slightly jiggly still.
As soon as it's done, pull it out, put the hashcakes and bacon back in the oven on the bottom shelf.
7. By now, people are going to be arriving, and your timer should be going off. Remove the french toast and leave it on the stovetop, covered. Turn the broiler on “high”. Place the grapefruit under it. The bacon and hash are still below, don’t worry, they won’t burn, its only for 5 minutes.
Throw the arugula in a bowl, toss it with some vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper. Throw it on top of the frittata.
8. It's time to start placing everything out. The french toast, with the syrup next to it. The hash cakes, which I served with apple butter, but applesauce is just fine. Really, they can go out on their own with nothing. The frittata next, and now the bacon comes out onto the table. Finally, place all the biscuits onto a large platter, and pour the gravy over it. And to round it all out, the grapefruit come out of the oven, go onto a plate and everything is ready.
Well, let people eat. It's time for you to drink. And if you’re like me, you told people to bring OJ and champs, because hell if I’m supplying it with all this free food.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my year- I came to xoJane almost 6 months ago to write recipes, and this will be my last one this year. I have met amazing people, from Lesley and Claire, to all of you, who follow me on Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest and my super janky Youtube cooking videos, and send me amazing photos of the things you’ve made, that are either inspired by me or inspire me to make something new. I am grateful for each comment you leave, I read every single one, and I get amazing satisfaction out of your incredibly funny, snarky, and appreciative words.
I wish you all a safe but happy New Year. Not just tomorrow -- the entire year. Cheers.