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A Make-Ahead Holiday Brunch

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Who says you can't have fun at your own brunch? Start a week ahead and serve an easy, but still festive, fritatta.

Cooking a holiday dinner often comes with a lot of emotional baggage. Everyone has a different idea about the right thing to serve: “It’s got to be goose with chestnut stuffing,” or “My mother always made roast beef.” I don’t want to get caught in that tangle of traditions any more than I want to spend my whole holiday chopping and peeling. So, I’ve started a new tradition: brunch. I look forward to family and friends arriving in the late morning and relaxing with a glass of champagne cocktail. The kids come in the kitchen to sneak a bit of coffee cake, and I distract them by asking for help whisking the eggs. In short, it’s fun. And by preparing ahead of time, I have as much fun as my guests.

If want to enjoy yourself when you entertain, choose a menu that holds up under delay. You don’t want to miss gift-giving because you’re watching over a soufflé. Easy breakfasts like scrambled eggs and pancakes are popular, but they’re not very festive and are only at their peak when served immediately. A frittata, on the other hand, is an infinitely flexible breakfast dish. Basically, it’s an omelet you start on the stove and finish in the oven. While I like serving frittatas still warm and puffed from the oven, they taste great at almost any temperature. The frittata is complemented by equally forgiving dishes: Red Anjou pears and arugula wrapped with prosciutto, citrus-spiced nuts, and a tender buttermilk coffee cake.

Menu Timeline

One week ahead:

  • Shop for staple items.
  • Make the spiced nuts; store them in an airtight container.

Two days ahead:

  • Shop for perishables and other last-minute items.
  • If you’re serving coffee, buy fresh beans.
  • Bring out all serving pieces.
  • Make extra ice for drinks.

One day ahead:

  • Prepare the frittata filling. Measure out all other ingredients (except the eggs) and keep refrigerated.
  • Prepare the streusel coffee cake topping, cover and refrigerate.
  • Measure out the dry ingredients for the coffee cake. Cover and keep at room temperature
  • Mix the juices for the cocktail in a pitcher and refrigerate. Chill the sparkling wine.
  • Set the table.

The day of the brunch:

  • Make the coffee cake first thing in the morning.
  • Put the nuts in serving dishes.
  • Prepare the prosciutto-wrapped pears.
  • Make the frittata.
  • Pour yourself a champagne cocktail and relax.

Shopping List

Make two shopping lists: one for staples you can buy a week ahead, and another for items that must be purchased only a day or two before the brunch.

Perishables (buy two days before the party)

  • 1 lb. new potatoes
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 Anjou or Comice pears
  • 1 medium Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apple
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 12 thin slices of prosciutto (about 1/3 lb.)
  • 3 oz. Gruyere or other mild cheese
  • 15 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk

Staples (buy one week ahead)

  • 1 orange
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 lb. pecan halves
  • 1/2 lb. blanched almonds
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 bottle brut sparkling wine
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/3 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar (for dusting cake)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1-1/4 tsp. ground mace
  • 1-1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • Ground nutmeg (pinch)
  • Kosher salt
  • Table salt
  • Black peppercorns

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