By JOHN DeMERS
Just about the only people who don’t love Sunday brunch are chefs, who insist that being dragged back into their kitchens after a wild, long and late Saturday night is the worst idea that ever crossed anybody’s mind. Everybody else seems to love brunch a lot.
There are many claims to “inventing” brunch. Many cities assert that the honor belongs to them. We’ve heard origin stories from London, New York, Chicago and New Orleans – though, of course, the most famous dishes hail from all over the map. Perhaps brunch really was invented by somebody somewhere. Or perhaps it was simply an idea whose time had come, almost certainly in the late 19th century.
All the cities that claim brunch agree on one thing – the name is a mashup of breakfast and lunch, which undeniably it is. Brunch can start service as early in the morning as anyone wishes it, but generally is over by 2 p.m. In keeping with the tradition, brunch menus (or the ever-popular brunch buffets) are typically a selection of both breakfast and lunch dishes, including many iconic egg dishes and sweet breakfast pastries, plus savory entrees and side dishes associated with lunch and even dinner. Plus desserts that are awesome anytime.
”Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” wrote British author Guy Beringer in an 1895 issue of Hunter’s Weekly, thus setting the word in print for the first time. ”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Beringer titled his article “Brunch: A Plea,” since it was, to his way of thinking, a plea that hotels and restaurants get behind this lighter fare in the morning, as an alternative to heavy, post-church Sunday meals. Hotels indeed were among the first foodservice businesses to embrace brunch. When restaurants noticed how packed their local hotel dining rooms were, they proved once again that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
These days, Sunday brunch is probably the most likely occasion for people anywhere to eat in their local hotels, lured no doubt by live music, plenty of balloons and bottomless mimosas.
As long as there has been brunch, it would appear, alcohol has been part of the appeal. The only contribution of good sense in the morning is the almost-universal practice of pushing low-alcohol blends of champagne and fruit juice, whether the latter is orange in a mimosa or peach in a Venice-born Bellini. Rather than, say, hardcore Manhattans, Negronis or martinis.
The thing is, cooking brunch may be misery for chefs beaten up by a busy Saturday night. But for most of us, cooking brunch can and should be fun. There’s a special kind of giddy freedom in being able to choose almost any dish we can think of. Maybe every dish we can think of. And with every mimosa we pour ourselves in the kitchen – chopping, stirring and whisking through the morning – we’re getting an impressive dose of vitamin C.
When it’s your turn to cook brunch, and if it’s for a group that strikes you as large, you can do no better than these easy versions of an omelet or frittata baked in a muffin pan. And since we love breakfast more than one with a little Tex-Mex attitude, we’ve thought through the flavor profile to give every element a zesty South of the border spin.
1 pound bulk pork sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 spring onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¾ cup Fischer & Wieser’s Salsa a la Charra (see note below)
½ cup multi-colored tortilla strips
Salt and black pepper
Additional cheese blend
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix crumbled sausage with the eggs, then stir in the cheese, spring onion, bell pepper, salsa and tortilla strips. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spray a 12-muffin pan and divide the egg mixture into the slots. Fill no more than 2/3 of the way to the top, to avoid spilling over in the oven. Top with additional shredded cheese and bake until eggs are set, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature. Serves 12 in a buffet setting, or 2 “muffins per person serving 6.
Note: If you like spicier foods the way we do, you can use half Salsa a la Charra and half or Hot Habanero Salsa. We think the flavor combination is a real winner.