Written by Amanda Lecky / Photography by Steve Henke / December, 2013
These easy and delicious updates on hearty brunch classics will prove irresistible to family and friends.
Romaine Pesto and Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes ("Tomatoes and Toast")
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, September 2006
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head romaine (about 1-1/2 lb)
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
3/8 tsp. black pepper
1 oz. finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
6 large tomatoes (about 3 inches in diameter)
6 large eggs at room temperature
Strip romaine leaves from stems, reserving both separately, then tear leaves into roughly two-inch pieces. Measure four loosely packed cups of leaves and reserve remainder. With motor running, add garlic to food processor to finely chop. Turn off and add the four cups romaine leaves along with the parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and cheese, then pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add remaining cup oil in a slow stream, blending until incorporated.
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut off about 1/8 inch from top of each tomato with a sharp knife.** Gently scrape out pulp and seeds with a spoon and discard them. Put tomatoes, cut-sides up, in a nine-inch glass or ceramic dish and spoon one tablespoon of the romaine-parsley pesto into each tomato (you will have extra pesto). Crack one egg into each tomato and season with salt and pepper. Bake eggs in tomatoes until whites are set and yolks are still runny, 18 to 22 minutes.
Perfect Boiled Eggs
For Soft Boiled Eggs
3 quarts water
1 to 6 large eggs
For Hard Boiled Eggs
1.5 quarts cool water
1 to 6 large eggs
For soft boiled eggs: Bring water to a simmer in a medium pot. Reduce heat until water is barely quivering. Gently lower eggs into water with slotted spoon or strainer (do not drop eggs into water, or they might crack).
Cook for exactly 6 minutes, then remove eggs with slotted spoon, and serve.
For best results, heat water to 180 degrees as measured on an instant-read thermometer. After adding eggs, adjust heat to maintain temperature at 180 degrees for duration of cooking time. If you do not have a thermometer, keep the water at the early simmer stage when tiny bubbles are just beginning to break the surface (at high altitudes, the water may be bubbling more vigorously).
For hard boiled eggs: Place eggs and water in saucepot. Place over high heat and bring to a bare simmer*. Immediately turn heat to lowest setting, cover and wait at least ten minutes. Peel eggs under cool running water, and serve.
* For clarification, a "bare simmer" should be 180-190 degrees at sea level. For best results, use an instant-read thermometer. If you do not have a thermometer, bring the water to the stage when tiny bubbles are breaking the surface steadily before shutting it off.
Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toast Soldiers
16 sourdough toast fingers (mine were from 1/2-inch thick slices, cut into 1/2-inch batons)
4 Tbsp. (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. smooth Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated gruyère cheese (about 1-1/2 ounces)
2 Tbsp. finely grated Romano cheese
1 tsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
4 large eggs
Make croutons: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place bread cubes in shallow, wide bowl. Whisk together butter and mustard, then pour over bread fingers. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, both types of cheese, parsley and thyme, if using. Toss to coat. Spray rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray. Scatter bread on sheet. Bake croutons until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook eggs: Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a steady boil. Add eggs and cook them for exactly six minutes, maintaining the heat at a simmer, then drain and rinse them briefly in cold water.
Holding the egg vertically, pointier side down, with a towel or paper towel to protect you from its heat, tap a knife around the “neck,” about half an inch below the top so that you can remove a little “lid” area. Place the egg in a egg cup, opened side up, and serve with a small spoon and toast soldiers.
Don’t have adorable chicken or other tiny egg cups and spoons? With a little patience, you can peel the soft-boiled eggs as you would a hard-boiled one. It’s tricky, because they are liquid in the center, but doable. For this method, arrange four of your croutons on a small plate. Place the peeled egg over the croutons and smash it lightly with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and eat with a fork and knife.
Brown Butter Apple Galette
1 Sheet of frozen puff pastry
1/2 Stick salted butter juice/zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 Vanilla bean
2-4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. apricot jam
Preheat oven to 350°F. Take dough out of freezer and let sit until soft enough to roll out. Roll out dough, place it on a sheet pan, and refrigerate.
Melt the butter. When very lightly brown, remove from heat. Cool. Add lemon juice/zest. Halve and scrape in vanilla bean. Mix well.
Cut a little cap off of the top and bottom of each apple. Peel. Cut in half from top to bottom and remove core from each half. Slice each half lengthwise into super thin slices. As you finish each half, slide the slices into the brown butter/lemon mixture and coat all over.
Taste the apples to see if they're tart. This will determine how much sugar to use. Spread the apple slices over the dough, leaving edges of dough uncovered. Sprinkle apples with sugar.
Bake until crust is crispy along the edges and the apples are softened and nicely browned (about 45 minutes). Broil the top if it's not brown enough. A nice touch is to paint the tops of the cooled tart (apples) with warm apricot jam. Serve with créme fraîche or ice cream.
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger ‘Le RÊve’ Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine Carneros, California
Sophisticated, with notes of lemon curd and baked Asian pear, this wine is a gorgeous accompaniment to apples.
BRUNCH IS ALL ABOUT COMFORT. Comfort foods, served at a comfortable hour, in a comfortable setting. And it’s a meal that should be as easy for the host or hostess to prepare as it is for the guests to enjoy. That means dishes that can be made or at least prepped ahead, and that are designed for serving family-style—so there’s no last-minute fussing by the chef, and everyone can sit back, sip their coffee (or mimosas), and enjoy every last bite of egg-y, bacon-y goodness. Finding the right recipes is easy, too. Give old-favorites a foodie twist by adding fresh herbs or perfectly aged cheese—or look online for real-life inspiration like some of our family favorites from two award-winning food blogs, home chef Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, and former pastry chef Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella.
Bacon Corn Hash
Makes 4 to 5 cups
1/2 Pound thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice
1 Pound red potatoes, scrubbed clean and diced into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes
(about 3 to 31/4 cups) Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Medium-large ears corn, kernels cut from the cob (21/2 to 3 cups)
1 Bundle scallions, thinly sliced
Toss bacon into a large skillet over medium heat, no need to heat the pan first. Let rest for a few minutes until it starts sizzling, then move the bits around so that they begin to brown evenly. Again, wait a couple minutes before shuffling the pieces; you’re looking for them to get evenly golden and crisp. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan and transferring the bacon to paper towels to drain.
Heat the pan to medium/medium-high, making sure the bacon fat is sizzling nicely, then add your potatoes all at once in a single layer. Sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon of table salt and several dashes of freshly ground black pepper. Let them cook for a few minutes in one place and get a bit golden underneath before turning them over and moving them around. Repeat this process until the potatoes are browned on all sides; this takes about 20 minutes. Spoon off all but a small amount of the fat.
Bump up the heat a little and add the corn to the skillet. Saute the potatoes and corn together until the corn gets a bit brown but stays fairly crisp, about four to five minutes. Add the drained bacon, and stir the mixture together until it’s evenly warm, about one more minute. Remove the skillet from the burner and sprinkle the scallions over the hash. In two minutes, they should be warm and mellowed. Season with more salt or pepper to taste, if needed.
Marc Hebrart Brut RosÉ Champagne
The perfect complement to the smokey, toasty richness of the bacon and roasted corn, the ripe, sun-kissed flavors of the wine’s juicy cherry/raspberry center will make you think breakfast should be served all day long.
Spinach and Cheese Strata
(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine; February 2003)
Serves 6 to 8
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed of all excess liquid, and chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tsp. salt
1/2 Tsp. black pepper
1/4 Tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
8 Cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
6 Ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 Ounces finely grated parmesan (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 Large eggs
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until it’s soft, about five minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.
Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered three-quart gratin casserole dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of bread cubes, one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.
Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for at least eight hours or up to a day.
The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand five minutes before serving.
Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut NV Franciacorta, Italy
Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to the Champagne region of France, yet it's still unknown to many ‘bubble’ fanatics. With creamy tones to highlight the gruyère cheese and earthy notes in tune with the spinach and spice, this wine is sure to impress any bubble-loving guest!
1 Cup whole milk
1/4 Cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
3/4 Cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. salted butter
Throw your eight- or nine-inch cast-iron pan (or ovenproof dish) into the oven. Preheat oven to 425°F. You want your pan to be very hot.
In a food processor or a blender, blend well the eggs, milk, crème fraîche, flour, salt, and vanilla (30 seconds or so). If you mix it by hand, add the flour in a few batches and mix really well.
Add butter to the hot pan in the oven. Careful. The butter will brown very fast. When the butter is just melted, remove pan from the oven, quickly pour in the batter, and put the pan back in the oven. Resist the urge to open the oven. Hopefully, after a few minutes the pancake will start to climb up the sides of the pan and puff up in the middle. It's done when the edges start to turn brown and the batter is just set in the middle. About two minutes before it's done, you can sprinkle it with powdered sugar, praline, or chocolate chips and they will melt into the surface.
Serve with powdered sugar and lemon. Or warm maple syrup. Or both.
Philippe Foreau Vouvray Demi-Sec ‘Clos Naudin’ Loire, France Lush and glossy, with scents of toasty apricot and sweet honied florals, this well-balanced wine is the perfect accent for the sweet notes of this dish.