This year I celebrated my birthday all weekend in small patches. I didn’t hit a landmark number like 21, 30 or 40. So I thought that hosting something at home would be an easy, low pressure option. When I hosted my “Globeleza Party” for Brazilian Carnaval in February, the hardest part was getting our tiny apartment ready for our 20 guests. Of course I worried that people wouldn’t like my feijoada, but I wasn’t stressed about food prep– I knew exactly what to do.
This year I decided to cook my favorite meal of the day: brunch. I kept the menu simple, but for some reason I STILL got behind. I invited everyone over for a 1:30pm meal followed by pool time. BUT we didn’t actually eat until after 4pm– so we missed the sun at the pool. I was so embarrassed. Thank goodness for my love who managed the grill and for my girl Gretta who kind of took over in the kitchen while I hosted my guests. Apparently I can drink and cook at the same time, but I cannot TALK and cook at the same time. Ah ha!
Anyway, this experience reiterated some things I knew all along, but clearly didn’t adequately consider for this event. Key learnings: (1) Timing is Everything. (2) You WILL Need an Assistant.
I knew that I needed to do SOME food prep ahead of time. I purchased the ingredients early on Saturday morning and that night I chopped five pounds of potatoes. But I didn’t anticipate that everything else would take forever. Cooking brunch for me and my love takes NO TIME. Cooking for 12 people is a bit more. I should’ve known this, but the concept clearly didn’t register completely. So this is what I will do next time:
MENU (recipes coming soon):
roasted herbed potatoes
assorted chicken sausages
roasted mini bell peppers
spicy scrambled eggs
scrambled eggs with veggies (mild)
The Night Before:
- wash and chop potatoes
- wash and prep peppers (remove stems, seeds and such)
- wash fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint)
- thaw veggies for the scrambled eggs (that makes it easier)
- slice bread (the bakery should be able to do that for you at purchase, but just in case they can’t)
- chop fruit (remove stems, seeds and such)
- PLAN where you will serve the food– I generally set up the food in the kitchen so people can serve themselves and all other space in the small apartment can be used for seating and dining
The Morning of Event:
FIRST begin your potatoes
- 1(a) herb and spice them with olive oil
- 1(b) place in oven for roasting (the thinner the layer, the faster they will cook)
SECOND fire up grill and cook sausages (you’ll need the oven and stove top for other things)
THIRD mix the fruit in special bowl and add any special ingredients if you choose [like fresh mint], cover and re-refrigerate
FOURTH roast your mini peppers
FIFTH begin your french toast
- 5(a) make your french toast batter in a big bowl
- 5 (b) soak your bread (multiple batches at once)– I had to use disposable roasting trays to accommodate all the bread
- 5(c) grab every surface you can cook on and heat butter for cooking– I had a nonstick pan on each eye of my stove (i should have also used my electric cooktop too)
- 5(d) as each slice is cooked, place and stack it in a roasting pan
SIXTH once the potatoes are done, turn the oven down to 200 degrees (or as low as 150), cover and place all cooked food (so far) in the oven to keep warm until you are ready to serve.
SEVENTH begin your eggs
- 7(a) set up two nonstick pans on the stove
- 7(b) whisp both batches of eggs together with your fresh herbs
- 7(c) with a little olive oil and salt, saute mixed veggies in one pan
- 7(d) when veggies are done, pour half the eggs over the veggies and scramble
- 7(e) add cayenne or whatever spicy ingredient you choose the remaining eggs, whisp again, then scramble in second pan.
Yes, it seems like common sense, but without an exact game plan, you might find yourself behind the eightball as guests begin to arrive. Especially if some of your friends come early “to help”. And remember, you don’t want the food to be kept warming in the oven for a long time– the texture of breads and meats will start to seem stale. So it is important that you time it right. I say about 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of time, put your potatoes in the oven. They can warm for a while and still be good.
I hope that these key learnings will make your big brunch more successful than mine. I’m looking forward to a do-over pretty soon! Anyway, happy dining. Remember: life is good, so eat it up!