Calling on Home Cooks for Sunday Brunch Ideas

Help! Next weekend, if all goes according to plan, my sister and I are getting our families together for Sunday Brunch. While I’ve got most of the recipes in place and have a rough plan, I can’t decide on a few new dishes.

We decided having a Brunch was better than a barbecue because it would start earlier in the day and still leave all the working-folk plenty of time to prepare for that dreaded Monday Morning Mayhem. My sister has little ones, so whatever we do for Brunch, it has to be kid-friendly. I’m planning to bring an assortment of good-quality (although be it store-bought) pastries. Sis is talking scrambled eggs and pancakes. I’m thinking sausage and bacon – that’s a gimme since both travel well. (Sis is hosting, so I’ll be working in an unfamiliar kitchen).  Apple and orange juice, French Pressed Coffee and maybe Mimosa for the “big people”. Fresh fruit with a dollop of fresh whipped cream is always a nice touch.

When I think “Brunch” I think Continental Breakfast (Pastries; Fruits; Juice & Coffee) meets American (Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, Home-Fry Potatoes, Pancakes and/or Waffles) with a few “extras” thrown in for variety and elevation above the ordinary (Quiche, Frittata or Stratas). What do you think when you think “Brunch”?

The recipes that follow I have not made before, but I am considering as part of our Brunch Selection. What I really need from you is a little input – what would you make? All – one – none?

thGGFO8WLE24-Hour Wine & Cheese Omelette Casserole
1 large loaf day-old French bread, broken into small pieces
6 tablespoons of butter, melted
¾ pound shredded Swiss cheese
½ lb shredded Jack Cheese
16 eggs
3 cups milk
½ cup dry White wine
4 green onions, trimmed and minced
1 tablespoon mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
1 ½ cup Sour Cream*
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated*

* Top Casserole with final 2 ingredients just before baking

Butter two 9×13 baking dishes. Divide bread between baking pans, drizzle melted butter. Sprinkle bread with Swiss and Jack Cheeses.

Beat together eggs, milk, wine, onions, mustard and peppers until foamy. Divide and pour over bread mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night.

Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake covered casseroles for 1 hour or until set. Remove from oven, spread sour cream over casseroles and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until crusty brown.

I love the look and presentation of the torte – the multi steps and detailed directions seem a bit overwhelming.

Tourte Milanese
Ingredients – For The Shell
1 pound puff pastry, chilled – homemade or store-bought.  (If using store-bought, roll both sheets together for 1 lb, then cut off a 1/4 lb for the top of the torte. Use any scraps to cut out designs for the top, if desired.)

Ingredients – For the Eggs
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Ingredients – For the Filling
6 large red bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
8 ounces Swiss cheese or Gruyère, thinly sliced
8 ounces smoked or honey ham, thinly sliced
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt

Prepare the pastry: Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan. Cut off one-quarter of the pastry, cover, and set aside. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, leave a 1-inch overhang. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the torte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the crust and the lid with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. If using scraps for cut-out designs, like leaves, place the cut-outs on a separate plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge along with top and lined springform pan.

Make the Eggs: Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap. You want a loose, soft scramble since the eggs will be baking for a little over an hour.

Roast the peppers: place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, drop into a bowl…cover with plastic wrap and let steam (I throw them all in a paper or large zip-lock bag and seal it shut) for about 20 minutes. Use your fingers to rub off skin – DO NOT rinse under water, you lose flavor. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, open the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper and set aside, covered, until needed.

Alternatively, lay the peppers on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler, turning them as each side chars Then continue to skin and seed them as instructed above.

The peppers release a lot of liquid once roasted. Make sure the peppers are dry (blot with paper towels) before adding them to the tourte.  Cut up the roasted peppers because sometimes you end up with big or whole pieces pulling out with each forkful.

Cook the spinach: in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture. Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little heavy cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside. Once it’s cooled, squeeze as much liquid out before adding it to the tourte.

Assemble the Torte: Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the refrigerator and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: (quick tip: Sprinkle a little dry bread crumbs or grated Italian hard cheese on the bottom of the raw crust before adding first layer of scrambled eggs to protect against a soggy bottom crust).

Half the eggs
Half the spinach
Half the ham
Half the cheese
All the roasted peppers, laid flat

Continue layering in reverse order;

Remaining half of cheese
Remaining half of ham
Remaining half of spinach
Remaining half of eggs

With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the torte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees 20 minutes prior to baking.

Bake the Torte: Place the torte on a jelly-roll pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan and release the sides. Let cool for 20 – 30 minutes before cutting. I let it cool for 1 hour before cutting because it still felt like it would fall apart upon cutting, after 30 minutes.

Original Recipe:
Basic Frittata With Sausage & Bell Peppers
8 Eggs, beaten
1/2 Green Pepper, chopped
1/2 Red Pepper, chopped
1/2 Onion, chopped
2 links Sausage, cooked, cubed and cooled
1/3 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 tsp Butter
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to broil setting.
Mix together eggs in a medium bowl.
Heat a 12 inch non-stick saute pan over medium high heat. Add butter to pan and melt, then add onions and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the eggs and add the peppers and sausage… mix everything well. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the top is starting to set. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top and put in oven to broil for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the top has set and cheese has melted.
Slice and serve!
Baked French Toast with Streusel Topping
French Toast
1 loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 eggs
1½ cups whole milk
½ cup half and half
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
Streusel Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ stick butter, diced
Spray a 13×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or butter liberally. Add bread cubes to baking dish and distribute evenly.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, half and half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Pour over bread cubes. Press bread cubes into the baking dish to make sure they absorb custard.
Cover baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In a small bowl, mix together ingredients for the streusel topping being sure to break up butter into small pieces. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove baking dish and streusel topping from the refrigerator. Sprinkle streusel topping liberally over the top of the French toast.
Bake 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 3 minutes before serving.
Serve warm with maple syrup.
I thank you all in advance for your thoughts and ideas . . .

Egg Asparagus Milanese & French Popovers

This morning I wanted to try something different for breakfast. I adore Italian foods. I adore French foods. So why not bring the two together, with a little American touches? This was so easy to prepare, although the kitchen was turned up-side-down in the process. I had never eaten popovers before let alone made them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Recently I decided it was time to give popovers a try, so I picked up a popover pan at our favorite restaurant supply store. They were wonderful! As for the Egg Asparagus Milanese, this was also a first – first to cook it, first to eat it.  Everything was delicious beyond words. While it might not be a breakfast menu for every-day cooking, it is definitely something to serve on special occasions or just when you feel like something out of the ordinary.

The Egg Asparagus Milanese is a recipe I picked up from William-Sonoma. You know me, I made a few alterations, and it came out beautifully. The original recipe called for steamed asparagus. For years I’ve made steamed asparagus and topped them with a variety of different sauces in the hopes of getting my guy (our grandson) to eat them. It didn’t seem to matter how much I smothered the asparagus in sauces to mask the taste, he took one bite and said “nope”. About a month ago I came across a recipe that called for the asparagus to be seared with a little butter and a splash of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. My guy couldn’t get enough! He loved the smokey flavor searing the tips added. Now we skip the sauce (thank God!) and just enjoy the simple goodness of pan-seared asparagus. The lemon juice does impart a hint of flavor, but more importantly it brightens the green of the asparagus. Sometimes I add just a little minced roasted garlic to the pan, but only if the garlic isn’t going to compete with other foods.  Another change I made to the Egg Asparagus Milanese was to add onion rings.  I cut a large slice of onion for each egg, then fried the egg right inside the ring. This time around I used a sweet yellow onion. Next time I might try a red onion for added color.

The French Popovers are actually a combination of several different recipes. The basic recipe came from Martha Stewart. The technique came from several places. Once recipe said to warm the milk. Another said to warm the eggs. I decided to use Martha’s recipe, with warm milk and warm eggs. The splash of Almond Extract was my idea. The Almond Extract simply added another layer of flavor. The popovers can be served with honey, butter or a good quality fruit preserve. There’s a little farmer’s market along the delta that sells the most awesome jars of locally grown fruit preserves. Blackberry is my current favorite.

To round out the breakfast, I cooked up some yummy sage sausage patties.  And what breakfast would be complete without French Pressed coffee?  This morning’s pot was a cup of Jamaican Blue. Okay, I will confess, it was actually a Jamaican Blue Blend (haven’t found pure Jamaican Blue locally in years, but World Market does stock a blend).

French Popovers
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract (optional)

Place uncracked eggs in a bowl with hot water, warm for 10 minutes before cracking. Heat milk to lukewarm.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush a little Wilton’s Cake Release into each of the muffin tins. (Or lightly butter and flour the tins).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and Almond extract. Pour over flour mixture, and fold gently until just blended.

Fill the popover cups two-thirds to three-quarters full.

Transfer tin to oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until well browned and crusty, about 20 minutes. Remove popovers from the oven, and unmold onto a rack. Puncture the sides with a sharp knife to let steam escape, and serve immediately.

Egg-Asparagus Milanese
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 Lemon, juice only
4 large rings of an onion
4 tablespoons bacon drippings or oil
4 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Shallot, minced
2 tablespoons panko crumbs

Cook The Asparagus:
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and roll gently to coat in butter. Squeeze half a lemon over the asparagus. Cook until lightly charred, rotating pan as needed to cook asparagus on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan, keep warm until ready to serve.

Cook the Eggs:
While the asparagus is cooking, slice a large onion in half. From each half, slice two rings. Use the outermost rings to create 4 onion molds for the eggs, and set aside Finely mince the shallots and set aside.

In the same pan that the asparagus was cooked in, brown the onion rings on one side over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Turn rings, add a little bacon drippings or oil to the center of each onion ring. Carefully break the eggs into the rings in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the whites and yolks are set, about 4 minutes. (If eggs aren’t quit set; cover with small lid to “steam” for a few minutes). Using a wide spatula, place 1 egg on each serving of asparagus.

Add the shallot and panko to the pan and sauté until the crumbs are golden, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle over the eggs and serve immediately.

Country Corned Beef Hash & “Dirty” Fried Eggs

It’s another beautiful spring Sunday.  My guys have been busy trimming, pruning and generally fixing up the yard.  That means they’ll be working up a nice appetite and I’ve got the perfect breakfast that will fill them up.

Hereford Corned BeefOne of the things I like to keep on hand is a case of Hereford Corned Beef from Costco. It’s great because it means I’ll always have corned beef whenever I want to cook up a big skillet of old-fashion country hash.  I know it sounds crazy, but I like the fact that you need a key to open the can. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about “real” tin cans.  There’s a strange sense of comfort  – a promise from yesteryear that not everything needs to change. Besides, the flavor and texture is perfect for hash.  It’s salty, without being too salty.

Corned Beef Hash
4 Russet Potatoes
Salt to taste
1-2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings
Pepper to taste
½ White Onion
1 Can Corned Beef

Scrub potatoes, cut into chunks about an inch or so in size. Place cued potatoes into a large, microwave proof bowl. Season with salt, toss to combine. Microwave potatoes on HIGH for about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice ½ of a white onion into thin slivers. Set aside. Open canned corned beef and remove meat from the tin can. Break up meat into large chunks. Set aside.

Warm bacon drippings in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove potatoes from microwave and continue to cook in bacon drippings. (Microwaves cook from the inside-out. The skillet will continue to cook the potatoes from the outside-in. This will produce a fried potato that is nicely browned on the outside, moist and tender on the inside.) Season potatoes with a little pepper and cook in bacon drippings for about 6 minutes.

Add onion slivers and crumbled corned beef. Stir to blend. Cover and continue to cook about 5-6 minutes, allowing the onions, meat and potatoes to “steam” warm. Remove lid, stir and finish off to brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Dirty Fried Eggs
4 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings
Vegetable oil as needed
6 Eggs
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat bacon drippings in a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add enough oil to dripping to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8 inch deep.

Crack eggs into the skillet one egg at a time, holding the egg in place with the shell until it begins to turn white. This will keep the egg from running all over the skillet. Once all the eggs are cooking and the outer edges are firm, use a wooden spoon or the back of a spatula to “splash” hot grease over the eggs until the whites are cooked through while the yolks are still runny. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, plate the hash. Eggs can be placed on top of the hash or to the side. Serve with lightly buttered toast points.