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Brunch menu help

I don't recall ever hosting a brunch for a group before, seems to always be dinners. However this coming weekend I am hosting a brunch for my SO's birthday, including the inlaws. I want to keep it simple but delicious of course!! There are 8 of us. Here are my thoughts, please jump in with opinions, recipes.

Sausage strata (I like this for the make ahead part, I don't have a recipe, but I do have some nice aged British cheeses in my fridge)
Warm tomato/bacon compote (maybe skip the bacon, since the strata will have sausage?)
Something sweet (sticky buns??) that I can make ahead, or throw in oven after strata is good.

Any other ideas? This will be a 10:30am brunch. Some fruit might be nice, but a fruit salad seems so pedestrian.

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  1. The sausage strata sounds good and will be perfect for your "main." I'm not sure what purpose the compote serves - is it something you would put on top of the strata, or on toast, etc? Unless it's a condiment, I would replace it with a light salad, maybe arugula or other baby greens, fennel, citrus, pomegranate seeds - something that incorporates fruit without being "fruit salad." That plus your sweet baked good (I would go cinnamon rolls, but that's just personal preference) and you'll have all your bases covered (unless there are vegetarians).

    4 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      No vegetarians to worry about. Yes, the compote goes on top of the strata (it is really just cooked down tomatoes, very yummy with eggs), so I could use a 'side dish'. But I have to admit I feel weird having a salad at 10:30 am LOL!

      do you have a cinnamon roll recipe BD? I have never made them before.

      1. re: cleopatra999

        I made these: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes... for Christmas day breakfast last year and they were the BEST cinnamon rolls I've ever had (left out the raisins). They're a bit labor intensive but it all gets done in advance. Totally worth it.

        Anyway, since the compote is a condiment, you really just need a side dish - I understand that 10:30 feels a little early for a green salad. Is your strata very bread heavy? If not, you could do a potato side that includes some other vegetables, like a sweet potato and brussels sprout hash, something like that. I love savory foods for breakfast, though - I'm not a fruit or sweet person that time of day.

        1. re: cleopatra999

          the tomato compote, sans bacon, sounds good.

          pre-noon feels ridiculously early for green salad, unless i was up at 4:00 am. :) but perhaps some roasted green beans, fennel or asparagus would be a good green side.

          you can do a color-themed fruit salad, like kiwi, green grapes and avocado balls, presented on skewers, instead of just the usual tossed.

          1. re: cleopatra999

            I almost always have a salad when eating brunch out....it is a lovely foil to the protein-sugar-fat dishes that are so good at brunch.

        2. What's the tomato compote like? It would be good to get a fresh element in there. If the compote is more sauce-like what about provencal tomatoes? Tomatoes that have been seeded and had the holes filled with breadcrumbs and herbs and then roasted. Instead of a fruit salad, what about a pitcher of smoothies?

          1. Smoked salmon served on buttered bread is nice. Or bread slathered with chive cheese.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Berheenia

              I don't actually have a recipe for the strata yet (open to suggestions), but I suspect it will be fairly bread heavy, that along with the sweet will definitely have carbs covered. I agree with needing a fresh element, but I also like the asparagus idea, feel like that might compliment well (but still feels a little weird for breakfast.

              I love the idea of a fruit skewer, especially the colour theme. Unfortunately I am allergic to kiwi and SO hate avocado, but I am sure I could think of another colour to use.

              do you think it would be too much food to add in crab cakes? Love them, SO loves them, and I could totally see them on the side with asparagus and hollandaise.

              1. re: cleopatra999

                My personal fave strata recipe


                Crab cakes with hollandaise ... mmmmm

                1. re: Berheenia

                  that strata looks lovely, could easily adjust for sausage and aged cheddar.

                2. re: cleopatra999

                  A go-to fruit salad for me is berries tossed in a little sugar and balsamic vinegar.

                  1. re: Dcfoodblog

                    nice touch with the balsamic! good idea

              2. I just did a brunch for 6 that was very well-received: mushroom & spinach strata from Smitten Kitchen, apple cinnamon monkey bread from scratch, bacon, and fruit salad. Very easy because the strata & bread were both prepared the night before, and could go in the oven together (along with the bacon). To fancify the fruit salad a bit, I would limit the number of fruits; for example, just pineapple and blueberries, or oranges & blackberries...and maybe add some lime zest or a sauce like sweetened vanilla creme fraiche or something.

                1 Reply
                1. re: stak

                  Oops, forgot the recipe is actually for spinach & gruyere, not spinach and mushroom. I used less spinach & added sauteed mushrooms & red peppers, and actually used old cheddar because that's what I had. Strata recipes seem pretty flexible in general.

                2. I always include some really nice fruit dish. One possibility, Scalloped Apples--- sliced apples baked with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg,and a little butter, a few bread crumbs on top, served warm. Another possibility: a big Mexican papaya, nice and ripe, cut into chunks with a few seeds strewn here and there to announce that it's papaya and not melon, and some wedges of lime around the edge, good color contrast and useful for squeezing juice. And I offer more than one bread or roll item---people like a variety. Especially if you serve buffet, people like to feel overwhelmed. And a couple of pitchers of juice, maybe orange and cranberry, as well as coffee.

                  1. i have done a fruit salad for a friend's baby shower brunch, daytime affair, and it was very well received - i added a chiffonade of basil and people LOVED that, and mint would work well too. also, maybe use a touch of sweet liquor for the dressing - i used lemon juice and Essencia,an orange muscat, but you could use a touch of port. makes it more festive. you could even make greek yogurt parfaits with a fruit topping in pretty cups...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      The Greek yogurt parfaits are a great Idea! And visually pleasing.

                      There are many, many ways to serve fruit. At that time of morning - with the main and sweet dessert you are planning - you need something on the lighter side. You definitely need something with fruit.

                      And I think I'd add perhaps some from scratch hash browns to serve with the strata - now it's really carb heavy but people do love their potatoes.

                      I also like the idea of the strata recipe mentioned above - something without meat. Maybe some spinach, sauteed peppers, onion & mushrooms - then you could make your tomato compote with bacon to cover as everyone chooses. Sounds delicious to me.

                      Crab cakes are one of my favorite things of all time but I would drop that idea because of the time you're having the brunch.

                      1. re: Jeanne

                        I disagree about dropping the crabcakes...but I live on the coast and a seafood item is a must at brunch

                      2. re: mariacarmen

                        Love the parfait idea! I made paula deen's overnight french toast recipe and my friends INSIST that I keep making this anytime I have them over for any kind of brunch/breakfast occasion. It is easy b/c you can prep it all the night before and just pop it in the oven the day of your party.

                      3. I hosted a Christmas morning brunch one year and it turned out perfectly. I always take Ina Garten's advice. Make some things, buy some things, not quoted of course.

                        I bought a really nice ham and baked it.
                        Made Smitten Kitchen's Sprinach and Gruyere Strata (oh my, wonderful and easy)
                        Bought frozen Chcolate Croissants from Trader Joe's (a standout for the sweet lover's)
                        Made Bittman's Sunshine Citrus Salad (fantastic)
                        I bought a fresh assortment of bagels, cream cheese.
                        Coffee, tea, Mimosa's.
                        My guests oohed and aahed, and it was easy.

                        The Citrus Salad worked so well, because I didn't want to serve a green salad either.

                        Have fun, everyone loves Stratas... yours sounds yummy.


                        13 Replies
                        1. re: mcel215

                          the main reason I am looking at sausage in something is because we are overrun with venison sausage in the house (40lbs worth) and I really want to use them up any chance I can get. But the gruyere, spinach strata does sound lovely. I say 10:30, realistically it will be more like 11 by the time we sit.

                          my only coffee maker is a french press, I seem to always make horrible coffee in it. So much so that my mother in law has taken to walking to the neighbourhood cafe to buy a cup when they come to stay with us (one year she brought her Tasimo with her). Is it terribly gauche for me to not serve coffee (only tea), or tell people to bring their own coffee LOL!

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            For coffee, go to Starbucks and get one of those "party" packs - it's a box with a bladder inside, filled with something like 15 cups worth of coffee. Using a French press to make coffee for that many people just isn't practical.

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              small town, no Starbucks, could do that with Tim Horton's though. Although I am pretty sure my guests turn their noses up at Timmy's coffee. They are all close friends and one is a neighbour, might even be able to have her bring the coffee!

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                ask a friend to borrow their coffee maker! easier than toting coffee for sure!

                            2. re: cleopatra999

                              Not sure how horrible it will be for you, but coffee to some at Brunch is a mainstay. I don't know where you live, but Dunkin Donuts sells a "box of joe", complete with a spouted container for around $10 dollars..... I'm sure other coffee shops do the same. Or if you know someone like your MIL, who would be happy to bring their coffeemaker, just ask them.

                              I am sure those venison sausage will be lovely too. Have fun, your brunch sounds fun.


                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                Buy a coffee pot ...For no other reason than to drag it out when you have company. I don't even like my mil but I would never not have the things she likes when she stays with us.

                                1. re: LaLa

                                  This is interesting. I find many friends/family's places I stay do not have a brand of tea I like. Should I expect hosts to always have the right black tea for me? I would rather have none then crappy tea. I can however easily bring my own. Having a rather large appliance sitting around my house to bring out 1-2x/year seems wasteful, not to mention what do I do with all that leftover coffee?

                                  don't want to start a fight LOL, just curious as coffee drinkers seem terribly insulted when they don't have coffee, tea drinkers just say whatever?

                                  1. re: cleopatra999

                                    yes a good hostess would have your tea....

                                    1. re: cleopatra999

                                      Maybe you could figure out how to improve your French press results? I agree that buying a coffee maker is a bit much. Is your French press big enough to work for the size of group you have? I think guests should be able to deal with coffee that might not be as good as their usual. One other possibility...starbucks makes what I find to be decent instant coffee, that is available at some grocery stores here (Montreal). I am reminded of Mr. Bookman on Seinfeld chewing Jerry out for not having any coffee to offer guests: "You buy a jar of Folger's Crystals, you put it in the cupboard, you forget about it. Then later on when you need it, it's there. It lasts forever. It's freeze-dried. Freeze-dried Crystals."

                                      1. re: cleopatra999

                                        "coffee drinkers seem terribly insulted when they don't have coffee, tea drinkers just say whatever?"

                                        I'd say that's a fair assessment.

                                        1. re: cleopatra999

                                          I will assume if you are unhappy with the coffee making in your house it is not a high priority to you. We exclusively use our French Press and love it, for the two of us. For larger groups or overnight guests I have a drip coffee maker I bought cheaply (a few dollars) at the thrift store. A large pot that will stay warm awhile is more conducive for people helping themselves as needed. It is kept easily accessible with other items (serving platters, etc.) outside the kitchen area where they would take up to much precious space. Of course to factor in your needs, space, frequency, finances. In this instance I might borrow to see how it goes for you. Then you will know if it works for you and if you want to invest the space somewhere for it.
                                          If you decide to utilize the French Press I would start brewing before the first guest and pour into a carafe or thermos to keep warm and serve. Then you will have a "chance" at keeping up with demand.
                                          I guess I should have read to the end, so happy everything went smoothly for all.

                                    2. re: mcel215

                                      That spinach and gruyere strata is amazing, we served it at a brunch with a platter full of sausages on the side -- both were hits. A citrus salad sounds wonderful with it.

                                      1. re: GretchenS

                                        It was, thanks. I was really pleased with my entire Brunch menu that day. :)


                                    3. I just noted that Chowhound has make ahead breakfast brunch suggestions link below:

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                        Yummy looking stratas in there. I am having a hard time letting go of the crabcakes/asparagus/hollandaise item. Not sure what to do there. does seem like a lot of food.

                                        1. re: cleopatra999

                                          If you really want the crabcakes, I say go for it & would not worry about having too much food. People can always take just a little bit of each thing. If you don't mind all the extra work, I think it would be very tasty!

                                      2. I adore crab cakes and would have absolutely no problem whatsoever with the 10:30 starting time. But that's just me..:-)

                                        5 Replies
                                            1. re: cleopatra999

                                              Thanks for all the suggestions. brunch was a success. Sausage, mushroom, spinach strata with tomato jam. Crab cakes, asparagus and hollandaise. Berry salad and sticky buns, and of course mimosas.

                                              My MIL brought her Tassimo, so that took care of the coffee drinkers too!

                                                1. re: cleopatra999

                                                  Glad your breakfast/brunch was a success. I'd suggest practicing making coffee with your french press for future use.