Hosting brunch can feel like a huge undertaking, but let the size of your crowd determine whether you’ll create intricate plated meals or a buffet-style brunch with shareable options. Anthony Scolaro, chef and co-owner of 111 Bistro in Medina, serves up one dish that works well for each approach.
Buffet: Biscuits and Gravy
This dish is perfect for a serve-yourself approach, but the key is to keep the gravy warm in a slow cooker and offer up an abundance of toppings such as butter, honey and marmalade that pairs well with rosemary biscuits. “It gives the host a good variety of options to serve and the guest a variety of things to eat,” says Scolaro. “The biscuits are a vehicle for other things. They hold up well, so the time and temperature aren’t as vital as they would be with another dish. You won’t sacrifice the quality."
Cut 1 pound chorizo and 1 pound breakfast sausage into large chunks and saute. Add 1 diced onion, 2 stalks diced celery, 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup flour to make a roux. Cook for 5 minutes, then add 1 1/2 quarts milk, in small batches until you bring to a boil. Stir in 1/4 cup lime juice and salt to taste. Transfer to crock pot, on low heat, to serve.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 1 1/2 pounds flour, 1/2 tablespoon onion powder, 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic, 1/2 tablespoon thyme, 1/2 tablespoon rosemary and 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder. Add 1/2 pound cold butter cut into small cubes and mix with hands until the butter is about the size of small peas. Mix in 3/4 pound buttermilk and stir together. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 3/4-inch thick and cut into round biscuits. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.
Plated: Crab Cake Benedict
This twist on eggs Benedict isn’t particularly complicated, but its presentation is a balancing act. “It’s a delicate dish with very temperature-sensitive ingredients. The hollandaise can break if it sits too long or gets too hot,” says Scolaro. “Stacking it all on a crab cake is different from stacking it all on an English muffin. It’s delicate and could fall apart on you if you put too much pressure on it.”
In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together 2 egg yolks and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Simmer hot water in a saucepan, and place bowl in the hot water, continuing to whisk while slowly adding 1 stick cooled melted butter. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne and 2 teaspoons water until sauce is smooth.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup mayo, 2 thinly sliced green onions, 1 large beaten egg, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning and 1/2 jalapeno seeded and finely diced. Add 1 pound lump crab meat and fold to blend with other ingredients. Stir in 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon sliced chives, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Form into 1-inch cakes. Coat each cake with 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and sear each in butter.
Cut 6 slices of thick-cut bacon into thirds, searing each piece. While cooking the bacon, poach eggs as needed per guest. For plating, place crab cakes first, then stack with bacon, poached eggs and drizzled hollandaise sauce. Garnish with 1 tablespoon chopped chives and serve alongside an arugula salad.
This gin-based cocktail infused with cucumber and jalapeno is a crowd-friendly way for everyone to partake in simple pleasures. “The lemon juice gives acidity and the infused gin adds freshness,” says restaurateur Eddie Tancredi of Distill Table. Here’s how to create the recipe.
Place 1 sliced jalapeno and half of a sliced English cucumber in a glass quart container.
Pour in a 750- milliliter bottle of gin, cover, shake gently, and let sit for 24 hours.When ready, strain the liquid back into the bottle, removing leftover jalapeno and cucumber slices.
Replace cap and store at room temperature. In a quart-sized carafe, combine 3 1/4 ounces Midori, 6 1/2 ounces lemon juice and 9 1/2 ounces cucumber-jalapeno-infused gin.
Refrigerate for at least one hour. Add 12 3/4 ounces club soda.
Serve over ice. Garnish with sliced cucumber, jalapenos and honeydew melon.
Egg Head: Jazz up your deviled eggs with these flavorful combinations.
Panko Breadcrumbs + Mayo + Hog Sauce + Andouille Sausage
“Bread the egg whites in panko and deep fry them for a take on a Scotch egg,” says Brett Zubek, executive chef at Sol. “The breaded egg gives it a texture that’s both smooth and crunchy, which is a great play on the flavor balance of spicy and smoky.”
Cooked Lump Crab Meat + Whole Grain Mustard + Lemon Juice + Old Bay Seasoning
“Top this with a bit of panko breadcrumbs for a bit of crunch, almost like a breaded crab cake,” says Zubek. “Put a bottle of Tabasco next to the platter and your guests can play with the garnish themselves.”
Guacamole + Mayo + Pice De Gallo + Pickled Jalapenos
“This has a Latin feel and it’s so simple,” says Zubek. “You can buy the guacamole and just add a bit of mayo to richen up the mix. You’ll end up with a nice green, vibrant color that guests can top with the pico de gallo and jalapeno to brighten things up and give a good level of flavor.”
Ease off the hard work with party planning tips from Crystal Angersola, foodie and lifestyle blogger at Eat Drink Cleveland.
Prepare The Affair
You can never be too prepared. “Shop ahead of time, prep and cook everything you can,” says Angersola. “I recommend getting serving utensils out and washing linens, gathering everything on the dining room table. Put it all together and see what you have and what you need so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.”
Think About Flow
Disperse the party throughout your home by setting up different stations. “I serve flavored water at every party, which encourages people to drink water when alcohol is being served. Then have another beverage someplace else, maybe a coffee station and a pitcher drink. You want people to move through the party.”
Coordinate The Plates
“I like to create a suggested list and have people pick an appetizer or side dish, or you can get specific. Or I’ll do a Facebook invite for parties, with a list of dishes that people can claim in the comments section. Then you can focus on your entree and let everyone else fill in the gaps.”