What better way to spend a freezing cold winter day other than thinking about food. A friend of mine, perhaps it was Bas or Jochem, gave me a bumper sticker that reads “Love people. Cook them tasty food”. I appreciate that thought as one could imagine it to be a mantra of mine. I am always inspired by friends that are professional chefs and of course, by the chefs on The Cooking Channel or the Food Network. In fact, it was a Bobby Flay episode ‘Brunch with Bobby’ that inspired this post.
It is a cruel tease for me to watch Bobby Flay prepare culinary creations in his fabulous gourmet kitchen in East Hampton: my only envy (really) is that he has a professional gas cook top ~ I don’t need East Hampton since I live in paradise here on the shore or as some believe God’s country. The gas range is on my wish list but natural gas lines do not exist here and propane can be just as temperamental as my modern electric cook top. Maybe one day I will fulfill my bucket list wish to prepare food professionally for family and friends. Good luck!
I love a good Sunday brunch but unfortunately there are no restaurants in my area that offer one (c’mon Ian!). With that being the case, I started coming up with my own brunch menus. So let’s explore Ali’s brunch ideas: Two-in-One Main Brunch Dishes…
One food movement of the moment seems to be fried eggs on EVERYTHING. Like my 91-year old momma, I love eggs. Eggs are the perfect food in that they cook rapidly, can be prepared a million different ways, and can create a beautiful focal point on the plate. I have a family member who raised chickens for their eggs but it seemed totally unnecessary. I did not find a significant difference in the taste (brilliant color in the yolk though) and chickens lay so many eggs that Mick could not give them away.
Some chefs seem to prefer quail eggs perhaps because of their small size or flavor but quail in my neck of the woods are becoming quite scarce so I can’t see cooking with them. There is nothing as beautiful as the call of a Bobwhite. Plus it conjures up sweet childhood memories for me of my father calling it out himself!
Ali’s Brunch Quesadilla with Fried Egg
- 8 ounces thick-cut cubed bacon (lardons)
- 2 large Idaho potatoes
- Salt/pepper to taste
- ¼ c. canola oil, divided
- 2 large sweet onion,s thinly sliced
- 1 hot chili pepper of choice (I usually use jalapeno), diced
- 1 T. chili powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 8 small flour tortillas
- 2-3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 4 T. butter
- 8 small eggs
- Pico de Gallo*
- Fresh chives, chopped
- Fry bacon until crisp and golden brown. Save drippings.
- Boil peeled potatoes until cooked through, but firm, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, cool slightly and grate through the large holes of a grater.
- Heat 2 T. oil or bacon fat in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.
- Heat remaining 2 T. oil in another large nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Add potatoes and cook until golden brown.
- Add onions, diced pepper, chili powder, and paprika to the potatoes. Warm through.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 4 tortillas on a large baking sheet. Top each with cheese, hash browns, and bacon. Cover each with another tortilla; brush top with oil and sprinkle with chili powder. Bake until golden brown and cheese melted, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven, cut each quesadilla into quarters.
- Heat butter in a large nonstick pan and fry eggs so yolk is slightly firm. Carefully cut each egg with a cookie cutter to make a perfect round.
- Assemble each quartered quesadilla with salsa, an egg and chopped chives.
*Using pico de gallo or tomato relish is always my choice even if tomatoes are not in season. This topping should be chunky and flavorful.
Some sort of smoked fish is a must for a meal like brunch. Sometimes I make shrimp and grits or have smoked salmon on the good ol’ standby bagel. However, my sister-in-law, Pat, has spoiled us by bringing fresh, smoked salmon from the fish monger at Fairway Market in New York City that is cut so thin you can see through it. The delicate flavor and aroma makes us not want to purchase it anywhere else. I have tons of recipes that involve crab cakes as well; one being served with a poached egg and Old Bay Hollandaise sauce. Yummy.
The next recipe to share involves what is called a Johnnycake. A Johnnycake is cornmeal flatbread that looks to me just like a pancake. Their history lies with the Native Americans who of course used ground corn for cooking long before the Europeans even arrived. The native inhabitants, the Algonquins of the Atlantic seaboard, are often credited with teaching Europeans how to prepare a Johnnycake. Since I don’t care for pancakes, I use the Johnnycake instead. You can use any smoked fish for the following recipe but smoked trout or fresh smoked bluefish (love and miss you, T.W.) will work best with the accompanying sauce.
Ali’s Johnnycake with Smoked Trout and Horseradish Crème Fraiche
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- ½ c. plus 1 T. fine yellow or white cornmeal
- 2 T. sugar
- 2 t. kosher salt
- 1 T. baking powder
- 2 large eggs, separated
- ¾ c. whole milk
- 2 T. butter, melted and cooled, plus more for frying the cakes
- ¾ c. crème fraiche
- 2 T. prepared horseradish, drained*
- 2 t. whole grain mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 whole smoked trout, flaked
- Parsley and/or chives, for garnish
*Drain the horseradish to remove excess liquid.
- Whisk together crème fraiche, horseradish and mustard in a small bowl.
- Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to marry.
- Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
- Whisk egg yolks and milk until combined. Whisk egg whites in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form.
- Add the egg/milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Gently fold in egg whites, then butter and mix until batter is smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes.
- Heat a large nonstick sauté pan or griddle over medium-high heat with a little butter. Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into the pan for each cakes, spreading the batter slightly to even out the top.
- Cook until lightly brown on each side, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove to baking sheet in preheated 300 degree oven until ready to serve.
- Top each cake with a small dollop of crème fraiche and some fish. Garnish with parsley or chives, if desired. Serve immediately.
Waffles seem to scream brunch staple. If you have a Belgian waffle maker, use that as it creates a prettier and thicker waffle. However, a regular waffle maker will work. I love cooked fruit and it dresses up a waffle delightfully. I use Granny Smith apples in the following recipe as they are tart and hold their shape when cooked.
Ali’s Belgian Waffles with Sautéed Apples
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- ¼ t. baking soda
- 3 T. sugar
- ½ t. salt
- 3 large eggs
- ½ c. melted butter, cooled
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 T. light brown sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 T. butter
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
- Butter for waffles
- 2 t. ground cinnamon mixed with 2 T. powdered sugar
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
- Whisk together eggs, melted butter and buttermilk in a small bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently just to combine. Set batter aside at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Spray your waffle iron with cooking spray if it is nonstick. Cook the waffles according to your manufacturer’s directions.
- Place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
- Combine the apple cider, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks in a large sauté pan over high heat; boil until reduced by half and thickened.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks and whisk in the butter.
- Add the apples and cook until soft and caramelized.
- Remove waffles from oven, butter each waffle and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture, if desired.
- Top with sautéed apples and serve immediately.
Top off your meal with sea salt brownie squares for that daily chocolate fix and definitely fruit with flair ~ perhaps glorious large strawberries filled with whipped mascarpone cheese filling. And don’t forget the blood orange mimosas!