Winter weekends are made for brunch, a midday meal designed for noshing, sipping and conversation. Gone are the soaked casseroles, fruit salads and coffee cake. Brunch has found its stride with fresh seasonal ingredients and a self-service presentation any home cook can pull together.
What is required is a thoughtful combination of items, both savory and sweet. No matter if brunch stretches into afternoon, coffee is a must and juice with the option of a mixer. Strive for dishes that need napkins, but not utensils and save your guests the buffet juggle.
We composed a brunch we’re craving of late: Brussels sprout tacos alongside pear and pancetta bites, locally roasted coffee and mimosas fashioned with tangerine juice. There’s something for everyone on this extemporary tray (and enough in combination to satiate even a picky eater).
Brussels sprouts are available now in the South, as well as soft butter lettuces grown in area greenhouses.
Pancetta paired with Bartlett pear and crumbled Gorgonzola cleverly fills store-bought wonton wrappers. Drizzle these with spiced local honey and elevate your game gourmet.
Pear & Pancetta Bites
12 wonton wrappers (find these in the produce department)
1 Bartlett pear, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1⁄2 package of pancetta (about 2 ounces)
Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, to taste
A pinch of dried thyme
Carolina Honey Bee Company “Honey with a Ten Foot Stinger”
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take wonton wrappers out of the refrigerator (they need to warm up slightly to become pliable).
Warm a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté for one minute. Add the chopped fruit to the pan and sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle a pinch of dried thyme over top and turn off the burner, leaving the pan on the stove.
Very lightly spray the cups of a muffin tin. Push one wonton wrapper into each cup with two fingers (they fold easily and make their own pretty shapes). Add a scoop of the fruit and meat mixture into each wonton cup using a spoon (note: do not over fill). Sprinkle in some crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, tapping it into the mixture.
Bake for ten minutes. The cups are ready when the edges of the wonton wrappers are golden brown. Drizzle with honey to finish the dish. Spiced honey is especially noteworthy.
Brussels Sprout Tacos
2 dozen small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 cup of matchstick carrots
1 large head of butter lettuce, separate leaves into cups
1⁄2 package of queso fresco cheese, crumble with clean hands
1⁄2 red onion, sliced on a mandolin
1 T maple syrup
3 large eggs
1 package of grape tomatoes, cut into half lengthwise
1 avocado, cut into slices
1 bag of tortilla strips (find these in the salad dressing aisle)
2 T high quality balsamic vinegar
1 T celery salt
2 t coriander
1⁄2 t cumin
fresh ground pepper
red wine vinegar
To “quick pickle” red onion: soak it in 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Let it bathe in this solution for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. Drain before serving.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Toss the Brussels and matchstick carrots with three tablespoons of olive oil and turn out onto a sheet pan with sides. Season with one tablespoon of celery salt, two teaspoons of ground coriander and 1⁄2 teaspoon of ground cumin. Drizzle two tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar and one tablespoon of maple syrup over top.
On a separate sheet pan, place grape tomatoes cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a bit of sea salt and granulated sugar.
Place both pans into the preheated oven. Roast for 16 minutes and using a spatula, turn the Brussels mixture over once. Broil on low for 2-3 minutes, keeping a careful watch to keep the contents from burning (note: some charring of the vegetables is desired).
Scoop the Brussels mixture into a serving dish and season to taste. Scoop the roasted tomatoes into a bowl and pour any accumulated liquid over top.
The ultimate taco would start with a lettuce cup. Add a few slices of avocado and some pickled red onion, a scoop of the Brussels sprouts mixture, a solid sprinkle of tortilla strips, several roasted tomatoes (with their sauce), all topped with the snowy queso fresco cheese.