Brunch: My Favorite Team Sport
December 11, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I am having a New Year's Day brunch and I'd like to serve some fancy things that aren't typically homemade here in the US.

Last spring, NPR told me I could make my own gravlax and it was amazing. Since then, I've also fast-pickled carrots and beets with chipotle to critical acclaim. What other surprisingly easy recipes exist that would be great to do for a leisurely buffet brunch? Goat cheese looks pretty easy but how can I make it truly special?

I suspect the centerpiece of brunch is going to be an Eggs Benedict Command Center where people can customize their own version of the dish with many different options. Ideas for homemade components of that particular adventure are very much welcome.

Bonus points if your recipe can/should be prepared days (or even weeks) in advance!
posted by jph to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Homemade jam: Berries + sugar + heat. But this should be made for consumption within a few days or so.
posted by mochapickle at 8:17 AM on December 11, 2012

Make your own California (or other type) rolls. You can mix up the ingredients, make vegetarian versions, do them on the spot, even. You can't make them much ahead of time, but there's a lot of prep you can do. And it's just about as easy to make a bunch as to make a few, so I get great props when I show up with a huge platter.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:23 AM on December 11, 2012

Creme fraiche is super easy--1 T buttermilk to 1 c heavy cream, let it sit out until it thickens (about 12 h), then put it in the fridge for a couple hours to thicken a bit more.
posted by HotToddy at 8:26 AM on December 11, 2012

Oh, I know! Breakfast sausages!
posted by HotToddy at 8:29 AM on December 11, 2012

Michael Ruhlman has a recipe for English muffins. Not super easy, but delicious.
posted by purpleclover at 8:30 AM on December 11, 2012

Best answer: What about funky hollandaise options? Avocado hollandaise or yuzu hollandaise?
posted by *s at 8:36 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could set out the ingredients for bloody marys, and sparkling wine & various juices for mimosas/bellinis/etc, and then set out various
infused liquors and simple syrups for cocktail making.

Simple syrups are so, so easy; mix one part water, one part sugar, add whatever ingredient you want it to take the flavor of (I just made rosemary simple for some grapefruit-gin drinks and OMG), simmer until clear and you feel the ingredient's flavor has been imparted, strain and cool.

Jamaica (dried hibiscus flowers, easily available at Latino mercados) makes a deep red, floral syrup that would be gorgeous added to champagne.

Having two vodkas infused with horseradish and black pepper for the bloodies would be cool.

You can also make your own grenadine that's a million times better than that red dye and corn syrup Rose peddles; basically, it's just pomagranate juice boiled down with added sugar.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:36 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure where your line is for things not typically made at home, but I'll throw a few ideas out! For bloody marys, you can pickle your own green beans. I like my eggs benedict with smoked salmon and on olive bread, which is really easy to make yourself. I'm assuming you're already planning on making your own hollandaise? If not, I've had great success with Tyler Florence's recipe. If you are serving meat, you can make your own sausage. I wouldn't bother with trying to make links and fussing with casing, just make patties. It's really easy and can be done in advance (It's also cheap! Bonus!). If you do the goat cheese, you can dress it up with herbs. Ricotta is also REALLY easy. I like using buttermilk as the acid, and I've never had a problem with it - and I don't bother using a thermometer. Some people prefer using lemon juice, but I've never done it that way.
posted by tealcake at 8:36 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ketchup, sriracha, butter, and pork belly.
posted by knile at 8:43 AM on December 11, 2012

I also do a NYD brunch every year and if you're up for a big baking project homemade danishes, while complex, are always really well received. Or what about yogurt and/or granola?
posted by hungrybruno at 8:45 AM on December 11, 2012

Best answer: There is nothing that can't be made better with lemon curd.

(Downside: may look a little too much like the hollandaise sauce for comfort.)
posted by katemonster at 9:06 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How to host brunch and still sleep in from Smitten Kitchen.

Avocado hollandaise and yuzu hollandaise sound awesome, try also tomato hollandaise. Or a gravy as an alternative to hollandaise.

I would also offer alternative breads for your benedicts, as suggested by tealcake. In addition to English muffins, try challah toast, biscuits, croissants, corn bread, etc.

Smoked salmon, prosciutto, ham, chorizo, corned beef, crab meat/crab cakes, plus creamed spinach, artichoke bottoms, sauteed mushrooms, sliced avocado, roasted asparagus, roasted red peppers, oven roasted tomato, can all decorate your eggs benedict.

All the vegetables that need to be roasted can probably be done the day before, and heated up.

I might also do a bacon tasting. Buy a few different types of bacon. Cook them in the oven on a rack over a sheet for easy clean up.

I would also put out some blanco tequila and some gin if you're going to do Bloody Marys. That way people can also make Bloody Marias and Red Snappers.
posted by kathryn at 9:22 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: New problem: choosing what NOT to make. Mmmmmmm.
posted by jph at 9:44 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tamales are a traditional Mexican New Year's dish. I love to make them, they're easy, but kind of a deal.

Put a black olive in the middle for good luck.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:04 AM on December 11, 2012

This is a great idea, and I fully intend to steal from it.

There are tons of awesome suggestions here, and the only thing I'd add would be some kind of green pesto: it's easy to prepare, you can make it well in advance, and it tastes great added to a eggs benny as a spread on the english muffin. I've used this as a base recipe, though I sometimes add some shallots as well.
posted by ZaphodB at 11:25 AM on December 11, 2012

Since you're the one proposing an Eggs Benedict party, I assume you love to poach eggs. If that were not true, I would suggest using onion or bell pepper slices as ring molds. Pretty, tasty, well-sized for and english muffin, and makes individual servings that can be piled on one plate to serve.
posted by aimedwander at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay. So it happened. And it was great.

People really enjoyed themselves. And I had a blast.

Homemade things included:

-goat cheese
-lemon curd
-blackberry/cardamom jam
-picked beets
-spiced walnuts
-brie en croute
-baked French toast
-traditional and chipotle Hollandaise

Non-homemade things included:
-English muffins and croissants

Lessons learned:

- latkes: fucking popular. Make more than you think you need. Also, caramelized the onions before adding them to the potato, egg, flour, salt and pepper mixture. Apparently that's awesome. Didn't get to try them. They went that fast.

- An Eggs Benedict Command Center might need slightly more instruction than you might think. Just having all the options there, in some kind of obvious formation, is maybe not enough. With multiple options comes multiple responsibilities. Or something. I don't know. Except that I think that maybe direction might be... helpful.

- Homemade gravlax is popular at brunch. Like. Seriously.

Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions! Had a great time and it was definitely thanks to all of you!
posted by jph at 7:41 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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