Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gala Parfait: Throwing a Perfect Holiday Brunch


Sunday brunch is, in my humble opinion, the best part of the week. Add the cozy rush of the holidays and you've hit my ultimate soft spot. Bright morning light, a crisp winter chill, steaming mugs, rich savory food, sparkling wine and merriment.
Last year I condensed all of these things I love so much into a successful holiday open-house-style brunch the Sunday before Christmas, where friends were invited to stop by throughout the morning for some good food, drink and conversation.
Due to a maxed-out calendar, my brunch is taking this year off, but follow this easy guide and you can throw a perfect affair, and even enjoy it while it's happening. The secret KEY to this menu is that you can make almost ALL of it the night before, with just light preperation in the morning before guests arrive.

Checklist
Night Before:
1. Prepare both of the casseroles and refrigerate
2. Halve and segment the grapefruit
3. Peel and slice citrus for salad
4. Juice oranges and grapefruit for mimosas
Day of:
1. Broil the grapefruit, then set aside to cool
2. Lower the heat on the oven and bake the Sausage Egg Breakfast Casserole as directed
3. Mid-way add the French Toast Casserole to the oven and bake as directed
4. Prepare citrus salad and set table
5. Set up mimosa station (ice buckets for prosecco bottles and juice carafes)
6. Brew tea and coffee, and heat milk for café au lait on stovetop as guests begin to arrive

Panettone French Toast Casserole with Apples

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon water
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pounds granny smith apples
6 1-inch slices panettone
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (for serving)

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add brown sugar and water until combined. Spread this mixture over the bottom of a 9x13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon, set aside. Trim the bottom crust of the panettone. Starting at the bottom end of the panettone, cut it crosswise into 6 (1-inch thick) round slices (reserve the top piece for toast!). Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick slices. Heat remaining butter over medium heat. Add apples and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until apples are cooked but not mushy. Spread apples over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover apples with the panettone slices. Pour egg and cream mixture over panettone, coating all slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat over to 350°F. Bake French toast uncovered for 35—40 minutes until lightly golden. Dollop the mascarpone atop French toast when serving.

Sausage Egg Breakfast Casserole

16 oz day old bread, cubed
10 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups light cream or whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1 pound sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained
1 bunch scallions, chopped

Butter 9 -by 13-inch baking pan. Place cubed bread in the pan. Sprinkle with cheeses. Combine wet ingredients, and pour over the bread and cheese. Top with sausage and scallions. Cover tightly and refrigerate over night.
In the morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the casserole, and bake for an hour, or until golden brown.

Bruléed Ginger Grapefruit

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 large pink grapefruits

Preheat broiler. In an electric coffee/spice grinder combine sugar, ginger, and vanilla and grind fine. Halve each grapefruit crosswise and run knife around each section to loosen membranes. Arrange grapefruits, cut sides-up, in a flameproof baking dish or baking pan just large enough to hold them in one layer and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Broil grapefruits about 1 1/2 inches from heat until sugar melts and tops begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve grapefruits at room temperature.

Maple Citrus Salad

4 navel oranges
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cinnamon

With a vegetable peeler remove a 2 by 1-inch piece of zest from 1 of the oranges, being careful not to peel off any of the white pith. Cut into thin strips and set aside.
Cut about 1/2 inch off of the top and bottom each piece of fruit. Remove the peel and pith from each piece of fruit by standing it on its end and cutting down along the curve of the fruit. Slice the fruit into 1/4 inch thick rounds and arrange on a platter.
In a small bowl combine the maple syrup, lemon juice and cinnamon. Pour the dressing over the fruit, garnish with the zest and serve.

French Market Style Café au Lait
Once you have brewed a pot of Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory (available at World Market), just add an equal amount of steamy hot milk for Café au Lait.

1 part hot Coffee and Chicory or French Roast Coffee
1 part hot milk

To heat milk, scald over low heat in a sauce pan just until a thin film forms. Pour equal parts hot scalded milk and hot coffee into a large mug. Or, as in some New Orleans establishments, provide a pitcher of scalded milk and a pitcher of hot coffee on the table so that your guests can pour their own, exactly as they like it.

Prosecco mimosas with fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices

Christmas Morning Tea

Ask your guests simply to bring christmas cookies or their other holiday baked goods and have a platter or tiered server available. Whole clementines are always a nice touch too, aesthetically as well for light snacking with tea after the meal.

Happy Brunching!

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