Alexandra Shytsman is the author and recipe writer behind the New York-based blog, Chez Sasha, a one-stop destination for recipes that are both beautiful and healthy. Here, the Brooklyn-raised cook shares tips on how to host a stress-free brunch party.
Sunday brunch is a great low-stress way to have friends over for a meal (second to ordering in pizza). People don’t expect you to pull out a three-course meal with wine pairings, like they may for dinner. And you don’t have to worry about entertaining people through the entire evening, since Sunday is a work night.
So how to go about planning the menu?
Firstly, don’t try to recreate a restaurant brunch meal. The last thing you want is to slave away at the stove flipping four batches of pancakes or poaching six eggs. It’s always best to serve family or buffet-style and keep everything as simple as possible. Some basic rules to remember are: to prepare a variety of warm and cold dishes, and to aim for things you can prep or cook ahead, or identify elements of dishes you can mise en place in advance. Try to have your menu and shopping list ready to go a few days ahead.
A frittata is the pillar of any homemade brunch. If you’re cooking for three or more, poaching, frying or even scrambling eggs right before serving is a pain in the behind. Frittatas are more forgiving than other egg dishes since they can be served warm or at room temperature. Though you should plan to serve it straight out of the oven, it won’t be the end of the world if your guests arrive late and the frittata has already been out for a while. You can use almost anything you have in your fridge – fresh or cooked vegetables, herbs, greens, cured meats, cheeses, etc. – and it will turn out just fine. My favorite flavor combos are broccoli-cheddar and mushroom-bacon.
My golden rule is two cooked vegetable sides and one cold. Be sure to consider the prep times and methods for your sides; meaning, don’t choose three sides that will all need to go in the oven at the same time. I often go with roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary, sauteed garlic-lemon kale, and arugula-beet salad with goat cheese. The beets can be roasted the day before and the kale can be served at room temperature. In the case of this menu, only the potatoes need to be served straight out of the oven.
I find that a light, chilled white wine or rosé are really drinkable during brunch. Some prefer beer but I find that its carbonation takes up too much valuable stomach space. Pitcher drinks or even a punch bowl also work great. All in all, stay away from cocktails that you’d have to mix repeatedly, as well as anything too strong. There is a time for bourbon on the rocks, but it’s not Sunday brunch; you don’t friends passing out under the table by 3 p.m.
Because your cooking is so stellar (wink, wink), most of the food will be gone before you know it. But as long as you’re sitting around the table – especially if wine is involved – your guests will want to keep eating. This is where the nibbles come in (did that sentence conjure up images of cheese platter-wielding gnomes for anyone else? No? Okay, moving on).
Nibbles are small, sweet or savory finger foods. I like grapes, berries, cherry tomatoes, cheeses, cured meats, hummus, fancy crackers and cookies. Crostini are always a great idea. My favorite combination is goat cheese and caramelized onions; another option is pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes. You can always make your own pesto, hummus, cookies, etc., but store-bought will be just fine.
More brunch tips and recipes to kick off your weekend: