San Francisco loves the b-word. Brunch is a staple activity in the lives of city dwellers – an experience as over the top as it is expensive, as dreaded by chefs as it is adored by literally everyone else. Dutiful patrons wait in line for hours in pursuit of bottomless mimosas, lox eggs benny, and the like. Before you know it, it’s 2PM, morale is low, and you’re ready to take extreme measures to get to the top of that list. Bribery is an option. So is identity theft. But the real question is, how can we make “Jasmine, party of 6” disappear?
Then, you come back to earth. Brunch is supposed to be lighthearted and delicious, not vengeful and conniving! What is it about the promise of cornmeal pancakes or seasonal flatbreads or anything remotely brunchy that brings out the worst in us? Desperation? Greed? I don’t like seeing that part of me come out, but I also really like brunch.
Simple solution? In the wise words of the Pinterest community, “do it yourself!” Here’s why:
There’s no wait when you brunch at home.
You can finally order everything on the menu, because you made the menu.
The drinks are as strong as you want them to be.
PJs are an acceptable wardrobe decision.
There’s no guilt in taking your sweet, sweet time.
Now, I admit that there’s something seriously plush about chocolate chip pancakes magically appearing before your very eyes, eating until you can’t eat anymore, and then having your plate whisked away at the wave of a hand. Under certain circumstances (most often the hung over ones), this kind of thing has its place. But under most circumstances (even some hung over ones) you’re probably better off taking matters into your own hands.
Such was my decision this weekend, when I had brunch plans with some lovely ladies I went to high school with. We had a lot to catch up on, and anxiously standing in line before aggressively shoveling fried potatoes into our faces didn’t seem like the ideal setting. So, I took to the kitchen and made us a brunch worthy of Thrillest SF’s top brunch list.
The formula to the perfect brunch is as follows: sweet + savory + bubbly + caffeine.
You want something elaborate enough to put your weekday peanut butter toast to shame, but simple enough that you can throw it together under that haze of whatever happened the night before. In my case, that involved going to the Symphony (because I’m a classy lady)…followed by drinking a lot of beer at a dive bar (because I’m actually not).
You also want something pretty, because if brunch isn’t pretty, it’s pointless. This is one of life’s simple truths.
What’s better than bottomless mimosas? Sabering your champagne bottle, that’s what! It’s the best party trick in the book and will make you look very, very cool. This is a proven fact.
Other facts that were proven this weekend are that quiche is the best food on the planet and that all desserts should be lemon bars.
Let’s start with quiche. There is simply no combination more perfect than flaky piecrust, stinky cheese, rich cream, and fresh vegetables. The inside is fluffy and springy. When eaten fresh, each forkful trails stringy cheese from the slice behind it. Simply put, it’s pure decadence and I want to eat it every day for the rest of my life.
These lemon bars are sweet and sour with a nice buttery cookie bottom and a gooey custard top. They don’t hold their form like many I’ve had, but what good is dessert if you can’t lick your fingers?? I’ve recently become less inclined toward super sweet things (ew, adulthood), but these are a different story. They’re all at once indulgent and refreshing – the perfect dessert to accompany your morning, noon, and night.
The point to all of this is that brunch is a very important meal. It sounds silly, but it really is a special occasion – a tradition that you only get once, maybe twice a week. So take your time with it! And don’t spend that time waiting in line for an overpriced meal. Spend every waking hour of brunch in the presence of good drinks, better food, and great friends.
Spinach, Mushroom & Gruyere Quiche
1 frozen unbaked pie crust
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup mushrooms of your choice, chopped
1 ½ cups half and half cream
1 cup grated Gruyere
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Pierce the bottom of the piecrust a few times with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool. Turn the oven down to 350ºF.
Heat the butter in a large skillet. Sautee the spinach and mushrooms until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, and cheese and add a bit of salt and pepper.
Place the pie crust on a cookie sheet and gently pour in the egg mixture until it reaches the very top. Carefully place the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake at 350ºF for 40-50 minutes. The top should be slightly browned. Let cool for at least 20 minutes to allow the eggs to set before serving in slices.
Tips from America’s Test Kitchen:
Partially pre-baking the piecrust prevents the base of the crust from being soggy and doughy.
They found that baking the quiche at 350ºF keeps the veggies from becoming rubbery while allowing the egg custard to cook slowly and the top to become slightly browned.
Placing the crust on a cookie sheet before pouring the filling prevents messy spills in and out of the oven.
Savta’s Lemon Bars
This recipe belongs to my Savta (grandmother in Hebrew). She is a gift to earth from the baking gods, so this recipe is close to perfection.
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups + ½ cup flour
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
Using a hand or stand mixer, combine butter, 3 cups flour, and confectioner’s sugar until dough holds its shape when squeezed together. Press into the bottom of a 14”X8” baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
While cookie base is baking, beat the eggs and granulated sugar for one minute. Add lemon juice and zest and combine.
In a separate bowl, combine remaining ½ cup flour and baking powder. Add to lemon mixture in batches, combining well between each addition.
Pour lemon custard over cookie base. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before serving.