FOODIE: Spring Brunch

As every good hostess knows, it is much more important to execute a few simple dishes well, and have time to enjoy your guests, than looking like a maniac covered in flour, while attempting to prepare a five-course masterpiece. Brunch is one of those meals where this is doubly true. The event usually takes place before 1pm and I’ve never been in the Army, and certainly have never done more before 7 am than most people do in a day. So brunch is all about a road map, preparation and simplicity. And enough simplicity to execute even through the fog of a post-Saturday night hangover.

There is an invention in 99% (please don’t write me if this made-up statistic is not right) of American kitchens that will allow you to cook something while simultaneously doing something else entirely! That invention is called the oven. Many of my twenty and thirty-something peers have a very estranged relationship with their oven for no reason at all! (I’m even more passionate about this than even I knew.) The oven is your friend. Once the preliminary prep is done, you can put three of the four menu items in there and pick up the clothes (or friends, as the case may be) from your living room floor and still have time to put out the flowers and set the table.

The menu I’ve outlined below is great for large numbers of people. I have used this menu to feed 23 people when I was only expecting 15. It’s the stuff fishes and loaves are made of. So let people know you will be providing the vittles and they can bring the libations. The last time I did this menu, the aforementioned 23 people showed up with 26 bottles of Champagne, all of which were drained by day’s end. Needless to say, this was quite a (un?) memorable Sunday afternoon.

Brunch Menu:

Quiche Lorraine

Greek Quiche

French Toast with Pear and Elderflower Syrup

Chicken Apple Sausage

Watercress and Green Apple Salad

Quiche is great for a crowd because it can be prepared in advance and requires no hovering over the stove like most other egg dishes. Can you imagine 24 eggs over easy? I think not. So you still get brunchy eggness without the chained-to-the-stove misery. It’s also very easy to adapt it to vegetarian guests. I almost always use pre-grated cheese, pre-diced onions and a store-bought crust. It is great and definitely saves half an hour of prep time and most grocery stores have a decent one.

Quiche Lorraine:

1 Frozen 9 inch pie crust

6 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into narrow strips (or “lardons”)

1 cup grated Gruyere

1 cup diced yellow onion

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon of fat to saute the onions, until golden and translucent.

Layer half of Gruyere on bottom of crust (do not thaw or bake crust prior to filling). Sprinkle the onion on top of the cheese. Arrange half of the bacon evenly over the cheese and onion. Repeat.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and half and half. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour over the cheese, onion and bacon into the crust and bake at 350 until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Greek Quiche:

1 Frozen 9 inch pie crust

2 cups chopped spinach

1 cup yellow onion diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 roasted red pepper in oil

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup shredded mozzarella

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil until golden and translucent. Add the chopped spinach to the skillet. Sauté with the onion until wilted. Lightly season with a sprinkle of salt.

Drain oil from the pepper and dice into quarter-inch squares.

Layer half of mozzarella on bottom of crust (do not thaw or bake crust prior to filling), layer feta, spinach and pepper on top of cheese. Repeat.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and half and half. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour over the cheese and veggies into the crust and bake at 350 degrees until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

French Toast with Pear and Elderflower Syrup:

French Toast:

1 Loaf of Challah or brioche bread

6 eggs

1 pint half and half

½ tsp Nutmeg

½ tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

½ tsp lemon extract

1 tsp Grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together eggs, half and half, spices, zest and extracts.

Coat bottom and sides of 9×13″ pan with 1 tablespoon soft butter.

Cut bread into 1 inch thick slices, layer into pan with slices overlapping so that all bread fits.

Pour egg mixture over bread slices into pan. Dot bread slices with remaining butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until toast is golden brown and egg mixture is set (this can be baked at the same time as the quiches). Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Pear and Elderflower Syrup:

32 ounces Pear nectar (I used Looza)

½ cup white sugar

4 oz Elderflower liqueur (I used St. Germain. There is also elderflower syrup without alcohol that can be used if you do not like to use alcohol)

Combine sugar and pear nectar in medium saucepan. Reduce over medium heat until halved in volume, stirring occasionally. When mixture has achieved desired thickness (I go for the consistency of natural maple syrup versus a synthetic consistency), remove from heat. Stir in elderflower liqueur.

Serve with French toast.

Watercress and Green Apple Salad:

½ pound Watercress

1 green apple grated

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup canola oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 shallot diced

Thoroughly wash and dry the watercress. Remove and very large stems.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper. Stream oil into vinegar mixture while vigorously whisking.

Toss watercress with grated apple. Dress salad with vinaigrette until lightly coated.

Chicken Apple Sausage:

2 links of chicken apple sausage per person (Buy it at the store! This is the really easy part)

Arrange sausage links on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked through. This can be placed at the bottom rack of the oven (or even on the floor of the oven if you only have 2 racks. Turn links once half way through cooking.

This menu works best when you do all the cutting and chopping and placing the dry quiche and French toast ingredients into the pie shells and pans. Pour over the egg mixtures when ready to place in oven. Then take the oven time to assemble the salad and set the table.

Thinking about this menu is making me want to have a little spring get together. I’ll let you all know how it goes. If anyone tries something, let me know how it turns out for you.

– Nichelle

If you like Nichelle’s dish, check out her previous recipes here.

Last 5 posts by Hillary Crosley

  • GVG

    you cookin?!