By Samantha Prust
Going out to brunch is always fun, but sometimes you want to stay home, like when you’re snuggled up on the couch in your reindeer jammies with your family on Christmas morning. Skip the brunch lines this season and start a tradition at home without too much fuss.
Start with a Little Planning
Jot down some of your favorite dishes or ones you’d like to try. Ask for input from family and friends. Visit local restaurants and bakeries to get ideas. Think about the ingredients you want to use and where you want to buy them. Go to farmers’ markets and local shops that specialize in artisan foods. Decide on fancy or casual or a little of both. Choose indulgent, healthy or some of both.
Consider organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. You want to have something for everyone without getting overwhelmed. Everyone can pitch in and help with the shopping, preparing and cooking, all of which makes for wonderful family memories and is just plain festive!
Eggs, Eggs, Eggs
Eggs will likely be on your brunch menu in some form, from scrambled to fried to omelets to quiche, and a general favorite, Eggs Benedict. Go traditional or get creative. Chris Reeves, sous chef at The Emporium in Fort Collins, says the Lamb Hash on their brunch menu is like eggs Benedict without the muffin.
“I make a Spanish tortilla with turnips, butternut squash and carrots, and top it with braised Colorado lamb, two poached eggs, hollandaise and tomato confit,” he says.
Or try the Eiffel Benedict at the iconic Silver Grill in Fort Collins for inspiration. Michelle Padilla, executive chef, says their take on a classic “churches it up” with puff pastry, ham, brie, poached eggs and a tarragon hollandaise. “The tarragon adds a sweet depth and cuts the richness of the hollandaise,” says Padilla.
Over at A.K.A. Kitchen in Loveland, General Manager Stephanie Spangler says their Corned Beef Skillet is popular. “We smoke our corned beef in-house, add roasted peppers and onions, put it on top of our crispy sidewinder fries, and add two eggs any way and lemon hollandaise.”
As you can see, egg dishes invite exciting experimentation. Swap out or add ingredients and see what you come up with for your next brunch.
Prepare In Advance
Quiche is a crowd pleaser and can be made any way you want. Prepare it the day before and put it in the refrigerator, then pop it in the oven the next morning.
Reeves says his family always makes an egg casserole for Christmas day. “Put pieces of a hearty bread like a baguette in the bottom of the dish, and add a mixture of egg, breakfast sausage and onions and peppers,” he says. “Sprinkle cheese on top, refrigerate it overnight, and in the morning, it’s ready to bake.”
Padilla says a simple recipe for kids and adults alike is breakfast cups. “Butter a muffin tin, line it with toast or tortillas, and fill it with egg and any toppings you’d like,” she says.
Other options for brunch are chili and breakfast burritos, both of which are easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time.
A.K.A. Kitchen’s Corned Beef Skillet. | Photo courtesy of A.K.A. Kitchen.
Bring on the Sweet
What would brunch be without pancakes, waffles, French toast and crepes? Padilla recommends cookie cutter pancakes because kids love them. Use Christmas cookie cutters to shape your pancakes in your skillet for a special holiday treat.
Switch up typical pancakes or French toast like the Silver Grill does with their Maxie’s Cinnamon Roll French Toast. The Emporium has Mac Daddy French Toast, which is house-made brioche French Toast topped with hazelnut ganache, Noosa yogurt, mascarpone cream and fresh berry compote. It’s complete decadence. Don’t forget to splurge on some high-quality maple syrup.
Another sweet thing for your brunch menu is a fruit pinwheel Christmas tree, says Padilla. “Spread cream cheese and your favorite pie filling on croissant dough, roll them up into pinwheels and place on a baking sheet in the shape of a Christmas tree or any design you want. Add icing and make a berry coulis or crème anglaise.”
To make coulis, take a bag of frozen berries, add water, sugar and lemon or lime juice, then boil it down to a syrupy consistency. Pour the liquid off into a separate container. The liquid is your coulis, and the fruit is compote. Padilla notes you can use eggnog as your base for the crème anglaise and add vanilla, orange zest or any other flavoring to make it “extra” in the best possible way.
The Lighter Side
For something healthy and hands-on, try a parfait station. Grab some local granola and your favorite yogurt (or make your own), fresh berries and fresh mint. You could also use your own preserves, or Reeves recommends local jams and jellies from a farmers’ market if you want to stay seasonal.
Top bagels with tomato, lox, cream cheese, red onions, capers and fresh dill for something heartier.
Sandwiches and salads show up on brunch menus because of their versatility. For salads, Reeves recommends not using a list but instead going to the produce section or farmers’ market and buying what looks good.
For something refreshing and healthy for your table, make a salad with mixed greens or fruit. Beet and goat cheese arugula salads are often found on brunch menus. Add to your spread a Christmas fruit salad with red and green apples and grapes, strawberries, kiwis and honeydew melon or a winter fruit salad with clementine oranges, apples, pears, dried cranberries and pomegranate seeds with maple-lime dressing.
The Lunch Addition
For sandwiches, make roast beef or, Reeves says, opt for prime rib. The night before, season it, sear it, and put it in the fridge. “First thing in the morning, put it in the oven, and in three hours, it’s done,” he says. “Shave it onto a nice sourdough boule and add a little horseradish or caramelize some onions to top it off.” Make au jus from the drippings and you have a French dip.
Another idea is a charcuterie tray. Make the rounds at local delis to pick out some fancy meat, cheese, crackers, pickles and olives. Arrange them on a large serving tray, and you’re done.
Besides mimosas, coffee or tea is a must for brunch. Spangler recommends a coffee bar.
“Set it up with coffee and whiskey or liqueur, flavorings like hazelnut, vanilla and pumpkin spice, and toppings like chocolate syrup, caramel, cinnamon and whipped cream,” she says. “We use coffee from Loveland Coffee Company to make our cold brew, which we sell by the growler.” This way, you can skip all the brewing and get straight to enjoying your Christmas coffee cocktail while you watch the kids build a snowman.
MERRY MIMOSA BAR
Nothing says brunch like mimosas!
When it comes to creating the perfect mimosas, look for a dry sparkling white wine that pairs well with juice. Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy are generally great choices, and less expensive than their French counterpart.
Include an array of juices to mix and match—orange, peach (bellinis!), cranberry, cherry, grapefruit, pomegranate, apple cider, kombucha or sparkling white grape juice. Include seasonal spices and garnishes, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cranberries and candy canes.
The perfect mimosa ratio is two parts sparkling wine to one part juice. The variety is endless. Create a cranberry juice mimosa and garnish with an orange slice, sugar-coated cranberries and a sprig of mint. Or combine apple cider and prosecco and garnish with apple cubes, pomegranate seeds and a cinnamon stick.
To up the wow factor of your mimosa bar, move all juices to glass pitchers and label with twine and tags, buy decorative cocktail picks for the garnish and paper straws for the glasses. Find vintage champagne flutes for a glamorous feel or consider an eclectic look with a variety of glassware in different shapes. For a party of 10, plan about three to five bottles.