I entertain a lot—just having people over as I’ve come to call it. I don’t see it as a big deal. Like a practiced athlete, I’ve got a plan. When the time comes, I focus and go into action.
Like today when we had 48 for brunch. (That was after cooking a celebratory dinner for threemanycooks and significant others last night, and frying breakfast beignets for breakfast this morning.)
But two hours before brunch we were all standing in the kitchen before heading off to a service and reception honoring David. Everyone was looking around, asking what needed to be done, and I couldn’t think of a thing.
Just to confirm: two hours before a brunch for four dozen we were heading off, returning only minutes before guests arrived, and there was nothing more to do.
Since this is just what I do, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but as we were all calmly walking out the door, Maggy said, “You’ve gotta write about this.”
So for those interested in how to simply and inexpensively serve a classy, tasty brunch for a crowd, read on.
The biggest part of classy is not the food as much as what you serve it on. Think foie gras on a paper plate or a hamburger on Limoge. I get why hosts resort to disposables, but it’s nice to eat from a plate that won’t collapse, with utensils that don’t snap.
For this reason I’ve invested in several dozen all-purpose stemmed glasses. Party’s end, I shove ‘em in the dishwasher. If one breaks, who cares, it’s just a buck.
I’ve also got inexpensive plates, silverware, coffee cups, a 30-cup coffee pot, and a drink tub, all of which have their own corner in the basement. When there’s a party, I haul it up. When the party’s over, it goes back down. It’s an investment, yes, but check out rental fees. Just one event and you can justify most of the expense.
As for the food, I slow-roasted two really good apple-smoked hams early morning and left them to cool while we were out. As people started to arrive, I set them out, along with four mustards, on a butcher block, leaving one attractively whole, carving the other for easy grazing.
There was Simple Strata with Scallions and Cheddar (see recipe below). With David’s help the night before, we made four of them in about 30 minutes. That was it until an hour before brunch.
The plan was to serve whole strawberries (no prep and beautiful) but none were available so I bought bunches of red and green grapes, which we cut into smaller clusters and displayed in a basket (very little prep and no worries about discoloration).
For the salad—Field Greens with Roasted Pecans and Red Onion—I dumped a one- pound container of baby greens into a large wooden bowl with pecans toasted the day before and onions sliced early morning. After that it was just dress and toss.
Sharon and Tony hung at the bar making mimosas, and as people were finished eating, Maggy and Andy walked around with coffee and baskets of warm cinnamon donut holes (bought from a decent donut shop) and a chocolate dipping sauce, (made in about 5 minutes).
There’s one final thing you need to pull off a large brunch. If you’re more than twenty-four, bring in a little help. While we were still at church, Giovanna arrived an hour before the party to put the stratas in the oven and plug in the coffee. She also helped us serve and clean up. Because what’s the point of having a party, if you can’t enjoy it a little yourself?