There’s a good chance you might have houseguests who need to be fed en masse. Or maybe you’re hosting a convivial brunch on Christmas or New Year’s Day. The problem with the vast majority of breakfast gatherings is that they happen in the morning. And even if you didn’t drink one too many glasses of champagne or flaming rum punch the night before, you might be on the utterly, overwhelmingly exhausted side, because this time of year does that to even the most energetic of us.
These four marvellous breakfast recipes are not only festive, they’re easy enough to put together in a less-than-perfectly-alert frame of mind.
The simplest is the baked Irish oats, spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. Oatmeal may seem quotidian, but it isn’t here. First, the Irish oats (also called steel-cut) are sautéed in butter and spices until toasty and brown. This step adds layers of flavour. Then they’re mixed with cream and baked under a blanket of demerara sugar, which melts into a glossy syrup (raisin lovers should feel free to stir a handful into the pan before baking). Served with more cream, and raw demerara sugar for crunch, it’s about as glorious as oatmeal gets, without much fussing.
On the savoury side is a cheesy Dutch baby speckled with bacon. Of the four, it will garner the most oohs-and-aahs, especially if you can serve it while still puffy and golden. Even slightly deflated, it’s a sight to behold, with the fluffy egg mixture striped on top with slices of melted camembert.
Less eye-catching, but no less delectable, are elegant baked eggs with crème fraîche and smoked salmon. Covered in a sauce of sautéed shallots and dill, the eggs are cooked until just barely set, so the whites are firm but the yolks still runny. Serve these with toasted brioche or baguette for plenty of dunking.
And finally, while broiled grapefruit is not a meal in itself, it goes beautifully with the oatmeal and eggs. This version leans classic, with a topping of brown sugar and a little honey to caramelise under the heat. A sprinkling of flaky sea salt mitigates the bitterness of the citrus, though it’s not strictly necessary if you think your guests may balk. In which case, serve the salt on the side and let people season at will.
You will need a beverage to go with all this. Coffee, tea and mimosas are the obvious choices – and the best way to continue that cycle of holiday cheer.
Baked eggs with crème fraîche and smoked salmon
Runny-yolked eggs baked in individual ramekins or custard cups make for a very elegant brunch or light supper. These are bathed in a shallot-steeped crème fraîche and topped with smoked salmon for an especially rich result. Serve them with toast, croissants or crusty bread – something to mop up the last bits of yolk and cream at the bottom of the ramekins. You won’t want to leave behind a single drop.
Total time: 45 minutes
2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the ramekins
100g thinly sliced shallot (2 to 3 shallots)
½ tsp fine sea salt
180g heavy cream
80g crème fraîche
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
12 large eggs, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
115g smoked salmon
1. Heat oven to 200C, and brush six 225g ramekins or ovenproof custard cups with butter. Place the ramekins or cups on a rimmed baking tray.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook until very soft, 7 to 10 minutes, reducing heat if necessary to prevent browning.
3. Stir in 6 tablespoons cream, the crème fraîche, dill, lemon zest and remaining ¼ teaspoon. Remove from heat. Divide mixture among the ramekins.
4. Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin and float 1 tablespoon of cream on top of each, then sprinkle tops with salt and pepper. Bake until egg whites are just set, and yolk is still runny, 12 to 16 minutes (the eggs will look slightly puffed at the sides of the ramekins, but still jiggly in the center and that’s OK. The eggs will continue to cook once out of the oven.) Remove from oven and transfer ramekins onto individual plates for serving.
5. To serve, top each ramekin with some of the smoked salmon and a little more dill. Serve warm.
Spiced Irish oatmeal with cream and crunchy sugar
A shower of heavy cream and plenty of caramelised demerara sugar may make these Irish oats seem more like dessert than something you’d serve first thing in the morning, but that’s all the more reason to bake them up for a special occasion breakfast or brunch. Cardamom and cinnamon give them an especially earthy, perfumed aroma, and toasting the oats in butter before baking them lends nuttiness and depth. They’re also extremely easy, and you can assemble the dish the night before, then bake them in the morning. Just add about 10 minutes to the baking time if you’re starting them cold from the fridge.
Total time: 1½ hours
6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
160g steel-cut oats
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5L boiling water
120g heavy cream, plus more for serving
½ tsp salt
125g demerara sugar, plus more for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. Heat oven to 180C. Butter a 1.4L shallow gratin or baking dish.
2. Cut 2 tablespoons butter into small cubes, and put them in the refrigerator until needed.
3. In a large frying pan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Add the oats and sauté until they smell nutty and toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cardamom and cinnamon, and sauté for another minute, until fragrant. Scrape oats into the buttered baking pan and stir in the boiling water, cream and salt.
4. Bake oats for 40 minutes, then give them a stir. Sprinkle sugar all over the oats, and scatter reserved cubed butter on top. Continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the top is glazed and bubbling.
5. Sprinkle oatmeal with flaky sea salt, if you like. Serve oats with more cream and sugar on the side.
Grilled grapefruit with brown sugar and flaky salt
A classic at a fancy breakfast or brunch, the best broiled grapefruits have a glossy caramelised topping covering sections of the warm, juicy citrus. This recipe also includes a little cinnamon for a heady fragrance, and a touch of sea salt, which softens the bitterness of the grapefruit peel. It’s best served warm from the oven, when the brown sugar is still melted and syrupy. Ruby or pink grapefruits make for the prettiest presentation, but white ones work just as well, and have a livelier, more acidic flavour.
Total time: 10 minutes
2 grapefruits, preferably pink or ruby
4 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Honey, for drizzling
Ground cinnamon (optional)
Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. Move the rack 10cm away from the grill, and turn it on.
2. Halve the grapefruits through their equators. Using a paring knife or a grapefruit knife, cut the sections away from the membranes and pith so they are easy to spoon up. Place grapefruit halves, cut-side up, on a baking tray. Sprinkle each grapefruit half with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, then drizzle with melted butter and a little honey. Sprinkle cinnamon over the tops if you like.
3. Grill grapefruit until the sugar melts and caramelises, 2 to 5 minutes (grills vary a lot so watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn). Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and serve immediately.
Dutch baby with bacon and runny camembert
Most Dutch babies are sweet and often fruity. Not this one, which is topped with runny camembert cheese and studded with bacon. It’s savoury, golden and perfect for a hardy brunch or light dinner. A word of caution: it deflates quickly, so be sure to serve it as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Total time: 40 minutes
115g bacon, chopped
120g all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp baking powder
8 large eggs
180ml whole milk
23g grated parmesan
Handful chopped chives
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 (225-280g) wheel of camembert, rind on and cut into 0.5cm slices (not wedges)
1. Heat oven to 220C. Place bacon in a 22cm oven-safe frying pan, then set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fat has rendered and bacon has browned on the edges, 7 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, then whisk egg mixture into flour. Stir in parmesan and half the chives.
3. Once bacon is crisp and brown, raise heat to medium-high, and add butter, stirring until melted. Pour batter into skillet, then quickly arrange camembert pieces on top.
4. Transfer pan to the oven, and bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining chives, and serve immediately.
And to drink...
Dry, tart handcrafted cider would be a natural accompaniment to this savoury Dutch baby. It’s what you would drink with camembert if you were in Normandy, the cheese’s home territory in northern France. Aside from the regional attraction, dry cider has a strong affinity for the rich, sharp lactic flavours of the cheese, especially with eggs and bacon. If you want wine, however, look for an incisive white with plenty of acidity to cut through the richness of the dish. Champagne would be a great holiday choice. You could try a Vouvray, either dry or moderately sweet, and if you want to stay in the bubbly realm, a sparkling Vouvray would be nice. I would not opt for a red, but if you insist, Beaujolais often goes well with egg dishes.
Pairings by Eric Asimov.
© The New York Times
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