Thursday, December 28, 2017

Festive Brunch Buffet

The holidays are when we tend to go all out in regard to cooking, baking and entertaining, with huge, extravagant formal affairs. Why not make things as effortless, tasty and seasonal as possible? Your best bet is brunch. 

I love Brunch ... traditionally a combination of ‘late breakfast, early lunch’, a relaxed yet graceful way to entertain both family and friends. It’s the culinary experience that seems to have it all; you get up at a descent hour, enjoy a relaxed noontime meal with your guests and every one is gone by 3 o’clock, leaving you to enjoy the rest of the day in quiet comfort. 
Christmas Day Brunch 2017
Christmas Brunch in my home is almost always Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon. An rich combination including some of my favorite foods; Hornby Island cold smoked salmon, perfectly poached Corlan Vineyard and Farm organic free range eggs, real Hollandaise Sauce with a dash of Smoked Paprika, capers and avocado on the side. I joke that I could eat Hollandaise Sauce like soup... and no joke, when out for Brunch, always order extra 'Sauce on the side'. 
This is a fairly time consuming version but a special treat at Christmas.

On the simpler side of the brunch spectrum, set up an attractive and enticing brunch buffet. It offers lots of options for creativity in your menu and décor. Plan a tempting variety of foods. Fill your buffet table with a selection of both hot and cold items including appetizers, assorted cheese, crackers and fruits, elegant entrées, muffins or breads and sumptuous desserts.

To set up the buffet table, place dinner plates at the beginning of the table followed by appetizers, salads and fruits, breads, entrées then napkins and silverware. Position serving bowls and platters at varying heights by placing on stacked books disguised with fabric and greenery. Serve desserts and beverages at separate tables. Offer fresh juices, traditional brunch libations such as mimosas or Bloody Marys, assorted coffees, teas and a pitcher of ice water.

The delightful mingling of sparkling wine and fresh fruit juice served in an elegant glass is in itself a perfect reason to host a brunch. Sleep in and enjoy the gathering of friends and family with an easy brunch that’s not to be missed.

Here are a few of my favorite make-ahead, festive recipes.

These flavorful make-ahead enchiladas can be served for breakfast or brunch. If you have leftovers, reheat them in the microwave for a quick lunch. If you cannot find sausage meat, buy sausages, remove and use the meat ... discard the casings.

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, ½” dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 small zucchini, ½” dice (about 1 cup)
1 lb. Mild Italian Sausage Meat
6 sun dried tomato slices, small diced
¼ cup sliced black olives
8  (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. Tabasco sauce
Snipped fresh chives for garnish
Sour cream

In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat; cook onion, garlic and zucchini until softened and slightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. To the same skillet heat 2 Tbsp. oil and cook the sausage meat; keep the meat in about 1-inch chunks, don’t break it up too small as it cooks. Drain off any excess fat and add the fully cooked sausage meat to the bowl. Stir in the sun dried tomatoes and olives. Place about ½ cup of the sausage mixture into each tortilla and sprinkle each with about 3 Tbsp. of cheese.  Roll up tightly and place them seam side down, in a greased 13x9-inch baking dish
In a bowl, beat eggs, add the milk, and then blend in flour, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Pour over the tortillas, cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.
Using a spoon, baste the tortillas with some of the egg mixture in the pan. Bake in a 350˚F oven for 35-45 minutes or until egg mixture is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with snipped fresh chives, serve with salsa and sour cream.

BLACK FOREST TRIFLE                                                Yield: 12 servings
Trifle, a grand British dessert is transformed into a German favorite. This dessert can be made up to one day in advance. You can find Black Cherry Jam and Bottled Red Sour Cherries at ‘Runge’s Imports and Delicatessen’ on 4th Street in Courtenay.

1 single layer 9” chocolate cake
     or 2 small chocolate pound cakes (about 1½ lb total)
½ cup black cherry jam
½ cup cherry brandy
2 cups pitted red sour cherries, drained

1½ cup whipping cream
1¼ cup milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
8 egg yolks
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup Dutch cocoa
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups whipping cream
2 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Custard: In a saucepan heat cream, milk and vanilla over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from the heat and whisk in 4 oz. very finely chopped chocolate until melted. In a large bowl whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cocoa. Gradually pour the hot cream into the yolks and sugar mixture, whisk constantly. Pour back into the saucepan; cook, whisking constantly until the custard thickens. Make sure it does not boil or it will split and curdle. If it seems to get too hot, remove from the heat and whisk rapidly. The custard does not need to be thick; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Strain into a clean bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until cooled.
Chef's Note: The custard can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Assembly: Slice the chocolate cake and use to make 'jam sandwiches' with the black cherry jam. Lay jam sandwich pieces in the bottom of a 12-cup wide trifle bowl; brush or drizzle with half of the liqueur. Spread with 1 cup pitted red sour cherries and place a few cherries around the side of the bowl. Spread with half of the custard.
Place remaining cherry jam sandwiches in the center and drizzle with liqueur. Cover with remaining cherries and place a few around the side of the bowl then spread with remaining custard. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to one day.
Whip remaining 2 cups cream with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, spread over top. Garnish with grated chocolate or chocolate curls. 

Happy New Year! Wishing you a healthy, happy 2018!
Till next year... Bon Appétit!
Recipes by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae 

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