Since Christmas is on Sunday this year, that means most likely there will be company on Saturday and possibly Monday, when many of us get our “holiday” and that means there will probably be an opportunity to serve a special brunch.
“There’s something revitalizing about friends and family coming together in the late morning, enjoying great food, coffee and conversation. Brunches are good for the soul,” said chef and Hollywood caterer Paul McCullough.
It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to host a fabulous brunch gathering. To get you started, McCullough shares some hosting tips, menu ideas and delicious recipes that will help you make your brunch memorable.
Hosting tips and menu ideas
• Have a variety of beverages on hand - from fruit juices and a morning cocktail to plenty of hot teas and good coffee.
• A continental brunch is the easiest to pull together. Purchase a variety of breakfast breads and artfully arrange. Stack books under a decorative cloth to create different levels and ensure visual interest.
• Keep your guest list small unless you can enlist a friend to help cook. After all, you want to be a good host while enjoying your brunch and spending time with each guest.
• A brunch should incorporate elements of breakfast and lunch with harmony. Contrast the blueberry muffins and coffee-glazed scones with smoked salmon with capers and onions and a hearty egg dish that is packed with flavor. Try a scramble with new filling combinations like chicken and asparagus, or crab and avocado with a dollop of sour cream and chives.
• Superhero Scramble is a taste sensation my Hollywood clients love. It’s easy to make; start by sautéing one pound of spinach. Mix with one pound of browned and crumbled turkey sausage and a half cup of julienned sundried tomato. Set that aside. Scramble a dozen eggs until almost finished, but still soft. Fold in the spinach/sausage mixture and sprinkle with eight ounces of seasoned feta cheese.
• Cut pineapple into slices and freeze them without overlapping each other. Use them in place of ice to cool down your sparkling water or Screwdrivers. Freeze grape tomatoes and garnish your Bloody Marys.
• For perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs, heat a medium size pan over medium heat. Melt a tablespoon of butter for every four eggs. Make sure the butter is melted and bubbly but not brown. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of kosher salt, pepper and one tablespoon of water. Then add to the pan and let them cook without stirring until they set a bit. With a spatula, push the eggs to the center, which creates folds of fluffy eggs. Push again as the eggs firm up. Slide from the pan when they are still a little wet. They’ll keep cooking for a minute or two. Top with cheese.
• Create a Brunch Punch Bowl made of ice. Use two glass bowls, one a little smaller than the other. Cut a half-inch-thick lemon slice and set in the bottom center of the larger bowl. Put the second bowl on top of it and place a weight in it, like a 32-ounce canned product. Fill the space between the two bowls with sliced lemon and oranges or flowers. Slowly pour in distilled water (it freezes clearer than tap). Freeze for four to five hours, checking about 40 minutes in to push any citrus or flowers that have drifted up. To unmold it, place the bowls in a sink of warm water for about 15 seconds. The bottom bowl should release with a twist. Then repeat with the inside bowl. Wrap in aluminum foil and put into the freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Maple, Brown Sugar and Coffee Bacon
1 pound thick-cut bacon (10 slices)
2 tablespoons Starbucks Natural Fusions Vanilla flavored ground coffee
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
2 tablespoons freshly brewed Starbucks Natural Fusions Vanilla flavored coffee
Fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment or waxed paper and set a flat rack on top.
Lay bacon strips on rack, with edges touching. Sprinkle bacon strips evenly with half of the ground coffee. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, brewed coffee and maple syrup, stirring to blend. Brush the bacon with half of sugar mixture. Add coarse fresh cracked pepper lightly (or generously) over bacon.
Bake 15 minutes. Carefully turn bacon over and sprinkle with remaining coffee, brush with remaining sugar glaze and cracked pepper. Bake until crispy, 10 minutes more. Caution - sugar glaze is very hot. Allow to cool for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.
Makes 12 popovers
1-2/3 cups half and half
1-2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Butter, double cream or jam
1, 12 cup muffin pan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place eggs and half and half in a large bowl beat with a whisk until blended. Add flour and salt and mix well. Mixture should resemble pancake batter - small lumps are okay.
Even if you have a non-stick muffin pan, use a light coat of cooking spray. Fill each cup 3/4 full. Place on middle rack of oven. Make sure that the top rack is placed high enough so that the popovers do not come in contact with it as they rise. Close the door and do not peek for 30 minutes.
Serve with butter or double cream and jam.
Owner of Paul’s Kitchen catering business, McCullough specializes in classic American upscale food that’s not uptight.
For more about Starbucks Natural Fusions flavored coffee, visit www.starbucks.com/coffee/starbucks-natural-fusions.
Peanut Butter Caramel French Toast is a decadent breakfast or brunch dish that can be prepared the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is pop it in the oven. It’s an easy way to start the day off with friends and family.
Peanut Butter CarameL French Toast
Makes 8 servings; preparation time: 30 minutes; cooking time: 45 minutes
Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
12, 1-inch-thick slices French bread
6 large eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Whipped cream or whipped butter
Coat a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Stir brown sugar, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened. Pour peanut butter mixture into baking dish. Place bread slices over mixture, trimming to fit.
Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, vanilla and almond extracts in a medium bowl. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove cover. Bake 45 minutes or until lightly browned. Invert onto large serving platter. Cut into servings. Serve with whipped cream or whipped butter.
Apple Cranberry Peanut Butter Crisp takes baked apples to a whole new level with a peanut butter crumble topping. It’s so good you might want to make two and save one for later.
Apple Cranberry Peanut Butter Crisp
Makes 9 servings; preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 40 minutes
6 cups peeled, sliced Gala apples (about 3 large)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons Pillsbury Best® All Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Jif Omega-3 Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Smucker’s® Sundae Syrup™ Caramel Flavored Syrup (optional) or Smucker’s Sugar Free Sundae Syrup Caramel Flavored Syrup
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir apples, cranberries, 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon until coated. Spoon evenly in 9-inch-by-9-inch baking pan.
Mix flour, wheat germ and 1/4 cup brown sugar in medium bowl. Cut in peanut butter with fork until crumbs form. Stir in walnuts. Crumble over apples.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are fork tender and top is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Drizzle with caramel flavored syrup, if desired. Serve warm.
Breakfast casseroles make holiday entertaining a breeze.
When company comes to stay for the holidays, the main meal on the big day tends to get the most attention. But with simple prep the night before, you can wake up your guests and their senses with a deliciously simple breakfast casserole for a welcome morning surprise. Consider these simple tips before your house fills with guests this holiday season:
• Shop in advance – By choosing the meal a few days prior, you can make a quick trip to the grocery store and stock up on the items needed to feed your guests.
Purchasing quality pre-packaged refrigerated foods like Bob Evans Original Recipe Sausage Rolls (or similar product) is a great way to have brunch and breakfast food items at the ready for last-minute occasions as well.
• Set up the space – The day before your gathering, set out clean dishware, silverware and glasses. Use napkins, and place settings for small gatherings to add a special touch. For larger gatherings, consider preparing a buffet for guests to help themselves.
• Get cooking – Just because people will arrive in the mid-morning doesn’t mean you have to be up with the dawn. Do your food prep the night before, using the delicious recipe for a breakfast casserole made with savory sausage, vegetables, herbs and cheeses below. Then simply pop the casserole in the oven an hour before guests are set to arrive.
• Finish the table – Set out pitchers of water with sliced strawberries, cucumbers or lemon for guests to enjoy, along with orange juice, milk, coffee and tea. Dice fresh fruit to serve with your meal and get ready to enjoy your delicious brunch. Don’t forget to place butter, bread, jam and honey on the table. For a special touch, add fresh cut flowers in vases as well.
Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole
Preparation time: 20 minutes; cooking time: 50-55 minutes; makes 10 to 12 servings
2-1/2 cups seasoned croutons
1 pound Bob Evans Original Recipe Sausage Roll
4 large eggs
2-1/4 cups milk
1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can (4 ounces) mushrooms, drained and chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Fresh herb sprigs, optional
Carrot strips, optional
Picante sauce or salsa, optional
Spread croutons on bottom of greased 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Crumble and cook sausage in medium skillet over medium heat until browned.
Drain sausage; spread over croutons. Whisk eggs and milk in bowl until blended. Stir in soup, spinach, mushrooms, cheeses and mustard. Pour egg mixture over sausage and croutons. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake egg mixture 50-55 minutes or until set and lightly browned on top. Garnish with herb sprigs and carrot, if desired. Serve hot with picante sauce, if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.
Source: Bob Evans
Something sweet is just the right touch to finish off a brunch and having a coffee cake available as another choice on the buffet table will be appreciated by those who don’t want a complete meal to start the day.
Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Makes 6 servings
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 (half) teaspoon baking soda
1/2 (half) teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup creme fraiche* (recipe below)
4 tablespoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar for 3 minutes. Add buttermilk and eggs to creamed butter and sugar. Slowly add dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time. Fold in creme fraiche and reserve.
Remove 1-3/4 cups batter; stir in 4 tablespoons of cinnamon until smooth. Gently fold cinnamon batter into remaining batter to create swirl effect.
Place 1-1/2 (half) cups batter into four 5-inch-by-2-1/2(half)-inch greased cake pans; place 1/4 cup of crumb topping (directions follow) on each cake, gently pressing into batter. Place in oven for 40-45 minutes, turning halfway through baking. Insert cake tester to make sure cake is cooked through. Let rest; cool for 1 hour.
1 cup heavy whipping cream (If possible, use pasteurized heavy whipping cream, as ultra pasteurized will take longer to thicken.)
1 tablespoon buttermilk
In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the cream to 105 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Transfer the cream to a large bowl and allow this mixture to stand in a warm place, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until thickened but still of pouring consistency. Stir and taste every 6 to 8 hours. This process takes anywhere from 24 to 36 hours, depending on your room temperature. The creme fraiche is ready when it is thick with a slightly nutty sour taste.
Chill cream, in the refrigerator, for several hours before using. Creme fraiche may be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days
1/8 pound butter
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Soften butter to room temperature. Combine all ingredients together in mixing bowl with paddle attachment until texture of sand.
Distribute over cake batter as in main recipe above.