Food & Drink

Spring in Charlotte: The best time for brunch

Poached Egg & Prosciutto Crostinis make a tasty addition to the brunch menu.
Poached Egg & Prosciutto Crostinis make a tasty addition to the brunch menu. TNS

With Easter just around the corner and Mother’s Day not far behind, it’s a great time to start thinking about the best meal combination form of entertaining. Although you don’t ever need a reason to serve brunch, why not use spring as an excuse to combine the best of meals in a breakfast-meets-lunch entertaining extravaganza?

Let’s go alfresco

For those who have the good fortune of sunshine and a backyard, an alfresco brunch is a perfect springtime gathering opportunity. Celebrity caterer of Elegant Affairs Andrea Correale suggests a lineup of Asparagus Eggs Benedict, Homemade Potato Pancakes, Heirloom Tomato Frittata and Poached Egg & Prosciutto Crostinis (see recipe).

To accompany the savory alfresco menu, Correale likes to pair a sweet and spicy bloody mary with vodka, tomato juice, fresh lemon and lime juice, Tabasco, grated horseradish, gherkin pickles, Greek pepperoncini pepper, a celery stalk, fresh mint and lime wedge, and sprigs of lavender to garnish.

“Alfresco brunch is all about outdoor entertaining,” Correale says. “Set beautiful fresh-cut garden flowers in mini-Mason jars on your backyard patio table and fill larger Mason jars with whole lemons and limes and arrange them down the center.”

Let’s toast to brunch

“When hosting a brunch, provide a signature cocktail,” says Tracy Memoli, food and travel blogger for suitesavory.com. “I like listing the cocktail on a chalkboard as an inexpensive, yet festive decoration and focal point on the bar, not to mention a nice creative/crafty touch.”

To maximize brunch prep time, Memoli recommends preparing cocktails like sangria in pitchers the night before.

“Another great cocktail – if you want to serve something other than traditional mimosas – is to try a light champagne and pomegranate punch,” Memoli says.

New Orleans style

Rather than going with a traditional brunch, try infusing regional flavors to create a fun and filling spread. Blue Plate Catering executive chef Randal Jacobs has created a New Orleans-themed brunch, bringing out the best of the bayou.

It doesn’t have to be Mardi Gras to celebrate French Quarter style. To accompany a delicious selection of spicy, authentic Southern-style fare, add splashes of traditional Mardi Gras green, purple and yellow to dining ensembles or linens. If beads and bling aren’t quite your pace, consider brunch decor that incorporates soft whites (wooden barrels, crates, tables and chairs, pottery) and fresh greenery for a rustic Creole cottage feel.

Add authenticity and homage to a New Orleans backdrop by infusing the air with jazz and Cajun music. If weather permits, string up some white or colored lights outdoors, depending on the ambiance.

Try a buffet

Since brunch is often associated (and sometimes synonymous) with buffet, why not do both? In addition to fresh fruit, mini waffles and pancakes, sausage and bacon, Jacobs suggests creating an eggs Benedict station.

Provide a chafing dish with poached eggs accompanied by warmed hollandaise, toasted English muffins, sliced ham and Canadian bacon, potato pancakes, cooked or fresh spinach or even smoked salmon.

Poached Egg & Prosciutto Crostinis

1 loaf of crusty Italian bread (cut into thin slices)

1 pound cured prosciutto

1 dozen cherry tomatoes

1 dozen fresh eggs

1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar (for poaching)

Bring water in a saucepan to almost boiling. If the water is already boiling, lower the heat until it is no longer boiling. At this point, you can add one or two teaspoons of vinegar to the water. The vinegar will help the egg whites to congeal more easily.

Working with the eggs one by one, crack egg into a small cup, then place the cup near the surface of the hot water and gently drop the egg into the water. With a spoon, nudge the egg whites closer to their yolks. This will help the egg whites hold together. Turn off the heat. Cover. Let sit for 4 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked. Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon.

Toast the slices of Italian bread so they’re crispy crostini. Layer the prosciutto and garnish with sliced tomatoes. Top with the perfectly poached egg and serve immediately.

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