How can I cater a brunch by cooking way in advance?
November 1, 2006 11:23 PM   Subscribe

I need to provide breakfast/brunch-type food to a large number of people. What are some good ways to cook typical breakfast dishes such as omelettes, pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, etc. so that I can store and reheat them?

I'll be having a party late at night that will be serving brunch food. Since I may very well be occupied with other things over the course of the early evening, I won't have time to pre-cook anything right before the event; also, waiting until the time of the event to do the cooking is a bad strategy, mostly because cook-to-order food takes a while to cook (especially when 8 people are asking for it at once). I basically want to set up a buffet but have the food ready from hours before - reheated, of course.

I have an oven with a broiler and a typical range, so cooking anything is pretty much not a problem. And I know how to make all kinds of breakfast food. But what should I keep in mind while cooking or storing this stuff? Should I parbake anything or prepare it differently from normal so that reheating it leaves it in better condition, or should I just cook everything normally, store in aluminum pans, and reheat when ready? I don't want to serve soggy stuff if I don't need to, and I don't want to have to cook 90 things at once.
posted by brianvan to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
Bacon - place on a sheet pan (cookie sheet, jelly roll pan, etc), cook at 475 degrees (F) for about 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness. Rotate pans if more than one.

This is, IMHO a much better way to cook bacon anyway. It keeps it from curling up and is less messy. Line the pans for even easier cleanup.

As far as omelettes go, your best bet is to either have an omelet-making station with someone manning it and making them to order for people, or (better), cook your eggs a different way. I'm not a huge fan of them, but people seem to like things like strata, frittatas, and spanish tortillas (all variations of the egg casserole), and you can incorporate meat and veggies into those if you want a "one-pot meal" type thing.
posted by rossination at 11:29 PM on November 1, 2006

Quiche. Easy to make, self contained, keeps overnight.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:41 PM on November 1, 2006

Pancakes can be cooked way ahead of time and as far as I can recall they don't get soggy or anything. You can reheat them by popping a stack in the microwave, I imagine.

You can make ready-to-eat "omelettes" by cooking omelettes as if they were crepes, and allow your guests to add their own fillings. You can cook a stack of them the day before and keep them in the fridge, then reheat them at the party. You might have 2-3 fillings (cheese, veggie mix) kept warm using chafing dishes.

Another option, kind of cheesy but in a neato retro way: if you can get your hands on 4-5 toasters, you can provide a variety of frozen breakfast toaster foods (eggos, sliced bread, etc.) and have them stacked up by the toasters. More expensive than making them yourself, of course.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:08 AM on November 2, 2006

Make a hash brown casserole in advance, keep in in the fridge and just reheat it in the oven at the last minute. These are really filling so will reduce the amount of more fiddly foods you'll need to provide.

Along the same lines, make bread pudding instead of French toast as it's much easier to make in bulk and can be stored in the fridge for a day and reheated at the last minute.

You can make pancakes in advance too - make them small enough so that you can pop them in the toaster to heat up at the last minute. If your toaster is in too high demand, you can always toast things under the broiler.
posted by hazyjane at 2:06 AM on November 2, 2006

You can make omlettes in muffin baking trays in the oven - just whisk the mix, pour it into the cups of the tray and bake. Especially nice with a lump of brie or smoked salmon in the middle. Not necessarily easy to reheat, but they don't need much attention while they cook. They only take a few minutes.
posted by penguin pie at 5:01 AM on November 2, 2006

Ziploc Omelets!
posted by LoriFLA at 5:02 AM on November 2, 2006

I don't think that the bread or dough-related goods are going to be a problem to store and reheat. I know that, if kept properly and not stored for too long (I can cook some hours in advance on the same day, just not immediately before), they'll reheat pretty well. Pancakes, french toast, and toasted bread can all be refrigerated and brought back to serving heat. Same for bacon and/or sausage. (I doubt I'll make sausage, though; too expensive)

I thought about perhaps making quiche, or just using egg mix to fry a bunch of "egg pancakes" beforehand so that they only need slight reheating later. But I'm thinking more about scrambled eggs than I am about omelettes, because the latter are just way too much work for a small galley kitchen if 20 people show up and want them at once.

(Also, the reason why I want to avoid cooking during the event is that I don't want a repeat of last year, when half the guests wanted to do all the cooking themselves but could barely stand up straight after a night of drinking. I figure if I hide the cookware and put the food out prominently, people will just eat and not cause trouble!)
posted by brianvan at 5:04 AM on November 2, 2006

If you want srambled, buy a big cartons of egg beaters, mix with a little cream, chives, salt, pepper--even caviar. Cook and place in chaffing dishes.

You could even do two big egg casseroles. Time your casseroles to come out when guests arrive, or keep warm in the oven, or in those inexpensive insulated hot bags you find in the freezer section of the grocery store. Egg casseroles are so easy, and there won't be any left. People love these things. You can even prepare them the night before.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:19 AM on November 2, 2006

ooops, sorry. You won't have time to cook the night before, but you can still make casseroles. Good luck!
posted by LoriFLA at 5:20 AM on November 2, 2006

I used to regularly cook breakfast for ~50 people. Scrambled eggs took several minutes, but not that long, and I cooked them on the spot in big batches. Potatoes of some sort were done ahead of time, as were biscuits. Bacon in the oven on a sheet pan. The thing that you need to do ahead of time is the prep--if you're cooking eggs, either get eggs in a carton, or crack them before hand.
posted by OmieWise at 6:19 AM on November 2, 2006

Have you considered biscuits and gravy? Reheating sausage gravy is painless, and it's the sort of food that actually improves after a night in the fridge to blend flavors. It'll keep warm in a crock pot or a chafing dish for a good long while, although you should be sure to stir it if the line gets slow so it doesn't get a "skin". And if you don't want to make biscuits from scratch the day before (surprisingly easy) you can sometimes find big bags of frozen ones that heat up in the oven. You can get the gravy frozen too, for that matter.

If you do go for eggs, do make casseroles, quiches, or even just a big pan of baked eggs rather than scrambling them. Scrambled eggs get cold fast, and dry right out if you keep them warm — all that surface area.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:56 AM on November 2, 2006

I've been served baked french toast in similar situations. You basically assemble the whole thing 8-24 hours ahead of time, keep it in the fridge, and then throw it in the oven half an hour before you want to serve it. I think it would scale well for more people, too, if you have bigger pans. I've never made it myself and don't have a specific recipe, but here's an example of what I'm talking about.
posted by vytae at 7:59 AM on November 2, 2006

Frittatas. Totally the easy gourmet route.

I've made it for 50 people, it takes about 5 13x9 lasagna pans. It can be made the day before and reheated in a 200 degree oven. Serve with bakery croissants, and a variety of breakfast spreads and you're good to go.
posted by dejah420 at 9:40 AM on November 2, 2006

Check out the Joy of Cooking's Honey-Bun French toast. It seems much fancier than normal French toast, but it's actually much easier, since you just assemble it in advance and throw it in the oven 151; no standing over a stove. IIRC, it doesn't involve eggs, which may seem weird, but don't let that throw you off.
posted by transona5 at 9:59 AM on November 2, 2006

This is made the the night before, and tastes great!

Ham and Cheese Eggbake

1 loaf white bread (Wonder Bread is the best)
4 cups cubed ham (Turkey Ham tastes great too!)
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
6 eggs
3 cups of Milk
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. onion salt
2 cups crushed Frosted Flakes
1/4 cup melted butter
9x13x3 inch pan (make sure the pan is more than 2 inches deep so that the eggs don't spill over)

Generously grease pan with butter. Remove (tear) crusts from bread and tear slices in half. Line bottom of pan with 1/2 the bread (slightly overlapping), spread 2 cups ham, then 2 cups Swiss, then 2 cups Cheddar cheese. Repeat layers. Scramble eggs, add milk, mustard and onion salt and pour evenly over the top of the layers. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove eggbake from fridge and let sit out 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Crush Frosted Flakes, add melted butter and mix together. Sprinkle over top of eggbake and bake uncovered for 1 hour.
posted by Gooney at 11:01 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Fritatas are an excellent idea.

However, the easiest method is gonna be using steam tables, which you can rent pretty cheaply. Precook pancakes, hashbrowns and waffles. French toast gets dodgy because of the eggs (as do eggs themselves). So I'd axe that and whip up scrambled eggs on the spot. You really can cook 8-10 eggs at once, dump 'em into a steam table, and do another batch in the span 40 minutes or so.
Then have precut veggies that can be stirred in. Don't do cook-to-order unless you have access to a real griddle and kitchen. But all of this can be done by about two-and-a-half to three manhours if you divide up prep and cooking.
And steam tables are easy to clean too.
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2006

I second the frittata idea, you can make them individually-sized in muffin tins, too. Just keep them all in the pans and heat them up in the oven the next day while you are cooking your overnight french toast.
posted by rmless at 1:42 PM on November 2, 2006

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