I Hate Brunch (And So Should You)

I have no deep or novel insights into human behavior. But I tend to try. And I honestly cannot fathom why people love brunch so much. Asking around, I got a response in the form of a combination of the following three factors:

  1. Bacon;
  2. Having sweet and savory items together, sometimes in the same dish;
  3. Drinking to excess without fear or compunction.

Setting aside that bacon isn’t even the best form of pork belly, I don’t understand why these three reasons must relate to brunch. You people realize that there is no reason that bacon, sweet and savory dishes and drinking a lot can’t be made a part of any meal, right? But no matter.

More pointedly, though, I’m not saying that people’s reasons for loving brunch are merely bad. I’m saying they’re entirely terrible. Because people don’t actually love brunch, I suspect. They love going to brunch. After all, it’s trivially simple to make most brunch dishes quickly, all the while absurdly time consuming to go and wait in line at a restaurant for brunch. Something has to pay for this behavior. And it’s the god awful and costly brunch-going experience.

As it turns out, a fairly elaborate brunch for four should take maybe an hour or so to complete or about the same time you’d have waited for a table outside. It’s also really inexpensive to make most brunch dishes compared to the sticker shock commonly associated with going out to brunch. It costs maybe a dollar each for a stack of pancakes or a fine Belgian waffle with generous and delicious accoutrement–each of which will cost you at least $15 at a decent brunch spot.

The underlying reason for all of this is that fancy restaurants offer brunch because idiots will pay for it, not because they are passionate about serving it. In fact, it’s often their B-Team working the kitchen during brunch so you’re not even getting the best the restaurant has to offer. The not-so-well-kept secret of the restaurant world is that, more and more, restaurants are offering brunch now because it’s a bald faced money grab: Cheap food served at high prices with lots of already high margin booze. Shitty prosecco with orange juice anyone? A steal at $10!

The Dubious Pleasures of Brunch at Home

If you’re serious about loving brunch, however, you should do it at home. To start, if you absolutely must have bacon, this is how you should do it. Begin by going to your local butcher, where you can get amazing bacon by the kilogram (or pound). By my view, the best way to make bacon is in the oven. For thick cut bacon, just preheat your oven to 165 °C (329 °F) and cook on a baking sheet for between 45 minutes and an hour, to desired texture. It’ll be chewier at 45 minutes, melty by 50 and crisp at an hour. That’s it. And I won’t say another word on that.

I’m not going to bore you with a recipe for pancakes or waffles since those are available everywhere online. You can top any of these with budget-conscious but beautiful fresh berries, confectioners’ sugar and freshly whipped cream or more decadent high quality butter and rockstar maple syrup.

So that covers bacon and sweet, approximately half the list. The second half of the list is more complicated: Savory and booze. For this I will suggest four easy small plate dishes that will accompany your sweet main course: A very fancy avocado toast, an open-faced egg sandwich, sardines and home fries. This menu transcends borders, offers sophisticated flavors and textures and are pretty easy to make. Lastly, in addition to just serving decent prosecco, I’ll also provide a recipe for a Spanish-style gin tonic to which I’m particularly partial.

Is it weird that I just did a brunch how-to given how much I don’t like brunch? What I do for you people!

Have a question? Ask me anything!

The Recipes

Avocado Toast – Serves Four

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For this dish, select a Hass avocado that is dark with little to no hints of green but still waxy looking and whose flesh only gently gives to pressure. As for bread, I prefer something clean and intrusive such as a hearty and rustic freshly baked Italian bread. Note that while you’re waiting for the pickles and seasoned oil, you can pursue other dishes.

Ingredients

Base Items
2 slices of 1 cm thick freshly baked rustic Italian bread or other refined flour bread, sliced in half lengthwise and toasted to light golden
1 medium Hass avocado, peeled and depitted, cut into 0.5 cm slices
10 black peppercorns, finely ground
1 g (about 1 tsp) crushed red pepper
Maldon sea salt

For Seasoned Oil
75 g (about 90 mL or 3 fl oz) California extra virgin olive oil
75 g (about 9 to 12 cloves) garlic, finely diced
4 g (about 1 rounded tbsp) crushed red pepper
1 g (about 0.5 tbsp) dried oregano
1 g (about 0.5 tbsp) dried basil

For Quick Pickles
100 g (about 3 fl oz) filtered water
70 g (about 2 fl oz) distilled white vinegar
35 g (about 1 oz) granulated sugar
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 medium radishes, cut into 0.5 cm cubes

Procedure

  1. Combine the filtered water, vinegar and sugar in a non-metal bowl and stir to integrate sugar. When fully integrated, add onion and radish. Let sit at room temperature for at least 45 minutes before use. May be made the night before and stored in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 °C (302 °F). Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small, oven safe ramekin and ensure the garlic is entirely submerged in the oil. If required to fully submerge garlic, add just enough additional oil. When the oven is at temperature, add the ramekin to the oven. When the garlic is at a steady fry in the oil, about 10 minutes, give the mixture a careful but thorough stir. Add crushed red pepper and dried oregano and basil, carefully stirring to fully integrate. Continue to fry in the oven until the oil has tinged red-brown, about 10 additional minutes. Separate the solids from the oil with a fine mesh strainer such as a chinois and set each aside separately.
  3. Arrange avocado slices on the toast squares, apportioning them equally between the four. Apportion ground black pepper and crushed red pepper (under Base Items) equally to each toast, distributing across the surface of the avocado evenly. Add a generous splash of seasoned oil and a sprinkling of the oven crisped garlic mixture atop the avocado. Top with a generous amount of pickled onion and radish. Final sprinkle to desired salt level with Maldon (about two generous pinches per toast should do). Serve immediately.

Open Face Sandwich – Serves Four

IMG_2446

Ingredients

For Base Items
2 slices of 3 cm tfreshly baked rustic Italian bread or other refined flour bread, toasted to medium golden
50 g (about 3 tbsp) high quality sweet butter, softened and divided into thirds
10 g ( about 2 tsp) chestnut honey (clover honey may be used as an inexpensive substitute)
1 large sprig of Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems only, rough chopped
A block of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to grate
5 black peppercorns, crushed
Maldon sea salt

For Eggs
4 high quality, free range organic hen eggs
10 g (about 1 tbsp) California extra virgin olive oil

For Spinach
60 g (about 2 cup, loosely packed) baby spinach
Half medium shallot, finely diced

Procedure

  1. For bread, in a clean pan, add a third of the butter and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When foam subsides, add bread slices to brown on one side only, about one minute. Removed from heat.
  2. For spinach, add shallots to the pan tossing regularly until they just begin to brown around the edges. Add spinach and toss constantly until just fully wilted. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. For eggs, heat a small, nonstick eggpan (about 10 cm or 4 inches in diameter–a larger nonstick pan and a ring mold may be substituted) over medium heat until it reaches 180 °C (356 °F) and add half the oil and crack two eggs directly into the pan in rapid succession. fry until crispy around the edges and the layer of whites beneath is well set, about two minutes. Flip and and continue to cook until whites are set, about a minute. Set aside. Repeat for the other two eggs.
  4. Spread a third of the butter on each of the slices of bread on the browned side. Generously grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese atop the butter. Add two pinches of black pepper atop the cheese. Next drizzle the honey over the cheese, equally between the two slices of bread. Split the spinach between the two slices of bread, topping with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Top each slice with the cooked eggs. Add two pinches of Maldon salt atop each sandwich along with the remaining black pepper. Grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and finally top with the parsley. Serve immediately and cut in half at the table.

Sardines – Serves Four

IMG_5480

Ingredients

For Sardines
2 cans high quality, boneless and skinless salted sardines in extra virgin olive oil
30 g (about 2 tbsp) freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
10 black peppercorns, finely ground
1 large sprig of Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems only, rough chopped
Maldon sea salt

For Accoutrements
2 slices of 1 cm thick freshly baked rustic Italian bread or other refined flour bread, sliced in half lengthwise and toasted to light golden
1 tbsp high quality dijon mustard

Procedure

  1. Carefully open each can of sardines. Bend each open can lenthwise to loosen the sardine filets inside. Carefully, with a fork to scoop, remove each filet of sardine from the can, taking care to keep the filets intact. Place in a bowl and dress with the lemon juice, black pepper and two pinches of Maldon.
  2. Plate sardines, topping with the parsley. Add bread and mustard to the plate and serve immediately.

Home Fries – Four Servings

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Ingredients

For Potatoes
1 kg (3 medium or about 35 oz) russet potatoes, cut into 2 cm cubes, skins on
30 g (about 1 tbsp plus a small additional amount for seasoning) kosher salt
10 g (about 1 tbsp) distilled white vinegar

For Seasonings
30 g (about 1 oz) fine potato starch
10 g (about 1 tbsp) fine garlic powder
2 g (about 1 tsp) finely ground cayenne pepper

For Additional Items
3 large thyme sprigs
1 large sprig of Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems only, rough chopped

Optional

One large sprig of cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
Remaining oven crisped garlic (left over from Avocado Toast)

Substitutions

Try substituting half of the russets for another varietal from the middle of the row, such as Yukon Gold or a purple potato for a variation of flavor and texture.

Procedure

  1. Pour 1 L (about 34 oz) of cold tap water into a large saucepan. Add the vinegar and salt, stirring to dissolve. Add the potatoes and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Maintain a medium simmer until potatoes are very tender and the edges appear slightly lacey as the potatoes break down, about seven to ten minutes. Remove potatoes and set aside. Discard liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 °C (301 °F). Grease a quarter baking sheet with a small amount of olive oil. Arrange the potatoes in a single, even layer on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until just dry, about 10 minutes.
  3. Increase oven temperature to 250 °C (482 °F). Mix the potato starch, garlic and cayenne and a pinch of salt in a bowl. In a second, large bowl, coat the cubed potatoes with the starch mixture. Coat with about half the olive oil. With a large spoon, toss the potatoes until well coated and the edges and corners of the potatoes erode slightly. Again, arrange the potatoes in a single, even layer on the baking sheet and pour the remaining oil uniformly atop the potatoes. Arrange the thyme sprigs evenly spaced across the surface of the potatoes.
  4. Place on the middle rack and roast until the tops are crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes. With a fish spatula or other thin metal spatula, flip the potatoes and bake until the final side is crisp and golden brown, another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the baking pan and toss with a little salt, if needed, and plate.
  6. If desired, top with parsley and oven crisped garlic (if desired). Serve immediately.

Spanish Gin Tonic – Serves One

Spanish-style gin tonic

Ingredients

60 mL (2 oz) Classic London dry gin (such as Beefeater)
30 mL (1 oz) high quality tonic water (such as Fever Tree)
5 black peppercorns, crushed
Grated peel from a quarter lemon
1 large sprig of fresh Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems only
1 small sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig of fresh mint, leaves and tender stems only
High quality ice cubes

Procedure

  1. In a shaker tin, combine the gin, crushed black pepper and lemon zest and, with a barspoon, stir to extract the flavors into the gin, about one minute.
  2. Fill a red wine glass with ice cubes and, with a fine mesh conical strainer, strain the gin over the ice. Add the parsley, thyme and mint.
  3. With a barspoon, stir the gin in the glass until very cold, about one minute. Add tonic and give a delicate single stir to integrate. Serve immediately.

Have a question? Ask me anything!

 

 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Tiffany says:

    I love brunch because I’m a grouchy bear until about 9am and my taste buds don’t awaken until 10am. That said, I normally eat brunch at home and totally agree with you there. I think I’ve gone “out to brunch” maybe once in my life and it was while visiting Hell’s Kitchen on a birthday weekend. Brunch at home IS totally easy and super affordable! Great article, and great recipes!

  2. Sarah Rubel says:

    I refuse to wait in line for my first meal of the day so I’m with you on rejecting brunch at a restaurant. Your post made my mouth water – Ry and I will have to try some of these!

    1. Let me know how they turn out!

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