Mar 17, 2011

Brunch Anytime

With the official start of Spring on Sunday we have compiled great ideas that you can incorporate into your brunch menu.  Brunch is always a fun meal to serve when you have company over for entertaining, whether it be for a garden party enjoying the warm Spring sunshine or for celebrating upcoming holidays like Easter or Passover, these ideas are sure to be crowd pleasers.  We each took some of our favorite recipes and are including them here to share with you!

Smoked Salmon Baguette with Avocado, Arugula & Apple Vinaigrette

Monica: This is so simple and these little bites are an explosion of flavor. They are easy to make and they are great starters for brunch. I got this idea after watching Giada De Laurentiis make a smoked salmon salad for a brunch she was hosting on her show Giada at Home. I took her basic idea in terms of using smoked salmon and this amazing apple vinaigrette. I added the avocado and decided to use arugula instead of the frisee she used in her salad; and obviously instead of making a salad I reconstructed it using the baguette. All in all, I have to say it was a very good choice. And this apple vinaigrette has become my salad dressing of choice at the moment (plus it is a healthy choice)! If you don't eat smoked salmon, I highly recommend you try the dressing for your next salad.

Ingredient List
4 oz of good quality smoked salmon
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Cream cheese
French baguette, sliced
For Vinaigrette:
1/2 Granny Smith Apple (peeled, cored, and chopped)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette: In a food processor, combine the apple, vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

To constrcut the salmon baguettes: Spread the cream cheese on the baguette, place a slice of the smoked salmon, top with avocado and one leaf of arugula. Drizzle with apple vinaigrette and a sprinkling of ground black pepper (optional).

Asparagus Tart
Caitlin: I watched Jamie Oliver make this on his show and I thought it would be the perfect addition to any brunch menu. However, there is one disclaimer I must add: I thought the consistency would be more quiche-like, but it's not. He uses mashed potatoes mixed with eggs and cream, so after taking it out of the oven give it plenty of time to cool before cutting into it, or else the potatoes just spread and it won't look pretty on the plate (trust me). Now, this isn't mentioned in the show or in the recipe (aside from the 10 minute cooling time which isn't nearly long enough), and it made me wonder- why do some chefs leave out important bits of detail such as that? My only conclusion is that maybe they secretly want you to fail so it makes them look like kitchen gods. 
Regardless, it tasted great - once it cooled enough to stay firm after being cut. You can also get creative with the types of cheeses added - I was quite boring and stuck to the recipe, but next time I think I may try something different. If you're a fan of bacon, pancetta or ham you can add that as well for some added flavor.

Ingredient List
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Sea salt
1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 ounces filo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated Lancashire cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar
3 large organic or free-range eggs
1 (8-ounce) container heavy cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander. 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a baking dish, layer the sheets of filo pastry, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 1-inch hang over the edge. You want to get the pastry about 5 layers thick. Put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top and put aside.
When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Add  the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. 
Take out of the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing it. 

Chilaquiles Casserole

Monica:  There are different variations of chilaquiles and one of my favorite versions is a casserole (eventhough it may not be 100% authentic), because it is easy to make for a crowd and oh so tasty.  For the salsa, I used the recipe for the tomatillo salsa I made with the pork loin we posted back in October. And I do have to say that salsa is the real deal!  Overall, this dish is simple and works perfectly for brunch.  If you like fried eggs, you can choose to fry some up and top each serving with one; it really tastes delicious that way. I baked my own tortilla chips instead of frying them (they are somewhat healthier that way) and they get really crispy.  You can make them with chicken or keep it veggie with cheese only, or you could opt to also add some spinach in there too.  I topped mine with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro (if you don't like cilantro, it is optional).  Buen provecho!

Ingredient List (Serves 8 - 10)
16 corn tortillas, cut into triangles (for the chips)
Chicken breast, cooked and shredded (you can even use a roasted chicken)
Mozarella cheese
Sour cream, optional
Cilantro, optional
Cotija cheese crumbles, optional
For the Tomatillo salsa:
1 lb tomatillos
8-10 dried chiles de arbol
dash of cumin
kosher salt, to taste

First comes first, gotta bake those chips. Preheat oven to 375.  Once you cut the tortillas into triangles, lay on baking sheet and coat with baking spray on both sides.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until crispy and golden.  Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. Don't turn the oven off, you are going to need it to bake the casserole.

Make the tomatillo salsa.  
Put the 1 lb of tomatillos (husks removed) in a small pot. Fill the pot with water, just barely covering the tops of the tomatillos and add salt. Cook the tomatillos until the water is boiling and they are tender.
As the tomatillos are cooking, fry 8 –10 (you can add more or less according to your preference) chiles de arbol in a tablespoon of canola oil. Fry the chiles until they are well crisped.
Once the tomatillos are soft, add the tomatillos and the boiled water to a blender, along with the chiles. Add a dash of cumin (about a teaspoon) and blend to a smooth consistency. Taste, and add salt accordingly. If the salsa is too thick, add a bit of water (but not too much) and blend until smooth.
Once the chips and salsa are made, it's time to layer the casserole. First, spread salsa on the bottom of your baking dish.  Make a layer of chips on the bottom, add shredded chicken (if using) and top with shredded mozarella cheese.  Continue layering using salsa, chicken, cheese, chips.  Top layer should be a layer of chips and lots of cheese.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden a bubbling. 
When you serve the chilaquiles, top with a dollop of sour cream.  You can also add cilantro and cotija cheese crumbles.  As mentioned before, to add more flavor and excitement, top with a fried egg. 
Cinnamon Rolls
Caitlin: I came across this recipe for cinnamon rolls when I was browsing the Williams Sonoma site and daydreaming of being wealthy enough to purchase all of the cool gadgets and kitchen tools. Sigh....
Anyway, back to reality - these looked delicious and I had to make them. I was surprised how easy they were and how yummy! However, if you're looking for instant gratification and want to eat these immediately after looking at the recipe, you'll have to wait. The dough does require an overnight rising period, but trust me they're worth the wait. I made the dough Saturday evening and Sunday morning for breakfast we had warm, sweet, delicious buns :) 

Ingredient List
1 Tbs. (1 package) active dry yeast 
1/2 cup warm water (105°F) 
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed 
4 eggs 
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 tsp. kosher salt 
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature  *I cut the butter almost if half and they turned out great, so if you don't want to use a whole stick, about 3/4 to 1/2 stick will suffice.
*I added crushed walnuts for texture - delicious.
 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 
1/2 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon  

For the vanilla glaze:  
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract


To make the dough, in a bowl sprinkle the yeast over the water, add a tbsp of sugar and allow to bloom for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot, about 30 minutes.

Add the eggs, granulated sugar, salt and the remaining 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture. Knead until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the room-temperature butter and continue to knead, adding a little flour to reduce stickiness if needed, until the dough is smooth, 10 to 12 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Roll out into a 15-by-10-inch rectangle. Brush the rectangle with half of the melted butter, leaving a 2-inch-wide strip uncovered on one long side. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter. * You can add the crushed walnuts here, if you want them inside the rolls, or you can add them to the top. Starting at the long side covered with sugar, roll up the rectangle snugly and pinch the seam together.

With the seam facing down, cut into 10 equal pieces. Place the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared dish. Brush the rolls with the remaining butter. *You can also add the walnuts here to the top of the buns. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let rise until half again as high, about 1 hour. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, make the vanilla glaze: In a small bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, milk and vanilla, then stir into the sugar mixture to form a smooth paste. Spread the glaze over the warm rolls and serve immediately. Makes 10 large rolls.  
Cinnamon-Vanilla Sticky Buns
Monica: I first saw a variation of these sticky buns on Ina Garten's Holiday special and I've been wanting to try them ever since.  What better excuse than brunch?!  Again, they are simple and scrumptious.  Instead of using pecans, like in traditional sticky buns, I decided to omit them from the recipe all together and I added vanilla to the butter mixture in order to enhance the cinnamon flavor.  Oh and I used frozen puff pastry (don't judge)...if it's good enough for "The Barefoot Contessa", it's good enough for me! They are not only fun to make - they are fun to eat.  It's really the perfect way to end (or begin) your brunch.

Ingredient List
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoons good quality vanilla extract
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
For the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
In the bowl with an electric mixer, combine 12 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. 
Lightly flour a wooden board or surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam-side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, about 1 1/2 inches each. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: I suggest a strong bold coffee with cream. Then again, if you're in the mood and want something with a kick, champagne might be nice....
Monica: I made a rosemary infused raspberry lemonade, inspired by this recipe from Marcella Valladolid.  I highly recommend it, just add your favorite berries. Oh, and a little Kettle One wouldn't hurt (if it's not too early in the day) is brunch after all.

Cailtin: I think Motown is always good for brunch. Here are some of my favorites (old and new) and a video of a song I can't get enough of right now. Enjoy!
Amy Winehouse: Tears Dry on their Own
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel: Ain't Nothin Like the Real Thing
Aretha Franklin: Baby I Love You or The House that Jack Built
Al Green: Love and Happiness
Adele: Rolling in the Deep
Monica: My mix of tunes, perfect for a weekend morning.
1)  Sunday Morning - The Velvet Underground
2)  English Tea - Paul McCartney
3)  Keys to Your Heart - The 101ers
4)  Little Lion Man - Mumford & Sons
5)  Just Like Heaven - Katie Melua