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I might love brunch more than any meal...perhaps I like the laid-back time involved or the old-school approach.  There’s barely a noted beginning –sitting around drinking coffee as the food is put out — and there needn’t be any end. (Movie with the coffee and brandy??)  It’s almost always a group.  Nearly certainly a special occasion.  More fun at home than at some swanky, pay-through-the-nose, eat-til-you-drop place, I think.  Even the dogs are at ease.

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This easy, luscious but not fancy brunch menu with all the popular notes (eggs, potatoes, etc.) has several make-ahead options. It features quick crustless mini-quiches made in muffin tins that are fun to make together or for you to make yourself. The parmesan-garlic crispy potato dish prep is divided into microwave and skillet sections; the microwaving could be done ahead and the browning done while the quiches cook or re-heat.  I provide two choices for breads (My two-pepper Pumpkin or an easy, no-yeast stollen) and each is handily made and frozen a week or two ahead.  Brunch really needs a little alcohol and here the drinks are simple, familiar fruity-type tipples with tiny twists like tequila instead of vodka in a Bloody Maria or cranberry juice instead of orange for the Cranmosas. (Add a fresh cranberry in the bottom of the flute.)  A nice brandy coffee at the end won’t hurt anyone and provides just a bit of the digestif needed.  Make-ahead notes are in green.  

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I don’t make brunch nearly enough, but loved making part of this menu for my job cheffing for DACOR. (Not pushing appliances here; I cook on a Blue Star range.)  I hope you’ll take a hint and invite your nearest and dearest or maybe just pull this together Christmas or New Year’s morning for the troops. Divvy up the menu between a few of you if it’s too much. If you have a smaller group, go ahead and make the full recipes as the leftovers are lovely and you won’t have to cook the next day.

Just add music and candles–thrift stores often have lots of inexpensive candle holders. (3 hours of lovely youtube Christmas listening music HERE.  Holiday sing-a-long video with lyrics HERE.)

 MENU for 12:

  • Bloody Marias (Bloody Marys made with 1 part tequila/2 parts Bloody Mary mix), Cranmosas (Mimosas made with 1 part cranberry juice/3 parts sparkling wine or champagne), Coffee/Tea  (no recipes)
  • Shrimp CocktailI told you this was old school. (Use THIS recipe, your own, or buy a tray totally ready at the store.  Cook shrimp and make sauce a day ahead; chill until needed.)
  • Fresh segmented mixed grapefruit and oranges (6 each–no recipeeasy to make-ahead!) OR a veggie tray with seafood dip such as this old staple.
  • Individual Holiday Quiches (Recipe below)
  • Crispy Parmesan-Garlic Potatoes (Recipe below)
  • Alyce’s Pumpkin Bread/Muffins with Candied Ginger and Two Peppers (Recipe below)
  • Stollenthe simple kind (Photo + recipe link below)
  • Cookies and small chocolates (No recipes; make or buy your favorites.)
  • Coffee with a nice dose–a tablespoon or two– of brandy and whipped cream (no recipe)

IMG_6956INDIVIDUAL HOLIDAY QUICHES (CRUSTLESS)

These tasty gluten-free (check all labels) baby quiches—12 green chile-cream cheese and 12 Italian sausage with mozzarella– are topped with an “X” made of red bell peppers and are a wonderful and fun holiday morning breakfast alongside a coffee cake and juice or fresh fruit if you want an even simpler meal. Cook the sausage and onion a day or two ahead to speed the process in the morning.  If you’d like, you can change up the fillings to suit your taste: ham and Swiss cheese with cooked broccoli/chopped fresh spinach or cooked bacon and cooked mushrooms with Gruyere, for instance.  One small shrimp with tarragon, perhaps?  If you’re terribly self-sufficient and unflappable, you could line up a wide variety of ingredients and let folks create their own tiny quiches. Serve with bowls of salsa and marinara on the table.  Don’t want to cook so early?  Why not make them ahead? (See Cook’s Notes for make-ahead instructions.)

Read through before beginning; this is easier than the recipe length would have you believe.

Makes 24 cupcake-size crustless quiches: 12 Green Chile and 12 Italian Sausage

INGREDIENTS:

24 paper muffin cup liners (You could grease the muffin tins, too, if you’d rather.)

For the custard for all of the quiches:

  • 9 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 drops hot sauce or to taste

For the Green Chile Quiches:

  • 4 tablespoons (2-3 ounces) softened cream cheese
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped mild green chiles, drained and patted dry
  • 12 tablespoons (about 6 ounces) grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

For the Italian Sausage Quiches:

  • ½ pound cooked bulk Italian sausage
  • 4 tablespoons -or more to taste- cooked chopped onion
  • 12 tablespoons (about 6 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese
  • 6 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dried basil—a pinch for each of the 12 quiches

To top all of the quiches:

2 red bell peppers cut into very thin matchstick pieces (or one red and one green)

Garnish:

1 cup each salsa and marinara sauce (put in bowls on the table)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.   Place paper liners in muffin cups.

1. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

2. For the 12 green chile quiches, into each of 12 muffin cups layer: 

  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon cream cheese
  • Scant tablespoon grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

3. For the 12 Italian sausage quiches, into each of the other 12 muffin cups layer:

  • 1 tablespoon cooked Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon cooked onion
  • 1 tablespoon grated mozzarella cheese
  • ½ teaspoon grated Parmesan
  • Pinch of dried basil

4. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, pour into each muffin cup enough of the custard (milk-egg) mixture to come about ¾ of the way up the sides of the cup. It may be a ¼ cup or, in some cases, just a bit less depending on the amount of ingredients in the cup.

5. Top each quiche with two of the matchstick peppers laid on top of one another to form an “X.”

6. Place pans in oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until puffed and golden, switching pans mid-way through to ensure even baking. Cream cheese may puff through in the Green Chile Quiches and make them appear to be underdone; they’re not.

7. Remove pans to racks and let cool a few minutes before serving hot or at room temperature. See green notes before to make ahead.  Garnish with salsa or marinara sauce.

Cook’s Notes:  The idea for the green chile quiches comes from Betty White’s Mexican Quiche.  It may have originally been in the BAKERY LANE COOKBOOK.

If you’ve greased your muffin tins rather than used paper liners, you may want to let the quiches rest a couple of extra minutes after baking; the green chile quiches are more apt to fall apart without the liners, but are firmer with a little more cooling time.

TO MAKE-AHEAD AND REHEAT QUICHES: Bake, cool completely, and store in single layers in well-sealed containers in the fridge for up to two days.  Heat them briefly, 7-9 minutes, in a 350 degrees F oven.  Quiches are also good cold or at room temperature if you’re traveling or don’t feel like lighting the oven.

{printable recipe}

Want a simple, fast,  pat-in-the-pan crust for your baby quiches after all?  Use Krusteaz pancake mix. Recipe here.

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 CRISPY PARMESAN-GARLIC POTATOES

serves 12

These oniony potatoes are cooked to a perfect crisp with very browned chewy shreds of Parmesan cheese and garlic.  A little crushed red pepper adds a kick.  To make one-two days ahead, chop onions and cook as in step 2, then chop potatoes and cook only in the microwave. Store separately in the fridge overnight.  Finish the potatoes, frying them with the onions, garlic, and Parmesan cheese(step 3), just before serving.  You’ll need to add a little extra oil to get everything cooking again.

  • 12 medium potatoes, diced, but not peeled (scrub very well with brush)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 tablespoons each butter and olive oil (or more as needed)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place half of the potatoes, seasoned well with black pepper, in a microwave-safe casserole, cover tightly, and microwave at full power for 5 minutes.  Drain potatoes. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes. Drain second batch.

2. In the meanwhile, divide the crushed red pepper, butter, olive oil,  between two large, deep skillets and heat over medium-low heat for 30 seconds; add onions, dividing again between the pans.  Cook 5- 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until onions are softened. (continued below the photo)

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3. Divide the microwaved, drained potatoes potatoes between the skillets and raise the heat to medium.  Season with a  1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pan and cook, stirring regularly, until potatoes are browned and tender–at least another 10 minutes.  Add 1 clove garlic and 1/4 cup parmesan to each pan and cook another 5-8 minutes or until cheese is oh-so-crispy and onions are very brown, bordering on burnt. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve hot.

ALYCE’S PUMPKIN BREAD with candied ginger and two peppers

This is a great pumpkin bread pan often available at Williams-Sonoma.  (Design changes year to year.) Any 9×5 pan will do, of course. The recipe also makes lovely muffins:

 ALYCE’S PUMPKIN BREAD WITH CANDIED GINGER AND TWO PEPPERS–makes 2 9×5 loaf pans or 24 muffins

Make ahead, wrap well, and freeze for up to two weeks.  Defrost overnight without unwrapping.  Serve with softened butter, cream cheese, or butter mixed with a little honey.

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2/3 cup butter, soft (to cut fat, use half apple-sauce–no more than that)
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin ( a can is 15 oz now; add applesauce to complete the  2 c)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, minced
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk, low-fat or fat-free  (can use regular milk instead)
  • 3 1/3 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese or Vietnamese cinnamon (I like Penzey’s cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4-1/3 cup salted or unsalted pumpkin seeds (I like salted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F for bread or 400 for muffins. Grease and flour pans.  For muffins pans, grease only.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together cranberries and boiling water.  Set aside.
  3. With hand-held electric or standing electric mixer, beat together in a large bowl butter, pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, sugar and candied ginger until light and fluffy.  Beat in milk until well-mixed.
  4. On top of the wet ingredients, measure dry ingredients:  flour, soda, baking powder, spices.  Carefully mix just the dry ingredients with a spoon or rubber spatula, trying to avoid mixing the dry ingredients into the wet.  Using electric mixer, beat wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated.  Don’t over beat.  Drain cranberries well and stir into batter gently.
  5. If desired, sprinkle pumpkin seeds into bottom of prepared pans (9×5) or baby loaf pans (3×5 or similar) or muffin tins.  Use ice cream scoop for muffins.  
  6. For loaves or baby loaf pans, bake at 350 for about an hour or half-hour, respectively.  Test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer; it will come out almost clean when the bread is done.  Leave in pans 5 minutes.  Bang bottoms of pans on board, floor or counter before turning out on to racks carefully to cool completely.   If sticking, use thin, sharp knife to go around edges.  When absolutely cool, wrap well in foil.  Store on counter 1-2 days, in frig for 2-3 days, and in freezer up to 2-3 weeks.
  7. If in muffin tins, bake at 400 F for maybe 15 minutes or until nicely browned and firm to the touch.  Turn out immediately onto metal cooling racks.  Follow storage instructions above, though muffins store well in large plastic containers that are freezer safe.

Cook’s Note:  I began making pumpkin bread years ago with a recipe from FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK.  It has morphed into this, but Marion Cunningham, one of my idols, gets the credit and remains in my heart as she now surely is busy making the best pancakes ever eaten in heaven.

If Pumpkin Bread doesn’t sound quite right, try this Stollen; it’s miraculous as it uses no yeast and is done so very quickly.  It’s addictive.

Taken at our Colorado house several years ago…

STOLLEN

I make a simple stollen (yeast-free) that’s done much more quickly than the traditional loaf and keeps much longer.  Best fresh, but you make it a day ahead and wrap well and store on counter overnight.  I use THIS RECIPE from Susan Westmoreland from GOOD HOUSEKEEPING.  I’m not sure you can beat it and it should be part of your Christmas –if you celebrate it — forever.  Just add butter!

To make further ahead: Do not add powdered sugar right after baking.  Double-wrap it in plastic and foil and freeze a totally cool loaf for no longer than two weeks.  (Leave wrapped while unthawing.) Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. 

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Fancy table?  Sure, if that’s your thing.

Paper plates?  Why not once in a while?

Do as you like.

Sing a new song,

Alyce