Start a lazy day with friends and good food in an outdoor setting
The best thing about brunch, says Bart Evans of Brattleboro, is that it provides an excuse to eat food that you can’t eat at breakfast because it’s too heavy and food you can’t eat at lunch because it’s too breakfasty.” To Evans, a computer consultant who studies with Madeleine Kamman, “ I consider chicken hash with a poach egg to be the perfect brunch food.”
When Evans was a child in Michigan, he recalls, brunch was a social occasion for showing off new kitchens, appliances or cars. The hosts “would always have several dishes or casseroles that could be done ahead of time. Coffee cakes were also served. Nowadays, most people do not make them.”
Another former student of Madeleine Kannan’s is Roberta Dowling Director of the Cambridge Culinary Institute.
Brunch today is more likely to be an occasion for the host to show off his or her culinary talent. One brunch lover is actress Veronica Cartwright, who was in New England last summer to film “The Witches of Eastwick.” Discovered shopping at a Cape Cod produce market one day, Cartwright confessed to a fondness for cooking and for brunch, especially outdoor brunch.
In a recent phone interview from her Los Angeles home, Cartwright elaborated on her idea of a good brunch party.
One of her favorite menus starts with mineral water or kir, then her mushroom soup thickened with mushroom puree. (She uses vegetable purees rather than starches or flour to thicken sauces.) The main course is salmon tartare with a dash of Dijon mustard, a little horseradish, capers and lemon juice, garnished with sprigs of chives and served with toast points. With this she serves cold asparagus or an arugula and radicchio salad with a simple dressing. Desert is hollowed-out oranges filled with gelato, topped with whipped cream and garnished with fresh raspberries.
“I like entertaining outside,” Cartwright said. “I had a bandstand built under a covered arbor and a redwood table made in the form of triangles. I can put them together to make one long triangle or one long butterfly shape, or separate them into individual tables and get five or six people around them. That way people can still talk to one another and move around.”
Table settings and decorations are also important to Cartwright. “I am a linen and dishes nut,” she said. “I have a collection of all sorts of different kinds of china. And my tables will always have flowers on them. I use individual vases for each setting – large bouquets block the view of the person across the table. Just what I do depends on the mood and the theme.”
. “We did a shrimp jambalaya with saffron rice and peas. This was served with lots of assorted grilled vegetables like red, green and yellow peppers, mushrooms, onions and yellow squash marinated in a balsamic vinegar dressing. Desserts were Bourbon bread pudding, trifles and different kinds of cakes.”
Another chef with an extensive brunch repertoire is David Mutti, who opened David’s Restaurant in Falmouth a year and a half ago after cooking at the Black Duck in Woods Hole and The Regatta in Falmouth. Mutti makes more than 70 different omelets, and a blackboard covering half of one wall of the restaurant lists some 40 brunch specialties.
“Our omelets change all teat until sauce starts to thicken. Stir often to prevent scorching. As sauce thickens, reduce heat so sauce won’t stick to the pan. Cook about 20 minutes.
4. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Makes 3 cup
time because I use only fresh ingredients,” said Mutti in a recent interview at the restaurant. “The best thing about being a chef is that you can go to the market or call one of the purveyors and find something in season that you can only get once a year, such as fiddlehead ferns and Vidalia onions, which are only available in the spring. I try to match the cheese with the vegetable: For example, a nice Vermont smoked Cheddar goes well with the Vidalia onion. We do a lobster omelet with fresh diced lobster meat, black caviar and sour cream. Brie cheese and apple is my favorite – that’s on the board all the time.
Mutti also does a lot of regional dishes, like an omelet filled with crayfish etouffe (fresh Louisiana crayfish simmered in a roux). Besides omelets, big successes have been the kippers and eggs and the lobster pot – fresh lobster meat in a pastry shell, topped with a poached egg and laced with a cheese sauce.
The following recipes are all appropriate for an outdoor brunch. Start with champagne flavored with plum raspberry or peach juice and juices to flavor it – or use sparkling water for nonalcoholic drinks.
Next, serve a fresh fruit salad garnished with nasturtiums and served with Bart Evan’s’mango “mayonnaise.”
For the entree, try the Bread Boat Souffle, a hollowed-out loaf of Italian bread lined with chopped prosciutto and cheese then filled with a fluffy souffle. Cinnamon coffee served throughout the meal makes a nice touch especially if you are serving the tamals. If you choose a non-egg entree, a good dessert is baked French toast made from whole-wheat bread. Top it with pecan maple syrup and a small scoop of French vanilla ice cream.
BLACK ITALIAN PLUM JUICE
12 to 14 very ripe black Italian plums (about 3 pounds)
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cut the plum flesh from the seeds (leave skin on) and put plum chunks, pits with attached flesh, water, sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes and strain through cheesecloth for about 1 hour. Discard pulp. Makes about 2 cups juice.
To make raspberry juice, substitute 2 pints fresh raspberries for the plums. For peach juice, substitute 4 cups of very ripe peach chunks (about 3 pounds peaches) and use 2 1/2 cups water.
To serve, put 2 tablespoons juice in a wineglass: fill with champagne. For a nonalcoholic drink, substitute sparkling mineral water for the champagne and serve with a twist of lime.
BART EVANS’ MANGO ‘MAYO’
1 very ripe mango, peeled and pulp removed
8 ounces plain lowfat yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon lime juice
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the mango pulp, yogurt, tarragon and lime juice until thick and creamy (the consistency of mayonnaise). Serve over fruit salad. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.
BREAD BOAT SOUFFLE
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup hot milk
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoons fresh minced basil
2 tablespoons minced onion
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 loaf Italian bread about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide
1/4 pound prosciutto, sliced paper-thin
1/4 pound sliced Fontina cheese
5 egg whites