By Chef Judi Gallagher –
Spring is officially here, which means flowers, garden-fresh food, seasonal berries, cotton and linen casual clothes. This week our local library put up a big display of gardening books. Hey, you need to plan a brunch. In my opinion, the best ones are hosted outside (preferably on the water). The guest list includes friends and family who gather informally to enjoy delicious food, warm breezes and lots of laughter.
And because it’s brunch, which effectively takes care of breakfast and lunch, the menu options are limitless. You could host a traditional brunch, with Bloody Mary’s, Eggs Benedict and French toast. You could have a brunch with a Southern theme featuring crayfish, hash browns and pecan waffles. Or you could host a garden-party with tomato and watercress salad, tea sandwiches, poached salmon and champagne lemonade.
But if you’re planning a brunch, no matter what menu and theme you decide to go with, there’s one thing that should be certain: your brunch should be all about the foods of the season. Browse your local farmer’s market or favorite supermarket and only select ingredients that express Spring. Aim for an imaginative mix of taste, colors and textures when organizing a menu because we eat with our eyes too.
And celebrate Spring with decor. Celebrity event planner Colin Cowie, in an article for Epicurious.com, suggests decorating with seasonal flowers such as daffodils. But if yellow isn’t your color, how about pink tulips, white daisies, or a mixed bouquet. Another option is to put a big basket in the center buffet table and fill it with plastic pots of herbs and impatiens and other colorful flowers. Put deer moss around the pots to conceal them. When the brunch guests depart, dismantle your arrangement and plant the herbs and flowers in your garden.
Here are recipes for some of my favorite brunch selections. if you try them, let me know what you think, and please share your favorite brunch recipes in our Flavors And More in comments page.
Eggs Benedict with Canadian Bacon and Spinach
Adapted from Tyler Florence
4 English muffins, split
For the Hollandaise:
5 egg yolks
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons water
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 pound hot, melted butter
The Egg Composition
8 slices Canadian bacon
1 onion, minced
1 package cooked, frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Parsley sprigs, for garnish
Heat 2 to 3 inches salted water to a simmer in a wide saucepan or deep skillet for the eggs. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, make the hollandaise. Combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, water, salt and cayenne in a blender and blend until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Then, with the blender going, drizzle in the melted butter in a thin stream. Taste for salt and lemon juice. To keep the sauce warm, put the whole blender jar in a bowl of warm water; set aside while you finish the dish.
Heat a little olive oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the bacon slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Brown the remaining 4 slices and put them on the plate. Put the bacon in the oven to keep warm.
Put the skillet back over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach and give it all a stir; cook until warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer to reduce. Season with salt and pepper.
Return the water to a bare simmer. Add the vinegar and swirl a couple of times with a kitchen spoon. Then, first cracking each egg into a cup, gently drop 4 eggs into the simmering water and cook until just set, 3 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, get 4 serving plates and put 2 muffin halves on each plate. Put a piece of bacon on each half and top with a spoonful of spinach. Remove the poached eggs with a slotted spoon and place on top of the spinach. Do the same with the remaining 4 eggs. Spoon the warm hollandaise sauce over and garnish with a parsley sprig.
Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
½ cup sour cream
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
4 ounces quality smoked salmon, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces salmon roe
Place the eggs in a pot large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a full boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs stand for 15 minutes. Drain the eggs and fill the pot with cold water. Set aside until the eggs are cool. Peel the eggs and then slice them in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks carefully. Place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and arrange the whites on a platter in a single layer with the cut sides up and sprinkle with salt.
To the egg yolks, add the sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, salmon, salt, and pepper. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. With a small spoon, fill the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (you don’t want to flatten the filling) and refrigerate for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. When ready to serve, garnish with a dollop of salmon roe and some extra chopped chives. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
German Pancakes (“Dutch Babies”)
Adapted from Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter
Powdered sugar, maple syrup and fresh fruit, for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process at “stir” until light yellow in color. Push “mix” button, remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates. Serve with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter or maple syrup and fresh berries.
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