Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brunch for Eight

When I was in college, we used to have dinner parties, like all the time. In fact, we had dinner parties even when all we could use to cook was a 40 year old oven which barely baked chocolate chip cookies. It seemed easy back then -- all you needed was one big dish that everyone could eat, a lot of wine and maybe a cheesecake from Trader Joe's. These days, I find that fewer and fewer people have parties at home. I think it's because women feel like they have to be domestic goddesses, like they have to wow everyone with something amazing, like they have to be Nigella Lawson and like paper plates for dessert are suddenly not cool anymore. They think about the hassle of preparing a 5-star-chef meal to satisfy critical guests' expectations and then they just say screw it and go to a restaurant with a real 5-star-chef.

Well, guess what, I am NOT okay with that. There is so much charm in hosting people at your house, in seeing them eat food that you prepared and choosing your own music and dimming the lights just so. Today, I made a brunch for 8 people in under two hours*, and I can tell you, it was dead easy and it was awesome. I used simple ingredients and I was not above having bagels (and I bought them, too, ha!). Seriously, though -- we should get together at home more often; we should cook for our loved ones; we should eat off of our best china, drink our best wine, dance to Ella Fitzgerald and sit as long as we want to without a waiter giving us the stink eye. And now, I'm just going to stop and give you the menu already, because I'm beginning to feel like I need a short skirt and pom-poms and it's too early for Halloween.

*Except for the crème brûlée, I made that the night before and it took me maybe 15 minutes.

(PS Sorry for the lack of pictures, but my clock was inexplicably 1/2 hr late and I panicked and broke things and burned myself and chaos and pandemonium ensued and I didn't have time to take pictures. But the food turned out great. I kept the blood out of the frittata -- just kidding, mom!).

Full-Proof Brunch Menu For Eight

Two wedges of cheese (e.g. Brie and Cheddar or, as I prefer, Brie and Blue Costello)
Pepper crackers, 1 box
1 cold, crisp apple, sliced
A bottle of Prosecco or champagne, cold

Main course:
Frittata with whatever you have on hand (mine was with cheddar, onions, tomatoes and sausage, but you could easily go with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes or eggplant, cherry tomatoes and gruyere)
Orzo with herbs and goat cheese
Bagels, halved and toasted
Cream cheese
2 tomatoes, 1 red onion and 2 avocados, thinly sliced
Arugula salad with persimmons, almonds, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese

Crème brûlée

White wine
Mineral water with sliced limes and lemons
Orange Juice

Today's recipe: Frittata!

You should make a frittata because it is the easiest and most versatile dish in the world. And also because saying "frittata" is so much more fun than "omelet." First, you should decide on your ingredients. Asparagus, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes? Chorizo and caramelized onions? Fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes? What kind of cheese are you going to use? Should you throw in herbs like thyme and/or spices like smoked paprika? Here is how I made mine. The procedure is basically the same, just switch up the ingredients.

In a 10 inch skillet that you can put into the oven, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. While the oil is heating, chop your ingredients. In my case, it was 1 chorizo (vegetarians, omit this), 1 medium beefsteak tomato and 1/2 of a large red onion. Toss the ingredients into the skillet and saute for a few minutes until they start looking and smelling good (until the chorizo browns and the onion/eggplant/mushrooms/whatever is softening). Note that for asparagus, you should saute all the ingredients first and then throw it into the skillet for a minute at the end right before you pour in the eggs.

While everything is sauteing, put your oven on the broiler setting. For eight people, I used 6 eggs and 6 egg whites (for health and fluffiness reasons) and 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk the eggs, egg whites, milk, a few shakes of salt and pepper together and then when the ingredients have sauteed enough, pour the eggs into the skillet. Throw in a handful of grated cheese. Cover. Go put on your makeup and pour champagne for everyone. Heh heh. Ok, leave it on the heat, covered, for about 10 minutes (or until the eggs are just starting to set but are still a bit wobbly) and then put the skillet under the broiler (I put the rack in the middle of the oven) for another 5-10 minutes or until the frittata is completely set in the middle. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. Cut into 8 pieces and transfer to a serving platter. Please be very careful taking it out of the oven because the skillet is going to be HOT (can you tell I am speaking from painful experience here???).

Stay tuned for the other recipes, especially the salad and the crème brûlée. They were really, really, really good.


La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I love to host. This looks like a great brunch.

kayenne said...

I did a frittata two Sundays ago for the family. Bacon, potatoes, onions, a couple of minced garlic cloves, frozen chopped spinach, a handful of supermarket processed cheese and 8 eggs. Also made some cranberry scones and took out a bottle of guava and passionfruit jam. YUMMY!

Yay for all-steel fry pans!

limonana said...

such a fun post! i so very much agree with you, you have no idea! i adore hosting no matter how simple a meal it will be, & wish that everyone i love felt the same...ahh in a perfect world!

Chocolate Shavings said...

I agree - i love having people over, but have noticed that people around me want to go out more and more. There's such pleasure in providing a meal for others, and I have had the best dinners around a missed recipes and burnt toast.

Jesse said...

I seem to go to dinner parties more and more where the hosts have made a trip to Costco and meals are just family sized snack platters. Nothing against that really, but it's not nearly as cozy as the dinner parties I'm used. Three cheers for bringing back the dinner party!
Brunch sounds really wonderful. I'm so impressed that you topped it all off with creme brulee!

Susan said...

Sounds wonderful, Irene. I agree. We should do this more often! And thanks for visiting my blog.

Eileen said...

Oops! I was signed in as my sister, Susan, who I share my website/blog with. Anyway, I love your site. You've got great things on it!!