It’s the rare restaurant that accepts reservations for brunch, which means all the best eateries require a long wait before you even get to sit down. It sort of puts a damper on what’s supposed to be a relaxing meal, particularly if you or your pals have kids in tow. This is why we wholeheartedly support making brunch at home.
Cooking the meal yourself means you can easily invite a slightly larger group, there’s no risk of the kitchen running out of anything, and you can sleep in just a tad bit longer. But you can’t totally wing it without risk of disaster. These six tips will make your next brunch one of the best around.
1. Let your friends sleep in
Brunch food is essentially breakfast food, but the timing is a lot more relaxed. While it’s probably not a good idea to plan on sitting down to eat after 3:00 p.m., starting a bit later in the morning is a good idea. Most people have a few errands to run during the weekend and, at the very least, like to catch up on some sleep.
Sometime around mid to late morning is a good idea. Our Yuppie Life recommended inviting guests to show up around 10:00 a.m. and plan to begin serving food at 10:30 a.m., but you could easily push things back an hour or two. This gives everyone enough time to take care of whatever they need to do beforehand and still have plenty of the day left after hanging out for a few hours.
2. Plan a crowd-pleasing menu that’s easy to execute
You’ll want a decent variety of dishes to please those who like savory foods, people who prefer something sweeter in the morning, and those who never fail to eat healthy. Once again, there are no rules, but it’s always useful to have some sort of outline. Smitten Kitchen recommended a combination of something showing off fresh produce, an egg-based dish, something sweet, cocktails, bacon or sausage, and some sort of bread.
For most recipes, you’ll want to go with something you can make ahead. Think baked egg dishes, French toast casseroles, muffins, biscuits, and scones. You can even make a salad in advance if you opt for roasted vegetables. Runny eggs usually aren’t a good choice because they can easily overcook when you’re trying to pull off too many. By limiting time-sensitive dishes, you’ll be able to sizzle your favorite breakfast meat and make sure everything else is ready to go.
And don’t forget about condiments. Have plenty of softened butter, syrup, honey, jam, hot sauce, salt, and pepper ready to go. Everyone can customize their plate the way they want, and you don’t have to do any extra work.
3. Make dietary restrictions work for everyone
Nothing’s sadder than the lone vegetarian eating a single piece of seared tofu at a brunch where everyone else is chowing down on decadent dishes loaded with meat. Instead of leaving your pals with dietary restrictions in the dust, see what you can do to make their limitations work for the entire group.
For vegetarians, go for a meat-free egg dish like The New York Times’s mushroom strata. Gluten-free pals? Think more potatoes and less bread. Even vegan dishes can be delicious with a little bit of creativity. Try this banana French toast bake from Amy in the Kitchen for proof. You don’t have to customize every dish in this way, but make sure everyone can eat at least a few different things.
4. Minimize beverage options
Everyone loves brunch cocktails, but they can become a huge source of stress if you’re trying to play bartender in the middle of the meal. Batch cocktails are the way to go. Feel free to get creative with the libations, but nearly everyone will be pleased with either a bloody Mary or a mimosa, and both can be easily be made in mass quantities. Try Big Girls Small Kitchen’s take on bloody Marys that can serve 12 and Taste of Home’s option for a huge pitcher of mimosas.
And don’t forget about coffee. Even those planning to have a cocktail or two will likely want a little bit of caffeine. The best way to ensure no one has to wait on the next pot is to get started early, then keep the brew hot in an insulated carafe.
5. Set your table the night before
Gathering mugs, silverware, napkins, and plates takes significantly longer than most people expect, which can leave you scrambling at the last minute. While you could wake up extra early to make sure your table is ready to go, The Kitchn recommended doing it the night before. This also gives you plenty of time to wash additional dishes or even buy more if you’re short a few.
6. Ask one friend to come early to help out
Most friends are happy to offer their help, you just have to ask. The key here is to keep it to just one pal. Inviting too many people over ahead of time leaves you in the position of delegating a bunch of different tasks, which is just going to make things more stressful. Pick one pal, then divide and conquer.
Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec