Brunch is supposed to be a relaxed, chill vibe. A time to hang with friends and family. The whole idea is rooted in the premise of sleeping in, then eating lazily in the late morning. That is true if you are going out to eat, or to someone else's home. But if you are hosting, it's a bit harder to sleep in. Plus it can feel a bit overwhelming, knowing there are mountains of ideas on what to serve. I am guilty of wanting to offer up more options than are possible to consume. (Or to make, for that matter.) The essence of brunch is that beautiful crossover of food from breakfast items to lunch or even a few heartier items. There in lies the rub. All those choices create a mind numbing battle of what to serve when the possibilities seem endless.
That was my dilemma a while back when we hosted a brunch for our dear friends Carl and Malcolm. I had all sorts of ideas, but I was determined to keep it as simple as possible. In the end, I felt like I accomplished that, so much so that I recreated the same menu for a Sunday brunch with our other dear friends, Nicki and Jeff.
A little forewarning, in order to keep this post manageable, each recipe below is a hot link, bolded and highlighted in blue. Just click to be whisked away to see how to make it.
Let us begin:
There were two slight changes to the menu for Nicki and Jeff versus the original. I didn't serve the polenta cake, but did add an amuse-bouche of Ibérico ham, Marcona Almonds, olives. It was a nice way to greet our friends and settle in a bit as we caught up on our life tales and the many moons that had passed.
Now, you've heard me say many a time that it is essential to serve warm items, room temp and chilled items. This holds especially true for brunch. Certainly, if I were serving brunch in the winter I might lean on a few more warm plates, but this combo seems just right for the rest of the seasons. Plus, as we head into summer we are in prime time for more entertaining in general, especially outdoors. Brunch is ideal for backyard entertaining.
After the nibbles that amused our mouths and whetted our appetites, we started off with a chilled dish, then moved on to all the other plates. Let the party begin with a refreshing and clean burst of citrus.
Next up was a continuation of fruit, transitioning to savory with this lightly tossed salad.
Something warm with...
Something room temp and hearty...
2 c polenta (cook according to package)
1.5 T butter
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/3 c goat cheese
Once the polenta is cooked, remove from the burner and stir in the butter, goat cheese and chives, salt and pepper until combined. Lightly oil a cast iron pan and pour in the polenta. Bake at 350 degrees until a crust forms. Turn onto a board or plate and cut into wedges. Best served warm but room temp is good too.
What I love best about this meal is that so much can be done in advance. The big plus is that any of these can be served at room temp, therefore, less stress about timing and getting the plates to the table.
Then for dessert, I kept with the same theme of simple. Prepped ahead of time and waiting on the kitchen table, I brought out a small platter of fresh cheeses (Manchego & Ibores), grapes, strawberries and Sweet Olive Oil Crackers. Certainly, you can go sweet at this stage of the meal, but this felt right, and I believe our guests thought so too.
So, although YOU might not be sleeping in as late as everyone else, but taking the homemade brunch route doesn't have to stress you out. Create the perfect crossover meal.