It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was brunch. A meal I have never really trusted--not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, but I love it despite it’s refusal to conform to victual standardization. Of course the best brunch is one you don’t have to make yourself, but restaurant options are limited these days, and I’ve yet to see a poached egg delivery go well.
In this issue of IORVA I wanted to share a few tips for elevating brunch at home to restaurant status, whether you’re celebrating Mother’s Day, or just kicking back at home.
First and foremost, brunch without booze is just a sad, late breakfast. Start things off with a Mimosa made from fresh orange juice and champagne. I like Saint Hilaire Brut and Simonet Blanc, both French and under $15 a bottle. They are inexpensive enough where you don’t feel guilty about adding the OJ, but tasty enough where they can hold their own against sparkling wines three times their price. Depending on your taste, mix 1 part champagne to 1 part juice for a sweeter Mimosa, or 3 parts champagne to one part juice for a drier version. Garnish with cherries, orange slices, strawberries or a dash of Chambord or Cointreau. Feeding a larger group? Add three cups of orange juice to a pitcher with 1 750ml bottle of chilled dry champagne and ½ cup Cointreau or Triple Sec. Stir, add ice cubes and serve!
Anytime is a great time for bacon (even at linner, brunch’s upstart step-cousin), but cooking a large batch is time consuming, so next time try baking your bacon. I was skeptical at first, but it’s an easy way to get perfect bacon without babysitting a hot skillet. Place thick sliced bacon on a cooling rack above a foil wrapped cooking tray. Place in a cool oven, then set to 400, check at 12 minutes and cook to desired texture. To put this over the top, before it goes in the oven, sprinkle it with a mix of brown sugar and chipotle chili powder (1 tablespoon sugar to ¼-½ teaspoon chipotle) before you bake. Another option is sriracha-sesame spiced bacon (mix 2 tablespoons sriracha, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil and 1 ½ teaspoons honey).
What’s brunch without an omelet station? I’ll let you figure out the toppings, but here’s how to make a never-fail omelet that’s light and fluffy, and never rubbery. Start by heating an omelet or 8 inch sauté pan on medium low. Crack three eggs into a mixing bowl (preferably room temperature), add 1 tablespoon of milk or water, a dash of salt and black pepper. Whisk until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Add ½ teaspoon butter to your pan, and thoroughly coat the bottom and sides to prevent sticking. Pour in eggs and cook until the eggs on the bottom of the pan begin to set, about 2-3 minutes. Take a spatula and slide the top of the omelet to the middle of the pan, and let the uncooked egg run into the space where the cooked egg was, then do the same maneuver on the bottom, left and right sides. This technique allows all the eggs to cook faster and evenly, and it gives the omelet great contours when it’s out of the pan.
Add cheese if desired to the bottom half of the pan, then top cheese with your favorite toppings and cook until egg is almost completely firm and cheese is melted. Run spatula around the edges, then slide the bottom part of the omelet on a plate and flip the top part over to cover the toppings. Sprinkle with a dash of paprika and serve.
I’ve mentioned this final brunch suggestion before, but it’s so worth mentioning again since blueberries are in season. Jordan Marsh department store made the best blueberry muffins until the company was absorbed by Macy’s in the 90’s. Fortunately King Arthur Flour resurrected the original recipe on their site. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and you can know zip about baking and have stellar results. The better the blueberries, the better the muffin, so now is a great time to give this one a try. It’s a great recipe as is, but for a little extra zing try adding a teaspoon of lemon zest or fresh lemon juice.