Guests are arriving for the weekend. As far as meal planning goes, when in doubt, go with brunch.
Brunch is the type of meal that allows you to share your style and creativity – and surely impress your guests – without having to wake up at the crack of dawn, slave away in the kitchen for hours and then be saddled with an hour of cleanup following the meal. After all, your guests are here to enjoy your company and not watch you cook and clean!
Brunch will also leave your guests feeling energized and ready to see the sights, as opposed to sluggish and yearning for a nap. Brunch will also eliminate the need to prepare or stop for a full-blown lunch. A mid-afternoon snack will probably tide everyone over until dinner.
Wow ‘em with Espresso, etc.
OK, so my first item may not exactly be a recipe, but if your guests are accustomed to ordering their daily fix at their favorite coffee shops and paying top dollar for their favorite barista-made creations, then imagine your guests’ surprise when you whip up their beloved mocha cappuccino, double espresso or non-fat chai latte. You can actually up the ante by providing garnishes such as chocolate shavings, flavored syrups, cinnamon grinders, etc., that your guests can use to create custom drinks. It’ll keep them busy, plus you or your spouse won’t have to make a last-minute run to the local coffee shop.
Of course, you can spend a fortune and buy a cappuccino machine with all of the bells and whistles – plus all the features that can help you produce “world class” beverages – but that’s not necessary. There are a few more simplified options available that do a pretty decent job of the basics, where the rest is all just garnish and flavoring. A case in point is my wife’s favorite chai for which a milk steamer proved to be a must. I tried stand-alone milk frothers, whippers, etc., but found that nothing beats the results from a true steamer when you’re trying to replicate what the big “S” does.
Ode to Lancaster County Quiche
Since people are a little more awake and able to handle things that might not necessarily be considered breakfast food, brunch allows for a greater variety of flavors to be offered. Suggest a vinaigrette-dressed salad for breakfast, and you’ll get odd looks. But plan it for brunch, and most are OK with it.
With that said, quiche is a perfect way to go. These wonderful egg pies basically consist of a par-baked pie shell, eggs, light cream and whatever tasty bits of flavorings you’d like to add. Whether it’s cheese, blanched broccoli and crumbled bacon or spinach, feta and olives, the sky is the limit.
However, today we are treating guests to two things for which Lancaster County is known: sweet corn and tomatoes, plus crab. Using these three ingredients together really takes this quiche to another level. I also used just a little bit of jalapeño cheddar cheese to give it a much-needed “wake-up call” spark, which is perfectly appropriate for brunch, but not too much so as to render it “heavy.”
With quiche, I always like to serve a salad. Wanting to still give my guests the comforts of typical breakfast flavors, I came upwith this sort of “home-fry” salad. Crisp, tender lettuce leaves combine with roasted and julienne peppers, sweet onion, chives, boiled new potatoes, crispy pancetta and a little shaved asiago cheese to deliver the taste of a hearty breakfast but in a much lighter format. A champagne vinaigrette provides a tangy finish.
And now for something sweet, but not too sweet. Fresh berries always have a place at my table. They are super nutritious and don’t need additional sugar (in most cases). Plus, they require little work. Just wash and minimally slice them, if needed, and they are ready to go.
Here, a mixture of fresh berries atop a small dollop of whipped Devonshire cream provides an awesome topper for the mini-waffles I’ve been seeing in supermarkets. (You could also use them to create mini-sized chicken-and-waffle hors d’oeuvres for cocktail hour.)
The maple-flavored variety I purchased added just the right amount of zest to the otherwise simple berries and cream. Not only are they easy to put together, but they’re also easy to pick up and enjoy, plus they don’t leave you uncomfortably full after eating a few.