Smart, fun plans make Easter home brunch a breeze

SHARE Smart, fun plans make Easter home brunch a breeze
marshmallow_peeps.jpg

Marshmallow Peeps are a fun addition to any Easter celebration. | AP Photo/Rick Smith

Whether your Easter morning begins in church with worshipful celebration of the risen Christ or out hunting colored eggs and visiting the Easter bunny, the next step is brunch.

Gathering with family, friends and food forms a key highlight of the spring holiday. If you’re hosting Easter brunch this year, enjoy it as much as your guests do by planning ahead.

“The best plan is to have fun with the planning,” advises Sean Patrick Curry, executive chef at Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, 3500 Midwest Road, Oak Brook. “Draw out the buffet with colored pencils and see if you have the right look. Easter is a celebration of new life and hope. Your attitude and the menu should reflect that sentiment. What level of effort you put into the meal will reflect your attitude towards Easter celebration.”

Country ham frittata, an easy make-ahead recipe, from Chef Brian Jupiter at Frontier, 1072 N. Milwaukee. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Country ham frittata, an easy make-ahead recipe, from Chef Brian Jupiter at Frontier, 1072 N. Milwaukee. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

“Create a menu – it’s not just for chefs!” says Mike Galen, chef at Buck’s, 1700 W. Division. “A menu will help you plan out your ingredient list and avoid any last-minute meltdowns in the kitchen.”

Look for easy, make-ahead recipes. “Holiday meals are stressful, so I like to choose dishes that don’t add more anxiety to the mix,” Galen says. Know you are expecting a lot of guests? Plan sides that you can make in large batches, such as buttermilk biscuits or mac and cheese. This goes for drinks, too. Stay away from individual cocktails and opt for large batch sips, like punchbowls.”

You don’t have to cook it all. Take advantage of prepared items from local food stores and bakeries, and ask your guests to bring dishes, too.

Start the cooking ahead of time.

“The idea is spend as much time out of the kitchen and with your guests as possible,” notes Chef Martial Noguier of Bistronomic, 840 N. Wabash. Soups, baked goods, braised or roasted meats, composed salads and egg dishes such as deviled eggs, frittatas and stratas can all be made the day before. “On Easter Day, simply warm, slice and plate before serving to your guests,” Noguier says.

“I like to make strata, which is a savory bread pudding that can be prepared the day before and re-heated,” says Joshua Miyake, banquet chef at the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan. Frittatas, which can be served warm or at room temperature, are another good make-ahead option.

“Poached eggs are a very popular brunch item that can be prepared ahead of time and warmed when needed,” Miyake says. “Prepare an ice water bath to hold the eggs after they are poached. Reheat them in a slowly simmering pot of water. This can be done a few hours before the event.”

Some foods should be cooked closer to serving time. “Items like traditional French toast and pancakes can be prepared in batches and held in a low (200 degree) oven,” according to Miyake. “Be careful because pancakes and French toast only hold well for about 30-45 minutes.

“Since most home kitchens lack the oven space of a commercial kitchen, you must plan your cooking wisely,” he notes. “Cook dishes that take the longest time first, reheating pre-prepped items last.”

Noguier suggests even setting the table the night before.

“I think people really want a decorated display for Easter,” says Curry. “Ice carvings, Easter eggs, pastel colors all play their part in an Easter celebration.”

“Rockin’ Robin Birdies,” a s’mores tartlet with chocolate pastel eggs, marshmallow, Peeps and more chocolate, garnished with a pudding “bird bath” at Dylan’s Candy Bar, 445 N. Michigan.

“Rockin’ Robin Birdies,” a s’mores tartlet with chocolate pastel eggs, marshmallow, Peeps and more chocolate, garnished with a pudding “bird bath” at Dylan’s Candy Bar, 445 N. Michigan.

Have fun with the food and decorations. “Pick a theme for your Easter brunch to give it an elevated feel,” Galen says. “I love putting together Southern-inspired bashes and use that as my vision in everything from the types of plates that I use to the drinks that are served.”

Hollowed-out dyed eggs can be brought into play as little serving dishes. Chef Bruce Sherman at North Pond, 2610 N. Cannon Dr., fills plastic eggs with pudding for an Easter version of pots de creme, while Dylan’s Candy Bar, 445 N. Michigan turns a chocolate egg into a candy bird bath.

“Easter is the holiday that I get really into — the rest of the family, too!” says Dylan Lauren, CEO of Dylan’s. “For the table, I love using spring-inspired pastel linens, colorful glassware and patterned plates, along with sweet favors that serve as place cards — this way everyone feels like they have something special. Themed candies and small embellishments can enliven the décor in unexpected places around the home, too. I think it’s fun when guests find little rabbits popping up on the mantel or beside flowers on the coffee table. . . . It’s kind of like an egg hunt in itself! It’s a very happy, bright, coming-of-spring holiday, so it’s always fun to take advantage of that with some fresh imagination.”

Here are a few recipe ideas for your Easter brunch:

COUNTRY HAM FRITTATA

ONE SERVING

This recipe from Executive Chef Brian Jupiter of Frontier, 1072 N. Milwaukee, is for a single serving, but may easily be multiplied for larger pans. Just give it some more cooking time.

2 large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

1 ounce country ham

1 ounce chopped wild mushrooms

1 ounce goat cheese

1/2 ounce arugula

Salt n pepper to taste

Crack the eggs into small mixing bowl with milk and whisk thoroughly. Combine the ham, mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese with egg mixture, salt and pepper; mix well. (You can either cook this mixture right away or store in the fridge overnight in a covered bowl and cook it quickly in the morning.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a small, well-seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven to warm for a few minutes. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet, and place into the oven for 7–10 minutes, until set. Use a wooden tool instead of a metal fork or spatula to remove the frittata from the skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Brian Jupiter, Frontier

CHICAGO EGGS

2 SERVINGS

Evanston food blogger and activist Michele Hays first gave this moniker to an Italian-sausage version of Scotch eggs, a classic British pub snack of fried, meat-encased eggs. I’ve riffed on her idea to create this baked variant.

1 pound mild Italian bulk sausage

1/2 cup flour

6 large or extra-large eggs, hard-cooked and peeled (see note)

2 raw eggs, well beaten with 2 tablespoons water

1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs, available in the Asian section of supermarkets)

Cooking-oil spray

Celery salt to taste

Giardiniera for garnish

Divide the sausage into six parts, roll into balls and press each into a large, thin patty. Put the flour in a shallow dish. Place a patty on your palm. Dredge a hard-cooked egg in flour and encase the egg in the sausage, rolling the sausage-wrapped egg between your hands to create an even shape.

Repeat with the remaining eggs. Place on a plate and refrigerate for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dredge the sausage-wrapped eggs in flour, coat in the beaten egg, and then roll in the panko till well covered. Spray lightly with oil and bake on a rack over a shallow pan (a broiler pan works well) for 30 to 45 minutes, or until well browned and crisp. Let cool.

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, cut in half, sprinkled with celery salt and garnished with giardiniera.

Note: If you are starting this from square one instead of using leftover Easter eggs, cook the eggs for half the usual time for creamier yolks.

Leah A. Zeldes is a local freelance writer.

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