Thursday, June 15, 2006

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye - Celebration Sunday Brunch!

Don't you love that picture? I'll get to the food in a second, but I was just completely thrilled (and extremely lucky) to have gotten this picture of this past Sunday's brunch. The fact that the food is in focus enough for us to talk about is great, plus that I can also get a sensation of how alive our bruncheon was (because of the people - particularly Josh - in motion) is pretty nifty - especially as it was the only picture that turned out that I took that day.
As you, the faithful reader (hi dad!), have figured out, Sunday night dinners rotate houses and chefs within our small group. This past week was my turn as it had been five weeks or so since my baked potato bar and fondue extravaganza. I had planned out a menu far in advance that featured a roast chicken and Fresh Catering's roasted garlic and leek savory bread pudding. We were technically a few days away from the first day of summer, yet, here in Boston, we've been stuck in spring rain mode for weeks... So, this type of hearty, but unseasonal dinner seemed, at first, to be appropriate.
Yet, fate and fair weather took hold and plans were changed with a great deal of delight on my part. Though graduate school and lab still run my life at this point (pesky thing, completing that thesis), others are ready to move on (lucky bastards!). Specifically, Josh and Jennifer (of Memorial Day bbq-ing fame), Jonathan (of bulgoki fame) and Joe (no food-blog fame; just a great friend) are all moving on to bigger and better things that are taking them away from us. To celebrate our time together and give the four J's a festive send-off (they will all be leaving sometime between June 28th and July 31st), I decided to throw a bad-ass Sunday Brunch. And, rather than keep dinner to a small manageable group, I invited 21 of our closest friends to fete and feast in their honor.
A quick aside: brunch is my favorite meal - no question. Three of my favorite foods are cheese, eggs and potatoes - all commonly found on the brunch plate... Plus, for a hostess, there were so many options of dishes to choose from - I, being one who hates to make decisions, chose them all. The menu was comprised of:

Beverages: OJ, berry bellinis (my own impromptu creation) and bloody marys
Savory Tasties: Quiche 3-ways (ha - I've always wanted to say that, but what I mean is bacon, spinach and pepper-jack quiche, broccoli, shitake mushroom and chedder quiche and Clotilde's divine salmon-leek quiche), Florentine Frittata (adapted from Cooking Light) and roasted potatoes with sweet onions
Sweet Treats: Orangette's Orange-Nutmeg muffins and Scottish scones(I dressed them up with cinnamon and raisins) as well as a variety of fresh fruit (mangos, cherries, kiwis, strawberries, and pineapple) with vanilla yogurt

From what I gathered it was a great success (so much so that the bacon quiche was gone by the time I made up my plate). My camera battery was dying throughout the morning, so the header pictures is all I have - but you can see the complete spread before it was completely laid to waste. We all toasted Josh, Jennifer and Jonathan (Joe couldn't come to his own party, he got leftovers the next day) and watched the Mexico-Iran World Cup match and made complete gluttons of ourselves... What a way to celebrate... And, best of all, what a way to try a plethora of other blogger's recipes for tasty brunch food that I've been craving!
I've linked to the recipes from other bloggers in the menu listing above, but I'll include here the recipe for the frittata and my quiche adaptations:

Florentine Frittata (loosely adapted from Cooking Light)

**This recipe is designed to feed 4-6, I doubled it and cooked it in a 9x13 inch baking pan

2 T. water
1/2 t. dried basil (I used approximately 1 T. finely chopped fresh basil)
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. salt (I would definitely use more salt next time... that's all it was lacking)
1/4 t. dried oregano (again, I used ~1 T. finely chopped fresh oregano)
1 16oz carton egg substitute (ick - I used 8 real eggs - "brown eggs are local eggs")
1 10oz package frozen spinach (I used 1 large bunch of spinach, chopped and steamed)
2 t. butter
2 c. thinly sliced Vidalia onions (or other sweet onions)
2 c. frozen shredded hash browns (couldn't find these anywhere! used fresh grated potatoes that had been boiled until just tender to a knife)
1 7oz bottle roasted red peppers, drained and sliced (oops, forgot the slicing part)
3 oz. feta cheese (better if it is the kind you can crumble with your fingers - not the already crumbled kind)

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients (water through spinach) in a bowl, set aside.
2. Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion; saute 5 minutes. Add hash browns (or grated potatoes); cook 9 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Pour egg mixture over onion-potato mixture. Arrange roasted bell pepper slices (or giant pieces, if you're me) on top of frittata. Cook 7 minutes or until set (about 15-20 minutes if doubling and doing in the oven at 375F).
3. Preheat broiler.
4. Sprinkle frittata with cheese. Broil frittata for 5 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned (feta will not melt). Cut into wedges and serve!

Quiche Variations:
Using Michelle's Quiche 1-2-3 base: premade crust (yay Pillsbury roll-out crusts!), 3 eggs and 1 cup milk (I used whole milk for a creamer base) - I constructed 2 very tasty variations:

Broccoli and Shitake Mushroom-
2 small heads of broccoli or 1 large head - chopped fine and steamed lightly
1/2 lb. shitake mushrooms, caps only, chopped into bite size pieces
8 oz. sharp chedder cheese, grated

Layer the 1/3 cheese on crust first, then 1/2 broccoli, 1/2 mushrooms (uncooked), repeat cheese, broccoli and mushrooms. Top with last 1/3 of cheese. Pour egg mixture over top and bake for 35-40 minutes at 375F.

Turkey Bacon, Spinach and Pepperjack-
1 package turkey bacon, chopped into strips, fried and drained
1 large bunch of spinach, washed, julienned, steamed and drained
8 oz pepperjack cheese, grated

Follow same as above layering cheese, bacon, spinach, cheese, bacon, spinach, cheese and then add egg+milk and bake.

These quiches were served at room temperature on the day of the brunch, but are also good both cold and warmed up (believe me, I've been eating leftovers all week).

So, now my brunch cravings have been quieted for a little while and I am happy to know that we sent off our friends into the new chapters in their lives with a great party. We can save the roasted chicken for the first weekend of fall (along with leaf peeping - why do they call it this?).
Once I am done eating all the leftovers this week, I'll be able to cook again and post something new!

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