Families are so busy.
With in-laws and step-grandparents, we're at one get-together on Christmas Eve, a group of family is coming over Christmas morning, and then it's off to another set of grandparents' house for Christmas evening. We just can't be everywhere at once, and not every host can have the whole family for Christmas dinner every year.
What about a brunch gathering? We're not talking about a casserole to be put in the oven as soon as you get up for the family to nosh on. This meal can be as elegant as Christmas dinner, although it should be a little lighter.
We went looking for recipes and ideas that are beautiful and classy, but not so labor-intensive that your Christmas morning will be spent in the kitchen. And they need to be pretty foolproof too, as it's a busy time and guests will be arriving.
We came up with a corned beef hash dish that takes the place of eggs Benedict. It's pretty, with the beef and potatoes left in larger pieces that keep their integrity and don't turn to mush. Use corned beef from the eye of round for a very lean dish. The corned beef can be diced ahead. Before brunch, dice onion and cut red-skinned potatoes into bite-sized pieces and put on to fry slowly while you prepare the sides.
Top your hash with a slice of broiled tomato. Tomato is great on regular eggs Benedict too. In summer, use fresh garden-ripe tomato, but this time of year broiling warms it up and helps concentrate the flavor of offseason produce. Then add a few quickly broiled asparagus spears and top the tower with a poached egg. The dish is gorgeous, light, and with none of that pesky, breaking hollandaise sauce.
The richness of the meat and egg yolk and the tang of the tomato accomplishes the same flavor contrast without it.
Serve the hash with either fruit-filled crepes (which can be purchased frozen or made a day ahead) or whole-grain waffles, or pancakes topped with sweetened yogurt and fresh fruit.
We found a waffle recipe at Eating Well that incorporates rolled oats and whole wheat flour with buttermilk for a high fiber, fluffy-crisp waffle with great taste. If you don't have a waffle iron, fry the batter like pancakes. For a healthy topping, mix Greek yogurt with a bit of honey and vanilla, and sprinkle with raspberries and a mint leaf for Christmas color.
Finish brunch with fruit salad and a variety of muffins. Bake the muffins a day ahead, cool completely on a rack and return to the pan to wrap. When you take them out to serve, they'll have kept their shape and be feather soft.
CORNED BEEF HASH BENEDICT STYLE
2 tablespoons oil
4 fist-sized red potatoes, diced in 1⁄2 inch pieces
1 cup diced onion
2 cups cooked corned beef, diced in 1⁄2 inch pieces
2 large tomatoes, cut in 8 thick slices
1 bunch asparagus spears
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Preheat the broiler to high. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the potatoes and onions. Toss and cover. Fry over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until the onions are soft and the potatoes browning, about 15 minutes.
2. Add the corned beef, cover, and cook slowly, tossing occasionally, until the meat is hot and the potatoes golden and tender.
3. In the meantime, place the tomato slices and asparagus on a foil-lined sheet pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the olive oil and broil, watching closely, until the asparagus is tender-crisp with frizzled ends and the tomatoes are hot and juicy.
4. To assemble, use a ring mold or small bowl to place a round portion of hash on each plate. Top with one tomato slice and a few spears of asparagus. Top with a poached egg, a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper.
PERFECT POACHED EGGS
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1. Heat the water: Add enough water to come 1 inch up the side of a narrow, deep 2-quart saucier. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons white vinegar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, crack 1 very fresh cold large egg into a custard cup or small ramekin. Use the handle of a spatula or spoon to quickly stir the water in one direction until it's all smoothly spinning around.
TIP: Use this whirlpool method when poaching a single serving (one or two eggs). For bigger batches, heat the water, salt and vinegar in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and do not stir.
2. Add the egg: Carefully drop the egg into the center of the whirlpool. The swirling water will help prevent the white from "feathering," or spreading out in the pan.
3. Let it poach: Turn off the heat, cover the pan and set your timer for 5 minutes. Don't peek, poke, stir or accost the egg in any way.
4. Lift it out: Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and serve immediately. Alternatively, move the egg to an ice bath and refrigerate up to 8 hours. Reheat in warm water just before serving
Source: Alton Brown, TV Food Network
WHOLE-GRAIN WAFFLES RECIPE
2 cups buttermilk
2⁄3 cup rolled oats
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄3 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 cup finely chopped walnuts, or pecans (optional)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Mix buttermilk and oats in a medium bowl; let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Preheat waffle iron. Preheat oven to 200F.
3. Whisk all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Stir in nuts, if using.
4. Whisk egg, egg white, brown sugar, oil and vanilla into oats. Whisk into dry ingredients until just moistened.
5. Lightly coat waffle iron with nonstick spray. Spoon in batter and cook until the waffle is crisp and golden. Transfer to oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, lightly coating iron with nonstick spray each time, if necessary.
Source: Eating Well
MERRY CHRISTMAS MUFFINS RECIPE
Makes 16 muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1⁄4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 Eggland's Best eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots
1 medium tart apple, peeled and chopped
1⁄2 cup flaked coconut
1⁄2 cup chopped dried mixed fruit
1⁄2 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
2. In a small bowl, beat eggs, oil and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
3. Fold in carrots, apple, coconut, fruit and raisins. Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Replace in the pan and wrap well for next day serving.
Source: Adapted from Taste of Home