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So Shannon can you cook brunch for 40 tomorrow?

24 August, 2009 (01:01) | food | By: Shannon Clark

That was the question my friend called to ask me Saturday evening as I was walking home in the Mission. I thought for a bit, then said, sure, could we meet up in a bit and buy all the ingredients.

So in less than 24hrs I sourced everything for a brunch for 40+ people, cooked most of it the evening before the party and had almost everything else prepped and ready to go for the brunch as people started to arrive (thankfully many arrived a bit late).

Here’s the menu which I came up with and sourced everything to make in less than 3 hours.

Appetizers:

Country Bread from Tartine w/olive oil

Baked Ling Cod w/whole, large salt cured caper berries – this disappeared quickly and was incredibly simple to make. I bought about 5 lbs of large Ling Cod fillets (two fillets in this case), made sure they were cleaned of any scales and placed them in a large glass baking pan. I then washed the salt off the caper berries and sprinkled them liberally over the fish. I finished the dish with some of the salt which I had washed off the caper berries. I put the pan into a preheated over at 325 and let it cook for about 30 minutes (until the fish flaked easily). Very simple but exceptionally tasty – the caper berries added just the right flavor & salt.

Salad:

Mixed greens w/heirloom tomatoes and fresh figs in a simple Balsamic dressing – I made this salad four times over the course of the brunch as it was eaten quickly. To keep everything simple I used a prewashed, packaged selection of organic mixed greens and a package of mixed heirloom tomatoes from Rainbow Co-op. Alas, as it was organic I did have to check the tomatoes carefully and some of the larger tomatoes in two of the packages were spoiled (so I discarded them) and I made sure to wash the others carefully. I took the stems off the cherry tomatoes and sliced the larger tomatoes into thin rounds (having a very sharp, high quality knife was key here). I then washed a handful of fresh mission figs and sliced them lengthwise into thin slices. The dressing was very simple – great quality olive oil, Balsamic vinegar (in roughly 1 to 1 proporation), salt, fresh pepper all mixed in a jam jar I reused – the trick being to reseal the jar and then shake it, the shaking mixing the dressing perfectly. I drizzled it over the salad and then tossed it.

Entrees:

Slow scrambled farm eggs with sauteed sweet onions and Shitake mushrooms – a simple dish but one that does take some time to get right. I first sauteed a finely diced sweet onion in some olive oil, then sauteed sliced Shitake mushrooms also in olive oil. When each were finished I put them aside in a bowl. I then took a small pat of butter and melted it on the bottom of the largest pan I could find (ideal for this is one with large, deep flat sides). I then cracked a dozen eggs into a bowl, broke the yolks and mixed them vigorously (but briefly) with a fork and poured that into the pan, I then mixed in the onions and mushrooms and cooked the eggs over low to medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. The goal is to cook slowly enough that the resulting eggs are light and fluffy, a far cry from the scrambled eggs of my childhood. I cooked this dish three times and it was never on the table long

Roasted dry rubbed Duroc Pork loin w/homemade apple sauce and quick pickled onions – I roasted the pork loin the night before the brunch. I rubbed the pork loin with a spice mixture I made (I started with a base of a dry rub from the Salt Lick BBQ in Texas but added dried lime peel, powdered cloves, Indonesian cinnamon, salt, fresh pepper and maple sugar in powdered form). I rubbed this generously over the fat side of the lion and the ends. I placed the loin in a roasting pan, fat side up the roasted it until the meat reached 150 degrees uniformly. While it roasted I rotated the pan a few times to ensure even heating.

To make the apple sauce, I halved 3lbs of apples, put them in my largest copper pot and added some Indonesian cinnamon and then simmered them with the lid on the pot (very important) on low heat until they broke down naturally. Very simple, no added sugar needed and amazingly tasty. You could then pass this mixture through cheesecloth if you had it, but I didn’t so just trusted that people could eat around the cores, stems & seeds.

For the quick pickled onions, I peeled and sliced one large purple onion into very thin slices (again having a very sharp knife helps a great deal). I put the onion slivers into a large tupperware style container, poured rice wine vinegar over the onions and added generous amounts of course salt (Kosher salt would be ideal, I used a coarse rock salt I had on hand). I then sealed the container and let it marinate in the fridge. Again a very simple dish but also quite tasty – the key is to use very thin slivers.

Roasted Leg of Lamb w/fig-mint sauce – a reprise of a dish I made for my Fig & Olive dinner last weekend. With the only (albeit somewhat important) difference being that here I used boneless legs of lamb which my butcher prepared for me (the bones which I asked him for I’ll use in a lamb stock I’m making tomorrow). I also didn’t have the butcher’s twine which I should have used to tie up the roasts as they cooked. I rubbed the lamb with olive oil, then inserted garlic clove slivers, whole fresh rosemary and fresh mint. I then added salt and chopped fresh mint to the outside of the lamb and put the 10lbs+ of lamb on my roasting rack (the rack is a key factor in why my roasts tend to be very good – it allows the fat to drip down as the meat cooks and to then be out of the way. I roasted the lamb along with pork until the lamb was at the right temperature as well (which ended up being almost the same time as my pork but that was unintentional and a bit surprising).

To make my fig-mint sauce I followed much the same recipe as I did last weekend. I took fresh figs (Mission Figs in this case) choosing the ripest (overripe would actually be ideal for this dish) and then very thinly sliced them. I put them into my small Le Creuset sauce pan, poured in apple vinegar and fresh mint (which I quickly cut with a very sharp knife into course slices) and added a small amount of salt. I simmered this on low temperatures, stirring occasionally until the figs softened and mixed with the vinegar. I then added this mixture to a large glass container (reused) and added more apple vinegar to fill the container (about 1/4 more of the container being the additional vinegar. I then let this cool in the refrigerator. The sauce was sweetened by the figs but not overly sweet and complimented the lamb very well.

Roasted baby carrots w/fresh ginger – another simple dish which I could make while my meats roasted. I took bags of pre-cut and cleaned baby carrots and fresh ginger which I julianned and tossed them with a small amount of olive oil and sea salt in a large mixing bowl so that every carrot was lightly coated with just a hint of olive oil. I then put them in a single layer onto a chef’s pan and roasted them until the carrots were soft (and generally a bit crinkled). For the brunch I served the carrots cold, for past meals I have served them hot and sometimes added a hint of Balsamic to this dish.

Dessert:

Roasted Mission Figs – another very simple dish. I washed fresh mission figs then put them in a glass roasting pan, taking care that no figs touched. I then roasted them in a 350 degree oven until the figs were glossy and their juices were just running. I served some of these with a drizzle of Balsamic which I think adds a great contrast to the sweetness of the roasted figs.

Maple Madelines – the only dish I make regularly for which I always start with a recipe from a book (though I almost always modify it). The recipe I use is roughly 1/3 cup of flour to 1/3 cup of plain, nonfat yogurt to one large eggs and a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. To this I then add either savory or sweet flavors, today I added maple sugar (in powdered form). In the past I’ve often made this with herbs, occasionally with cheese. The other key to making Madelines is to use the right baking pan, I have an amazing Madeline pan which is metal but nonstick. I cook at 450 degrees until the tops are a bit bubbly (and the bubbles are just breaking) usually just a bit under 10 minutes. I then cool and pop them from the pan (which thanks to the nonstick coating is easy. These didn’t last more than a few minutes. Very simple, light, flavorful and not too sweet.

And that is my menu, most of the big dishes I prepared ahead of time and the others I cooked on site but had designed them to be easily done multiple times over as more guests arrived. If I had had a bit larger of a kitchen and slightly more time my plan was to have made a variety of Madelines, probably with some savory flavors evocative of the meal such as rosemary and mint.

While many of the dishes I made were not vegan friendly quite a few were – the carrots, salad and apple sauce were all entirely vegan as were my roasted fig dessert. The fig-mint sauce was also vegan albeit with little to serve it on top off in this case. I also made a couple of roasted portabella mushrooms w/Shitake mushrooms for some of the vegans who wanted them.

All together for 40 people this meal cost my friend about $500 for everything we needed to make the meal and while there are a few leftovers for the most part people ate nearly everything I had been prepared to make. We ran out of pork, apple sauce, carrots, salad, fish and figs. I could have made another batch of the eggs and we had a few lbs of the lamb left over as well, along with one whole loaf out of the four loafs I bought from Tartine.

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