Since we’ve been together Alex and I have twice taken our mothers and those dudes they married for Mother’s Day brunches. I’m not going to say that we haven’t had good meals, but we’ve never had a great one. No matter who cooks it (and really, it’s always a short order cook; the chef with his/her name on the menu isn’t called in six hours early just to flip eggs), in the end most brunch menus look exactly alike and with the prices jacked up for the holiday, you’ve got to question the sanity of a $50 over-cooked egg. I don’t overcook my eggs, do you? And yet I’ll pay someone else to, and to serve bacon that’s never quite crisp. My bacon is always crisp.
It was a post on the Gourmet Editors blog by Ann Patchett that finally knocked some sanity back into my head. Among her seven reasons that food always tastes better at home, she talks about never needing a reservation, food always served at the correct temperature, meals are always perfectly portioned for her current level of hunger (“I don’t overeat at home. No one ever steps out of the pantry and asks me if I want a dessert when I am already perfectly full.”), and knowing everything that went into her food, even if it’s a saturated fat. But this was my favorite:
Frankly, I’m a good cook. I am my own personal chef. I know exactly what I like to eat and that’s how I fix my food every single time. I almost never let myself down. Most of the time I’m in a restaurant I am struck by the fact that the food is better at home.
And with that, I couldn’t rationalize another fabric napkin-wrapped basket stale scones and overly-sweet muffins, because if there is anything I can’t abide, it’s a chalky scone, not when a flawless recipe is available at the touch of your fingertips.
So, yes. Onto the food already.
- You already know about the three varieties of miniature muffins (corn, raspberry-lemon, and banana with chocolate chips) but I think I’ve now found my go-to biscuit recipe. Even better, I plopped them on their baking sheet and stored them in the freezer for a day until I was ready to bake them, to create less work for myself this morning. I’m brilliant, right? Uh, anyway.
- Bacon is bacon, but I do love the thick cut stuff you can have them pack at the Whole Foods meat counter. It always gets noticed.
- I shred a russet potato or two and half an onion in the food processor, squeeze them out very, very well and fry them in a big patty to make hash browns (my absolutely favorite bedding for a poached egg).
- I’ve already told you about my baked French toast, but I have to add that the glug of Triple Sec, zest of half an orange and splash of almond extract combination is my favorite yet. I soaked it only for an hour or so and used 1% milk in lieu of whole, and you’d never have known the difference.
- Finally, the baked eggs: If you’re tired of the same old poached/baked/fried/scramble fix, you definitely need a dose of this. You create thickest and most lush bed of sauteed spinach, mushrooms and onion with a splash of cream, dig and fill egg-sized wells all over and bake it in the oven until the whites are solid before finishing it off with parmesan and you literally scoop–scoop–it onto your plate and never look back. I know I haven’t. Don’t be put off by this unseemly picture: there is great deliciousness within.
Fox & Hounds Tavern, St. Louis
5 ounces tomato juice
1 1/2 ounces vodka
Juice of 2 lime wedges
1/2 teaspoon finely grated
2 or 3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
3 or 4 drops of Tabasco sauce
Pinch of salt
Pinch of celery salt
Small pinch of cayenne pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a pint glass. Pour the drink back and forth between the pint glass and a cocktail shaker four times, then pour the Bloody Mary into a highball glass over ice.
Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
Gourmet, June 2004
10 oz baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced (2 cups)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Bring 1/2 inch water to a boil in a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet (not cast-iron), then add half of spinach and cook, turning with tongs, until wilted, about 30 seconds. Add remaining spinach and wilt in same manner, then cook, covered, over moderately high heat until spinach is tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water. Gently squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then coarsely chop.
Wipe skillet dry, then cook onion and garlic in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and increase heat to moderate, then cook, stirring, until mushrooms are softened and have exuded liquid, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and chopped spinach and bring to a simmer. Remove skillet from heat and make 4 large indentations in spinach mixture. Break an egg into each indentation and bake, uncovered, until egg whites are set but yolks are still runny, 7 to 10 minutes. Lightly season eggs with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with cheese.
Buttermilk Chive Biscuits
Adapted from Dot’s Diner, Boulder, CO
Makes 12 servings.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar (originally recipe calls for 2 tablespoons)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips, rub 3/4 cup chilled butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in chives. Add buttermilk and stir until evenly moistened. Using 1/4 cup dough for each biscuit, drop biscuits onto baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.* Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.
* I’m a sucker for the round, bumpy-edged biscuit shape so I rolled it out on well-floured counter and cut them with a 3″ biscuit-cutter. Take care to handle the dough as little as humanly possible, so not to warm or soften it too much.