Post-holiday cooking: Do it simple, do it ahead

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Something to remember

Asparagus done right, brioche bread pudding, a special quiche, bacon, Bloody Marys. Memory is made of scent, flavor, texture, and a thousand gracious touches on the table and in our time together.

Asparagus done right, brioche bread pudding, a special quiche, bacon, Bloody Marys. Memory is made of scent, flavor, texture, and a thousand gracious touches on the table and in our time together.

Even as a kid, I liked the smell of coffee in the morning.

So many of my best memories growing up center around food ... and not always the big feasts that mark major holidays. It was usually simple fare, crowded onto a breakfast table with tiny glasses of eye-wateringly tart juices, platters of pancakes soaking up melted butter, eggs in mounds, bacon akimbo on a plate, and crispy-skinned hash browns .... or special lunches or sneaked snacks, often built from holiday left-overs, like a turkey sandwich on soft bread layered with a good mayo, crisp lettuce, and turkey stuffing.

And I loved snuggling into daddy's lap to compete with his newspaper for attention.

When you think of holidays, you think of these things, too.

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Our last two weekly editions of Recipe of the Week focused on sprawling meals for the legion of loving guests decamped at your house.

Now, we want to do it simple, when possible do it ahead of time, and do it so everyone will remember the joy of post-holiday eating.

Overnight brioche bread pudding

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Demerara sugar is a lot like brown sugar but has hints of toffee. Because it's unrefined, it has more molasses than other sugars, and that gives it a rich flavor.

You can make this ahead through Step 4 below. That makes your morning prep fast and easy.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf excellent quality brioche sliced thick
  • 8 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 3 T. Demerara sugar

Procedure

  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs with milk, then add brown sugar and vanilla.
  2. Dip each slice of brioche into the egg mixture and lay flat in your EuroCAST grill pan, overlapping the edges.
  3. Top with Demerara sugar.
  4. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and let sit overnight in the fridge.  
  5. You could if you can’t wait, bake it immediately. Or let the flavors develop a bit then bake.

When ready to cook:

Bake at 350 until the custard is set, and the tops and edges of the brioche are browned and crisp.


Serve with fresh fruit, persimmons and pears, and fresh whipped cream.

The brioche French toast can be served in your EuroCAST right on the table, because who's going to want to fuss with a new plate when you got rid of all your fuss at dinner the night before? Really.

The brioche French toast can be served in your EuroCAST right on the table, because who's going to want to fuss with a new plate when you got rid of all your fuss at dinner the night before? Really.

Caramelized onion, Swiss chard, and potato quiche

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This dish shows off your EuroCAST skillet used in the oven. (Remember to remove the handle before placing the skillet in the oven.)

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe pate brisé ( or 1 prepared pie crust)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced wafer thin
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen hash browns
  • 2 cups finely chopped red Swiss chard
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar or Gruyere cheese
  • 9 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 small while chard leaves for decoration

Procedure

  1. Sauté the vegetables in your largest EuroCAST skillet until quite soft.
  2. Season with kosher salt to taste.
  3. If using a prepared pie crust, place it on a large cookie sheet. Proceed to Step 5.
  4. If using fresh pastry: Line your 10” EuroCAST skillet with the pie crust. Remove EuroCAST handle and place skillet on a large cookie sheet.
  5. Spoon vegetables loosely into the bottom of the crust.
  6. Top with grated cheese.
  7. Thoroughly whisk eggs with milk, season well and pour gently over the vegetables.
  8. Arrange leaves on top and brush with olive oil.
  9. Bake at 350F till top is set. Keep an eye on it: If chard on top begins to brown too quickly, loosely tent with foil.
  10. Let set 10-15 minutes before slicing. 

Eye-opener bar

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For many people, nothing beats a brunch-y beverage like a bubbly mimosa or spicy Bloody Mary (or Virgin Mary). There's even a mockmosa making the circuits that uses sparkling dry white grape juice. Just look for something with little or no added sugar.

Just put the right ingredients on the table and let your guests find their preferred balance of bubbly, juice, spice, and (if desired) alcohol for their drinks. The key to a great Bloody (or Virgin) Mary is of course the way you mix the tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and spice levels.

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You can find great Bloody Mary recipes all over the place. Find one you like, but also keep these key ingredients at hand so your guests can adjust -- and garnish -- to their own taste. Here's my list of favorites to have handy on the table or large tray.

Bloody Mary Bar

  • Tomato juice
  • Vodka
  • Tonic
  • Ice
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Horseradish
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Celery
  • Green onion
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Grilled Asparagus

Remember the theme this week is what you can cook with your eyes barely open, some early-ish weekend morning.

With that in mind, grab some thin asparagus, break off the woody ends, put them in your EuroCAST grill pan (or as I do here, in the top of the amazing EuroCAST double roaster), coat with excellent quality EVOO, salt, and pepper and grill them to desired doneness (stovetop or oven at 425F, maybe 10-15 minutes depending on how thick the asparagus are).

Put some paper-thin shavings of fresh shallot on top. Serve.

Done. Coffee now, please.

Vegetables are good. This asparagus, with a little attention to preparation, is amazing.

Vegetables are good. This asparagus, with a little attention to preparation, is amazing.

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Paul WardComment