If there is one thing I could change about my apartment it would be my kitchen. My small kitchen, to be more specific. So you can imagine why I was pleased to discover that I’m not the only one who struggles with semi-adequate counter space and less-than-desirable storage for my kitchen gadgets and ingredients.
Today I am very excited to bring you a simple, informative guide on how to host a brunch party (and you can still sleep in!) from Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine. On Big Girls Small Kitchen, they offer user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. Not only are they clearly as food-obsessed as I am, but they share my penchant for throwing parties with their great party menus and simple entertaining tips.
By Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine
Brunch is one of the best meals to host, since there is a lot more flexibility than at a Friday or Saturday night dinner. For one, brunches can last as long or as short as you like. Most of the time, friends will have plans for the afternoon and won’t stay all day, but sometimes they’ll have nothing to do, and some of our best brunches have lasted almost until dinner. On the other hand, if you have plans, everyone will understand.
Beyond those perks, there is the inevitable con that brunch occurs relatively early. Set your own schedule. If you’re not an early bird, don’t invite anyone over before 1:00pm. No matter what time you wake up, we’ve figured out how to do a festive, fun brunch with no more than a hour or so of work. That means you can sleep til noon.
Here are our general brunch tips, culled from our experience and borrowed from our book, as well as links to great recipes on both our site and In Good Taste. Raise your Bloody Mary for a toast, and read on!
Cook One Item on the Stove. That’s it. No, really. Put away that second frying pan. Dealing with sautéing hash browns, scrambling eggs, and all the while entertaining the first few arrivals is just a disaster waiting to happen. Think about stovetop items that can be made in the oven. If you’re having more than four people over, skip the omelet (even though this Zucchini Omelet looks hard to skip) and serve a frittata instead. That means skipping pancakes, crepes, and stovetop French toast (though you can make baked French toast) when cooking for crowds.
Cook. Assemble. Make Ahead. Choose one item that requires attention the day of (scrambled eggs or hash browns), one that requires assembly (salad or sandwiches), and another that can be made start to finish the night before (quick breads or coffee cake), and brunch will be a breeze.
Befriend Eggs. Eggs are cheap, traditional, and tasty, and they are easy to double and triple according to your party size. Frying eggs and making omelets are stressful and should be avoided. Go for a simple scramble plain or piled on bread (then you get to call it a “tartine”), or choose an egg dish that only requires baking in the oven. A frittata or a strata is a great choice, as is this Spinach & Cheddar Breakfast Bake with Chicken Sausage. In the case of the last three, you can even assemble the night before and bake off the morning of.
Roasted Hash Browns. Since potatoes are probably more comforting for a hangover than either Advil or hair of the dog, adding them to your brunch menu will increase you popularity. We love this recipe for Spinach Hash Browns but if you want to take a shortcut, simply roast potatoes instead. Halve baby Yukon gold or red potatoes, toss with salt and olive oil, and roast for 50 minutes at 425°F. Parmesan-Roasted Potatoes are fantastic too. In the summer, a potato salad can work too (that one has bacon, killing two birds with one stone).
Breakfast Meats. A little sausage and bacon never disappoints. To avoid using your stovetop, bake your bacon and sausage in the oven. Drain the bacon afterwards on paper towels, as you would if you fried it in the pan.
Serve Bread. A loaf of good bread can bulk up your meal for cheap. It keeps people occupied while you finish cooking, too. If you buy your bread the day before, you’ll save time, but it can then get a little stale by brunch time the next day, especially if you buy baguette, which always tastes best freshly baked the day of. Toast the whole loaf for ten or fifteen minutes in the oven before serving it. Rubbing a little water on the crust with your hands will help crisp it up if it has gotten rubbery and soft. Getting in the habit of making no-knead bread is a great way to ensure there’s bread on the table without you having to leave the house at all. A breakfast tart uses carbs to similar effect and is a great centerpiece for a ladies’ brunch.
Make Sandwiches. Egg sandwiches are a traditional brunch item; BLTs or Pesto Chicken Sandwiches may be more lunch-like, but they’re always winners. Letting guests make their own sandwiches, as Phoebe does on St. Patrick’s Day, will make your life easier.
French Toast. This can be an incredibly easy, cheap brunch option, but frying up individual slices of French toast is a huge pain. Try baking your French toast instead. The bread can soak in the custard mixture overnight if your schedule warrants it, then you can bake off the toast just before your guests arrive.
Pancakes. Nostalgic and delicious, pancakes love variation. Just add some chocolate chips or fresh fruit and you can have pancakes two ways. Pumpkin Pancakes are wonderful in the fall. Because making pancakes can get messy, we only do it when we have four or fewer guests. If you’re serving a crowd, choose quickbreads or muffins instead.
Fruit. Fruit satisfies light eaters, and it can brighten up an otherwise monochromatic brunch plate, but platters and salads can get expensive. If you’re cutting costs, best to offer one kind of fruit—a melon, perhaps—or get your fruit serving via compotes.
Baked Goods. Quick breads, coffee cake, and muffins are a great addition to any brunch and are a pretty cheap, filling choice. Try Double Apple Walnut Cake, Cocoa Quickbread, and Banana Chocolate Chip Bread. Also don’t miss out on scones and biscuits; though Toasted Pecan-Oatmeal Scones should be made the day of, if you have space to slip them in the oven your guests will be grateful. Quickbreads are also a good answer to friends asking “What can I bring?”; a mini quick bread makes a great hostess gift.
Caffeine. If you own a coffee maker, great. Buy an inexpensive roast and whip up a pot. Put out milk and sugar. If you happen to lack a coffee pot, don’t bother with the powdered stuff. Serve tea instead, unless you want to ask a friend to pick up a jug from Dunkin Donuts.
Booze. Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and Bellinis are what make brunch worth believing in. You knew we would say this…but: Try to get your friends to chip in by bringing a bottle; you can supply orange juice to mix, or ask someone to get that too. Big Kid (aka Spiked) Hot Chocolate and Irish Coffee are both fantastic brunch beverages.