brunch table setting

brunch table setting

I’m sure I’m going to come across as a grouch here, but I’m not the biggest fan of restaurant brunches…

Most of the reason for this is because I think I’m still scarred from the Sundays in my twenties when I’d spend half the day waiting in line with my friends to grab a table at some popular New York spot, then spend, like, thirty bucks, for a plate of scrambled eggs. And I never really recovered from reading Kitchen Confidential, by then-restaurant-chef Anthony Bourdain, where he famously admitted his abhorrence for the meal, calling it a “horrible, cynical way of unloading leftovers” made from “old, nasty odds and ends.”

But at-home brunches are a different story. Over the years I’ve had to host my share of bridal and baby showers and, of course, Mother’s Day brunches, and, unlike dinner party menus, I’ve kind of nailed a formula for a perfect spread. This is how it goes:

Egg-Based Main + Bagels & Smoked Salmon Spread + Fruit Salad

If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll throw in a baked good or ask one of the guests to swing by the local bakery for muffins or a decadent coffee cake.

For the egg-based main, you can go with a classic quiche (like the spinach and sweet onion below), a frittata (like the one shown above) or a simple bake (like this Leek, Ham, and Cheese from Smitten Kitchen). For the bagels and salmon, you want to make sure you have all the fixings (cream cheese, minced red onion, capers, lemon wedges), and the fruit should be whatever is in season: a big bowl of just strawberries this time of year would be beautiful. In the winter, I’d go with pineapple, oranges and pomegranates. Simple, sweet and entirely make-ahead.

Spinach and Sweet Onion Quiche
You can consider this a basic formula for quiche, swapping in kale, broccoli or chard, for the spinach, and feta or Gruyère for the cheddar. Makes one 9-inch pie.

Storebought pie dough, such as Pillsbury, to fit a 9-inch pie dish (you might have to roll it out slightly)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach (or 1/2 cup thawed frozen spinach, squeezed dry)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream
4 large eggs
3 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange an oven rack in the middle position.

Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie dish, then using a fork, prick the bottom all over. Bake for 8 minutes.

While the crust parbakes, combine the olive oil, onion, salt, and pepper in a skillet set over medium heat. Cook the onion for was long as you can, stirring occasionally, at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes, to get them as caramelized as possible.

Transfer the onion to a cutting board, spreading them out on one side of the board to cool a bit. Add the spinach to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. (Skip this step if using frozen spinach.) Transfer to the same cutting board as the onion and let cool a bit, then roughly chop both the onion and the spinach.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, half-and-half, eggs, and more salt and pepper.

Remove the pie dish from the oven and pour in the egg mixture. Gently add the onion and spinach. Top the whole thing with the cheese and bake until golden on top and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving. 

Notes on Advance Planning: If you are making this ahead of time, allow it to completely cool, then cover with foil and refrigerate. To reheat, place in the oven, then set the heat to 350°F to warm through (placing the dish in a cold oven allows it to gradually heat with the oven) until a knife inserted into the center comes out hot, about 25 minutes. I also think quiche works at room temperature, so if you make it the morning of, just let it sit on the counter until brunch time.

P.S. Easy breakfasts for guests and a raspberry-almond coffee cake.

(Photo by Jeff Wasserman/Stocksy.)