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A beautiful brunch

Posted: January 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.

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When you’re looking for a fun and unexpected way to entertain at home, it’s hard to beat brunch.

“Brunches are the any-occasion entertaining solution,” said chef and Hollywood caterer Paul McCullough. “They’re great for baby showers, birthdays, family reunions, and even weddings. There’s something revitalizing about friends coming together in the late morning, enjoying great food, coffee and conversation. Brunches are good for the soul!”

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to host a fabulous brunch gathering. To get you started, Chef McCullough shares some hosting tips, menu ideas and delicious recipes that will help you make your brunch memorable.

Hosting tips and menu ideas
* Have a variety of beverages on hand — from fruit juices and a morning cocktail
to plenty of hot teas and good coffee.
I like serving Starbucks Natural Fusions flavored coffees because, unlike some other flavored packaged coffee, they’re made with real ingredients, such as vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, blended right in with the coffee.
* A continental brunch is the easiest to pull together. Purchase a variety of breakfast breads and artfully arrange. Stack books under a decorative cloth to create different levels and ensure visual interest.
* Keep your guest list small unless you can enlist a friend to help cook. After all, you want to be a good host while enjoying your brunch and spending time with each guest.
* A brunch should incorporate elements of breakfast and lunch with harmony. Contrast the blueberry muffins and coffee-glazed scones with smoked salmon with capers and onions and a hearty egg dish that is packed with flavor. Try a scramble with new filling combinations such as chicken and asparagus, or crab and avocado with a dollop of sour cream and chives.
* Superhero Scramble is a taste sensation my Hollywood clients love. It’s easy to make; start by sautéing one pound of spinach. Mix with 1 pound of browned and crumbled turkey sausage and a half- cup of julienned sundried tomato. Set that aside.
    Scramble a dozen eggs until almost finished, but still soft. Fold in the spinach/sausage mixture and sprinkle with 8 ounces of seasoned feta cheese. Serve it with Starbucks Natural Fusions Cinnamon flavored coffee.
* Cut pineapple into slices and freeze them without overlapping each other. Use them in place of ice to cool down your sparkling water or screwdriver cocktails. Freeze grape tomatoes and garnish your Bloody Marys.
* For perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs, heat a medium size pan over medium heat. Melt a tablespoon of butter for every four eggs. Make sure the butter is melted and bubbly but not brown.
    Beat the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of kosher salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of water. Then add to the pan and let them cook without stirring until they set a bit. With a spatula, push the eggs to the center, which creates folds of fluffy eggs. Push again as the eggs firm up.
    Slide from the pan when they are still a little wet. They’ll keep cooking for a minute or two. Top with cheese.
* Create a Sunday brunch punch bowl made of ice. Use two glass bowls, one a little smaller than the other.
    Cut a 1/2-inch-thick lemon slice and set in the bottom center of the larger bowl. Put the second bowl on top of it and place a weight in it, like a 32-ounce canned product.
    Fill the space between the two bowls with sliced lemon and oranges or flowers. Slowly pour in distilled water (it freezes clearer than tap). Freeze for four to five hours, checking about 40 minutes in to push any citrus or flowers that have drifted up. To unmold it, place the bowls in a sink of warm water for about 15 seconds. The bottom bowl should release with a twist. Then repeat with the inside bowl. Wrap in aluminum foil and put into the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

Maple, brown sugar and coffee bacon
   
    1     pound thick-cut bacon (10 slices)
    2     tablespoons Starbucks Natural Fusions vanilla flavored ground coffee
    2/3     cup packed brown sugar
    1    tablespoon real maple syrup
    2     tablespoons freshly brewed Starbucks Natural Fusions vanilla flavored coffeeFresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment or waxed paper and set a flat rack on top.
Lay bacon strips on rack, with edges touching. Sprinkle bacon strips evenly with half of the ground coffee. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, brewed coffee and maple syrup, stirring to blend. Brush the bacon with half of sugar mixture. Add coarse fresh cracked pepper lightly (or generously) over bacon.
Bake 15 minutes.
Carefully turn bacon over and sprinkle with remaining coffee, brush with remaining sugar glaze and cracked pepper. Bake until crispy, 10 minutes more.
Caution — sugar glaze is very hot. Allow to cool for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

Paul’s Popovers
Makes 12 popovers

    5     eggs
    1 2/3     cups half and half
    1 2/3     cups flour
    1     teaspoon salt
        Butter, double cream or jam
    1     12 cup muffin pan

Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Place eggs and half and half in a large bowl — beat with a whisk until blended.
Add flour and salt and mix well. Mixture should resemble pancake batter — small lumps are ok.
Even if you have a non-stick muffin pan, use a light coat of cooking spray.
Fill each cup 3/4 full. Place on middle rack of oven. Make sure that the top rack is placed high enough so that the popovers do not come in contact with it as they rise.
Close the door and do
not peek for 30 minutes.
Serve with butter or double cream and jam.

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