At Christmastime there is nothing more companionable than a festive brunch where family and friends can gather during or after exchanging gifts, says Patrick Engel.
The executive chef at The Good Earth Cooking School in Beamsville, Ont., gives classes on how to stage a successful brunch without a lot of fuss or stress.
“The advantage of brunch is that it takes the place of breakfast and lunch, so it is a much more versatile meal where you can do a lot of different things,” he says.
Engel says the most successful — and easiest on the host — are those where most of the preparation is done in advance.
“You can still base the meal around eggs, but at the same time bring in a lot of elements from other meals, such as bagels with the fixings like cream cheese, pepper jelly or smoked salmon.”
He says a great brunch item is strata, which is literally a casserole of eggs, bread, sausages, vegetables and cheese. There are stratas with different ingredients as well.
“Made ahead, you wake up Christmas morning, turn on the coffee and put the strata in the oven and cook at a low heat and it will be ready to eat in the next hour or so.”
There are many egg-based dishes that can be prepared in advance such as frittatas, quiches and French toast.
Engel doesn’t think scrambled eggs or omelettes are such good brunch offerings, mainly because they are fussy to prepare and have to be eaten right away.
Fruit is a “big part of brunch,” says Engel. “Have a bowl of fresh fruit on the table so guests can help themselves to something refreshing.”
And don’t forget fancy breads like cranberry muffins, cinnamon buns and a variety of scones as well as toast.
Engel says for such a festive occasion, beverages like mimosas, a cocktail of equal parts of champagne and orange juice served icy cold but not over ice, are historically served with brunch.