‘Tis the season for houseguests and celebrations! Maybe you remember the stop-action scene of breakfast in the ‘80s movie “The Big Chill,” where the guests came and went in a big sunny kitchen, enjoying the food and the relaxed pace of the morning. I too love a slow morning, sipping coffee and visiting with guests, getting a chance to catch up on family news, planning the day, or just dishing about the events of the night before!
The keys to having a relaxed morning are preparation and simplicity. No one wants to see you break a sweat in your fabulous monogrammed robe! Since you’ll be serving your guests in the morning, preparation should be done in advance. Plan the menu based on things that can be made ahead for the most part, like casseroles or one-dish meals that include protein and starch, to minimize the number of dishes you serve. Stay away from last-minute things like pancakes or waffles; they take lots of time at the stove, and can’t be ready all at once. Also plan the menu around reheating. It’s a lot easier to reheat fully cooked items than to cook from scratch. Lastly, remember to set the table the night before.
Your oven can also be a help. Although it’s unsafe to leave your casserole in the oven overnight, you might be able to program it to preheat as you’re getting up, which saves a few minutes. Be sure to brew a pot of coffee (that can also be programmed to start in advance) and make freshly squeezed juice if you have the equipment (I promise, it’s worth it!). Or buy some interesting juice (maybe clementine, or pomegranate) at the market.
As the host for Thanksgiving and Christmas brunches this year, I’m going to try something a little different from Cheese Strata, our perennial family favorite. My father-in-law loved corned beef hash, but the canned variety and most restaurant versions are a textureless mess. My version has lots of flavor and texture, and should make fans out of your brunch guests. Much to my children’s delight, I’ve also been working on a recipe for sticky buns, ones that don’t require yeast or the resulting two-day process. I hope you’ll like the outcome! I’ve also included a broiled grapefruit that we used to enjoy at a Richmond restaurant, and a fun cocktail that can be made with either sparkling wine or sparkling water.
Picture yourself in your Zsa Zsa feathered slippers and monogrammed robe, enjoying your guests at breakfast, rather than the harried short-order chef you may have been last year. Happy Brunch and Happy Holidays!
Corned Beef Hash (Serves six)
2 pounds red skin potatoes, cut into chunks
12 ounces corned beef (ask the deli to slice in ½-inch slices)
1 large red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
6 large eggs for poaching
Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
Add salt, cover and bring to a boil. Cook until just tender. Drain and set aside.
Chop corned beef into ½ inch pieces. Set aside.
Saute onion, red pepper and garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet until beginning to brown. Scrape onto a platter and set aside. In the same skillet, heat remaining oil. Add potatoes and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Cook, allowing them to brown. When potatoes are browned and heated through, add onion mixture and corned beef. Stir and cook to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. (At this point, you could spread hash in a pan and refrigerate for a day or two. Reheat over low heat until warmed through.) Top with poached eggs, cover pan, then warm eggs through and serve.
To poach the eggs: Fill a large saucepan ¾ full with water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
Bring the water to a lively simmer over medium heat.
Crack one egg into a small custard dish. Use the dish to carefully pour the egg into the water. Repeat with the remaining eggs, moving clockwise around the pan’s edge. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon when they are still a little jiggly, as they’ll cook more in the hash, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Can be done the night before and stored in a small amount of cold water in the fridge. Blot dry before reheating.
Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon slices, and set one slice aside.
Put one tablespoon of butter in each of twelve muffin cups. Sprinkle each cup with 1 heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of honey. Distribute the nuts evenly between the cups. Set muffin pans aside.
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Unroll one sheet of puff pastry. Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with approximately 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon. Roll up tightly, sealing the edge as well as possible. Cut the roll into six even pieces, and place cut side up—one piece in each muffin cup. Repeat with the remaining sheet of pastry.
Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until fully brown and bubbly. Cool for five minutes, then turn onto a platter. Carefully scoop any remaining caramel and nuts on top of the buns
Halve the grapefruit and loosen the sections with a grapefruit knife. Sprinkle each half with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and coarsely chopped pecans. Broil, about four inches from the heat, watching carefully, until the sugar begins to bubble and cook.
Sunrise Cocktail (makes two)
6 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ounces pomegranate juice
About 8 ounces sparkling wine (like prosecco)
or sparkling water (amount will depend on the
size of your glasses)
In tall champagne flutes, pour half the orange and pomegranate juices. Fill with sparkling wine or water and enjoy!