Feeding a Crowd: Make-ahead Brunch

Mission: feed ten people (including vegetarians) a brunch feast including sweet and savory on a Sunday morning without panicking, running out of burners, wishing you’d moved to the suburbs where they have real kitchens, or missing out on the fun once your friends show up and start mixing mimosas!

With mushroom sauce already made and in the fridge, grits cooking overnight, and french toast soaked in custard and ready to bake, we sat around this morning calmly drinking coffee. No last minute pancake-flipping, no slaving over a waffle iron—it’s always best to make food that multiplies easily for a crowd. We popped everything in the oven as people arrived. Kielbasa would have been cooked on the grill, if we hadn’t run out of propane at that very moment (doesn’t that always happen?) It was fine, really, since I’m sure those kielbasa went a long way toward seasoning my less-broken-in cast iron pan.

These sorts of events make me wonder: will we get as much joy-per-square-foot out of our home when it’s, say, twice as big? When we no longer work and sleep and cook and hang out in one room?

Make-Ahead Brunch Menu for Ten

Overnight Slow Cooker Grits
Mushroom-Sauce Baked Eggs
Baked Cafe au Lait French Toast (recipe here)
Fruit Salad
Bialys with Lox from Russ & Daughters)
Pom-Orange Mimosas

I would definitely repeat these eggs, though I’m not sure about the french toast. The bitterness of the coffee was pretty good when balanced with maple syrup, but it didn’t thrill any of us. My tip for overnight french toast is to soak the bread overnight in about 3/4 of the custard mixture, reserving the rest to pour over the top the next morning after the initial amount has been absorbed. These can bake in the same oven as the eggs.

Pom-Orange Mimosas
One bottle sparkling wine, cava, or prosecco
2 cups orange juice (freshly squeezed is great!)
1 or 2 cups pomegranate juice

Mix in pitcher and serve in flutes!

Slow Cooker Grits
2 cups stoneground grits
9 cups water
1 T butter
about 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Combine grits, water, and butter in electric slow cooker. This cooked on low for 10 hours. Different brands of grits and slow cookers will vary, but after 10 hours these were not quite done and had not absorbed all the liquid. We turned it up to high for about 20 minutes, then took the lid off and stirred while the water evaporated a bit for another 30 minutes or so, adding the cheese as the texture got thicker.

Earthy Vegetarian Mushroom Sauce
1 T butter
splash olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 T fresh herbs (I used sage, oregano, and rosemary), chopped
1 teaspoon or so concentrated tomato paste (I like the kind that comes in a tube)
2 pounds crimini mushrooms
3 large portobello mushroom caps
1 cup wine (I used white, but red would be great if you have it around)
sprinkle curry powder
sprinkle dried oregano
pinch sugar
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or a little less
salt and pepper to taste
Splash milk or cream
1/4 cup yogurt or creme fraiche

In a large dutch oven, saute onions and garlic in butter and olive oil over low heat a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms. I did half of them into medium sized slices for a nice texture, while the other half were diced smaller for a finer sauce. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir until the onions are coated, this will help them caramelize a bit. Add the mushrooms as you slice them and stir to incorporate. Add wine, fresh and dried herbs and spices, sugar and balsamic, stirring and cooking on low-medium heat until mushrooms look fully cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. (At this point, I cooled the mixture overnight to reheat the next morning.) Reheat sauce if necessary, stir in milk and yogurt.

Mushroom Baked Eggs
Mushroom sauce (see above)
12 free-range eggs
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Split sauce between two ovenproof glass dishes (a pie plate works fine). Make indentations for eggs. Crack eggs into indentations, grind pepper on top and bake for 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook—they may not look as done as they are! Serve on top of grits.

In breakfast, brunch, eggs, grits, mushrooms, slow cooker, vegetarian

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