Wow your guests with these Easter brunch recipes

Local chefs offer recipes and tips for your holiday brunch

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A successful brunch, according to Craig Bero, the owner and chef of Pleasant and Main in Housatonic, Mass., is characterized by versatile dishes, which can also easily be made to serve a healthy number of guests.

It's that winning and tasty combination that makes it the perfect meal to celebrate Easter Sunday with. There's something about spring, sunshine and the smell of fresh grass that makes the breakfast crossover a must. Even restaurants see a brisk uptick in brunches as the weather warms up and people want to gather with friends and family.

Pleasant and Main, which is putting on its annual Easter brunch on Sunday, is influenced by both Bero's background, as well as regional New England flair.

"While I was in the business for years in New York City, I actually grew up in a very small town in northern Wisconsin named Algoma, not unlike the small towns of the Berkshires," Bero said. "So, on my French toast, I like to use tart Montmorency cherries that we freeze in winter. But when in season, we can also use fresh blueberries, and blackberries or peaches. So there are many choices for someone to bring to their own table at home, and those can all be local."

A bit up the road in Lenox, Mass., Annabel Sattler, general manager of the Blantyre Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, said that Chef Joe Schafer will also be presenting the establishment's popular Easter brunch, highlighted by two longtime favorites.

"The scallop dish is especially lively with the use of fresh citrus and the uncommon pairing of vanilla bean usually reserved for sweet applications," Sattler said. "The two marry brilliantly to accentuate the natural sweetness of the scallop."

Sattler added that in the second dish, tandoori and lamb have a natural affinity toward each other.

Chef Joe Schafer agreed, and continued to say that in the latter recipe, sweet potatoes add a subtle savory element balancing the spice.

"And the egg ties all the flavors together," he said.

An additional benefit to any Easter brunch, according to Schafer, is the ability to use serviceable leftovers for completely new creations.

"For example, you can take the tandoori lamb and sweet potato leftovers and with very little trouble produce an excellent homemade hash," Schafer said. "Those two foods are a great match not just in the main dish, but the next day when the family is sitting around the table looking for something a little different."

BAKED CHERRY FRENCH TOAST 

Courtesy of Craig Bero

Serves 10

Ingredients:

1 1/2 loaf of white bread

4 cups frozen Door County/Montmorency cherries

7 eggs

1 1/2 cups of milk

1 1/2 cups of half & half

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon grated cinnamon

1/2 cup of sugar

Topping:

1/2 cup butter, soft or melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark amber maple syrup

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Cut the loaf of white bread into cubes. Place half the cubes into a greased 9x13 pan. Scatter the cherries over the bread. then top with the rest of the bread.

Beat the eggs well, add the milk, cream, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and beat again. 

Pour the egg and milk mixture over the French bread slices. Melt the butter, then add the brown sugar, maple syrup and walnuts. Spread this topping on the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 350 . Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes. 

(Cover with tinfoil for the last 15 minutes to keep it from getting too brown). Let set for about 10 minutes before slicing.



BAKED SPRING VEGETABLE FRITTATA 

Courtesy Craig Bero

Serves 10

Ingredients:

12 new potatoes, cooked, cooled and sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 lb mixed spring vegetables (peas, asparagus, spring onion, baby spinach...)

14 eggs

1/2 cup half and half

1 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 . Lightly oil a 2"deep 9x13 ovenproof dish.

Saut vegetables in a little olive oil for a couple minutes, add spinach last and cook until it is just wilted

Arrange half the potatoes, in a single layer over prepared dish. Top with half the vegetables, repeat with remaining potatoes.

Whisk eggs and cream in a bowl. Gently pour egg mixture over vegetables, sprinkle with Parmesan and Cheddar cheese. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until egg mixture is set and top golden. Stand for 5 minutes. Serve.





CAPE DIVER SCALLOPS WITH CRUSHED AVOCADO AND CITRUS SALAD 

Courtesy Christopher Brooks

Serves: 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

1 pink grapefruit

2 oranges

1 lemon

1 lime

teaspoon sugar

vanilla bean

1 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch watercress, washed and picked over

2 teaspoons olive oil

12 large diver scallops, dry

DIRECTIONS:

Over a bowl to catch the juice, peel the grapefruit, oranges, lemon and lime. Cut the citrus into segments, making sure no pith or coarse membrane remains.

Take 2 to 3 tablespoons of the collected juice from the bowl and combine with the sugar in a small saucepan. Scrape out the vanilla seeds from the bean and add them to the mixture. Cook over moderate heat to make a syrup. Pour this over the citrus segments and allow to cool in the fridge for 6 hours so the vanilla infuses the fruit.

Just before serving, crush the avocado with 2 tablespoons of the citrus salad juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the scallops. Let sear without moving them for 2 to 3 minutes or until a deep, golden brown. Turn and sear the other side for 2 to 3 minutes until golden.

While the scallops are cooking, assemble the salad by placing some crushed avocado in the center of 4 plates. Top with the citrus salad and then the watercress. Finally add the scallops. Serve immediately.

(This dish is also very good prepared with roasted chicken.)





TANDOORI LAMB AND SWEET POTATO HASH, WILTED SPINACH AND SUNNY SIDE UP EGG 

Courtesy of Joe Schafer

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz lamb from leg or shoulder

1 sweet potato

red onion

1 tsp fresh ginger

1 clove fresh garlic

2 Tbs Tandoori Seasoning

1 cup fresh spinach

4 fresh farm eggs

1 Tbs yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

Rub lamb with Tandoori Seasoning and let marinate for at least 2 hours.

Roast in 400 oven to medium rare.

Peel sweet potato, cut into large dice, toss in olive oil and roast in oven until tender.

In large saut pan, sweat ginger and garlic. Dice onion into medium dice and add to ginger garlic mixture. Dice lamb to match size of sweet potato and add to pan. Lightly cook all ingredients until well incorporated. Add a tablespoon of yogurt to help bind hash together. Season with salt and pepper.

Wilt spinach in pan with olive oil. Spoon onto paper towel and let rest. In a non-stick pan, cook eggs to your liking.

To assemble, spoon hash onto center of plate. Arrange spinach on top of hash and the place the egg on last.

Reach freelance writer Telly Halkias @TellyHalkias


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