I can say that I have always loved brunch. As a teen, I worked in a family restaurant where every sunday we all worked the crazed 8am to 3pm brunch shift where I bused tables, my mother and sister took orders, and my cousin flipped corn-cakes in the back. It was a tiny place with 10-15 tables. The walls were covered in copper pots and the table cloths were blue and yellow pinstriped and matched the awning outside. The floors were made of creaky old wood that ran along to the tiny kitchen in the back which could hold one chef and a prep cook/dishwasher. It was charming, and I spent most of my childhood there. On Sundays, I’d come in early and mix together some muffins flavored with whatever we had available. Blueberry-peach, strawberry-poppy, and banana chocolate chip were crowd favorites so I made them often. When the muffins cooled, I would put them on a cake stand on the counter and when we people came in, the restaurant smelled of freshly baked goods. After culinary school I worked in an historic hotel where brunch was at the forefront of their business. My muffin making days were over and on came 300 poached eggs and gallons of hollandaise. Brunch was no longer endearing but exhausting, and my love affair was lost. Eventually I moved on to a quaint organic bakery with a side dining room with 20 tables. I started the first brunches there, bringing back all of what I loved about it. I created hand-crafted menus, where I would make a different type of french toast every week. I would make a cherries jubilee, a nod to the classic dish with beautiful pitted cherries in a luscious sauce of Grand Marnier (cooked out!) and orange zest. On occasion I would make a “pain perdu,” just a fancy Francois version, which I would make with baguettes, caramelizing the bottom to produce a toothsome crust. When I moved to New York City, I worked for Dean and DeLuca, where I made breakfast for hundreds of companies and private homes daily in a large scale production kitchen. Fancy batons of brioche were soaked in a custard style batter, baked until golden brown and placed inside a silver tray, cooled and shipped out to be devoured by one of New York City’s elites.
My history of brunch aside, I have always loved the service of brunch and the joy that it brings to people. When I moved to Astoria a few years I ago, I brought my large early 1900’s clawfoot table, lugged it up the stairs, and cluttered my apartment for one reason; entertaining. Every sunday that I wasn’t working, and some where I got off early enough to make it home and cook, I would have a brunch party. I would pull over every chair in the apartment, put the two leaves into the table, and invite 20 people over. Large platters filled the table and elegant serving ware went out. Champagne flutes spilled over with fresh squeezed orange juice and champagne. It was a celebration of food and friends and a time to appreciate one another. I’ve always carried on the steps and art of service into my own personal parties. I feel that the table should be full and have many options, and that each item should have its own service ware.
What I have learned now over the years is that you need to take the time to celebrate with food but it doesn’t have to take all day. Take help where you need it without sacrificing quality.
Today I wanted to create a small brunch for my partner and I to celebrate our Sunday together. I woke up about an hour before him and got to work. I also love brunch because you can always utilize things you have in the fridge and not break the bank. I created a frittata with yellow, red, and orange bell peppers, caramelized onions, baby arugula, and parmesan. Frittatas are the best of both worlds, so simple to produce yet appear and taste sophisticated. If I had the time I would make homemade pastries, but with my schedule I will from time to time just buy them ahead of time. Today I took some help and bought a par-baked item that is finished in the oven and glazed. Presented on a beautiful platter, hot out of the oven – no one will care if you took 5 hours to make them or 30 minutes to bake them off. Some crispy bacon, whole wheat english muffins, a quick cut of some fresh mango and strawberries, and the meal was together. Plated with matching white and silver dinner ware, with pops of color in spring time miss matched serving pieces. I served lattes and Pellegrino. All done within an hour.
Here’s how I did it.
Arugula, Caramelized onion and Pepper, Parmesan Frittata
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cook time 15-20 minutes
Preferred: Oven safe skillet – I love the Le Creuset Signature Fry Pan
6 jumbo eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons parmesan
pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Crack your eggs into a bowl. Beat your sour cream into the eggs until completely combined. Whisk in your milk, parmesan, and seasoning. Whisk until combined and light and fluffy.
1 Red bell pepper, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced
1 Orange bell pepper, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced
1 Yellow bell pepper, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced
1 Large white onion, thinly sliced
1 glove garlic, minced
1 large beefsteak tomato, finely diced
1 cup baby arugula
2 tablespoons parmesan
- Saute your sliced onion in 1 tablespoon of butter on medium heat until golden brown, and softened.
- Add your peppers and garlic, cook until peppers are soft.
- Add your tomatoes and arugula. Turn heat off, still to combine.
- Pour over your egg mixture. Top evenly with parmesan.
Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until egg is set and golden brown.
Serve either hot or warm depending on preference.
While your Frittata is baking, lay strips of bacon on a sheet pan in a flat even layer and bake until golden brown and crispy. About 10-12 minutes.
While the bacon and frittata are baking, clean and prep some fresh fruit. I had some mangoes and fresh strawberries on hand so I washed and hulled the strawberries.
Sliced them in half and peeled and diced the mango. I love the flavor combination and its perfect to serve with eggs and baked goods to break up some of the heaviness.
If you choose to serve a par-baked good, follow the instructions listed and time it correctly to serve them warm.
Have your toaster and coffee machine/espresso machine next to each other and have them be the last things you make. Make one latte while the english muffins are toasting and alternate until done.
Have the table set ahead of time, all serving platters laid out to go, and you are ready to have a beautiful brunch for two.
I hope you take time to celebrate the ones around you, and there is no better way than an effortless Sunday brunch.
Sean Patrick Gallagher