That magical time of year is upon us: trees and homes are lit up with tiny twinkling lights, fireplaces are festooned with swags of pine and ribbon, and old friends gather to make merry and share fond memories of Christmases past.
December is a month in which you really don't need an excuse to host a fête. There is so much to celebrate this time of year, you'd be a bit of a Scrooge if you didn't attend a holiday party or two. So, it's really no surprise that the Brunchographers assembled once again to hold a festive brunch for our wonderful gang of thoughtful ladies.
Our theme this time around, you ask? Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Our motto was "the simpler, the better." Throwing a party can be a lot of work, especially amidst a season that is exhausting in and of itself - so we thought, why put more stress upon ourselves? Let's keep it simple, keep it yummy, and have some fun.
Perhaps the most effective way we enacted our "the simpler, the better" rule was through pre-preparation. By breaking down our recipes and identifying tasks that could be done in the days leading up to the party, we were able to keep our day-of preparation to a minimum. This gave us plenty of time to focus on the details without feeling rushed or overwhelmed, and the food was just as delicious as some of our more ambitious brunches have been.
We kept the decor bright, simple, and classic (and we'll be posting more on those details later this week), and chose an casual buffet-style setup for the food. This allowed guests to pick and choose which dishes they wanted to sample, and made it easy to come back for seconds if desired.
As a light and sweet treat to start, we set out some cranberry scones with whipped herb butter. Friends could nibble on them while they chatted and waited for everyone to arrive (or, cough, waited for us to stop photographing them). These were just the right amount of sweet, with a light, buttery texture. The herb butter - deceptively simple and rich in flavor - offered a perfect compliment to the sweet pastry dough and the tart cranberries.
Next, a warm and wonderful indulgence: baked brie topped with blackberry compote and toasted pecans. Can you imagine a prettier appetizer than this? The cheese absolutely liquefied into a warm cheesy pile of heaven, and it was perfect atop those incredible rosemary crackers from Trader Joe's (you know the ones). This recipe, which we found on a blog called Foolproof Living, is so simple yet looks very impressive - definitely one to bookmark for your next gathering!
If you recall, we have a very important brunch rule that we take quite seriously: whenever possible, include some greens with your meal. Winter is the perfect time for greens, as the nutritious, dark leafy varieties are in season. For this salad, we started with a base of roughly chopped kale, layered on slices of roasted acorn squash, sprinkled the top with slivered almonds, pomegranate seeds, and ricotta salata, and finished with a light vinaigrette. The end result was a wonderful combination of vibrant winter flavors that looked just as festive as it tasted - and doesn't it look a bit like a Christmas wreath dusted in snow?
The first main dish was the epitome of easy - overnight french toast casserole with cream cheese and blueberries. There is nothing more wonderfully lazy than waking up in the morning and popping a casserole in the oven while you sip your coffee and read the paper. And after about 45 minutes, you get this ooey-gooey, custardy, sweet mess of a reward. Yeah, it's not the prettiest thing we've ever made. But it tastes so good, it really doesn't matter. Make this. Preferably for Christmas breakfast. You won't regret it.
Next up, another make-ahead gem. These beautiful Eggs in Purgatory only look like you were slaving over the stove all morning - by pre-making the sauce, you'll only need a few minutes of hands-on work to put these together for your guests. These are also an ideal egg dish when cooking for a group, as many of them can be prepared at once in single-serving ramekins, rather than having to individually poach or fry eggs on the stove. This sauce is bright and flavorful with a spicy kick, and it's absolutely sinful when combined with runny eggs and soaked up with a thick slice of toast.
No good brunch would be complete without some side dishes, and we wanted to offer a few choices for our guests' varying tastes without over-complicating things. So, we (liberally) took some advice from our culinary idol Ina Garten, who taught us "you don't have to make everything from scratch," and headed to our local Whole Foods. There, we were amazed to find a bacon bar, which included the incredible sweet and savory blueberry bacon. We also picked up some of our favorite roasted baby potatoes, and a package of turkey bacon to fry up for guests who prefer something a bit lighter.
This menu offered a blend of festive flavors while remaining simple and fun to prepare (no stress-inducing over-complication here!), so we could enjoy our friends' company and laugh together over a delicious meal. The moral of today's story is that sometimes, it's OK not to be superhuman. Trust us, those pre-cooked potatoes from Whole Foods will not make or break your party - so go for it, sit back and enjoy yourself a little bit more.
Stop back in on Saturday for details on a delicious winter cocktail we whipped up and our simple-yet-impactful decorating strategy - much of which can be accomplished with things you already have (hint: we are now perennially covered in tiny shards of printer paper)! Until then, happy holiday brunching!
- Cranberry Scones
- The herbed butter was simple to whip up: soften two sticks of butter and mix with some chopped rosemary (about 1 tbsp) and honey (about 3 tbsp) to taste.
- Baked Brie with Blackberry Compote and Spiced Pecans
- The salad was inspired by this recipe, though we switched up the squash, cheese, and a few other little details.
- Blueberry Cream Cheese Overnight French Toast
- Eggs in Purgatory, which was adapted to omit pancetta as a vegetarian option