If you’re not a “morning person”, hosting brunch can be a task of Herculean proportions. But Spring (and especially Easter) beg for a late morning get together with eggs, pastries, and those few cocktails you can drink before noon without being judged. So if you’re going to brave hosting an Easter brunch this year, here are some tips for prepping the night before and saving yourself enough time in the morning to put on makeup before your guests arrive.
Plan your menu
Sometimes this the hardest part: deciding what to serve. Examine your guest list. Consider the occasion. And, most importantly, don’t make too much work for yourself. For my early Easter brunch, I had about 10 close friends, a handful of whom are U.K. ex-pats and one “sometimes vegan”. To be honest, I was stymied. Luckily, my husband had the idea to do our own version of a full English breakfast, which seemed both hearty and low maintenance. Here’s what we settled on…
Scrambled eggs (whipped up at the last minute in the microwave)
Baked eggs (in convenient ramekins)
Heinz beans (an authentic side that comes in a can)
Olive oil-brushed, grilled: tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, sourdough bread, and sausages (sharing the workload with my husband who never turns down a chance to man the grill)
Roasted mushrooms and bacon (I just popped them in the oven with the eggs)
To round out the menu, I added a few extras…
Deviled eggs (because it’s Easter and it’s pretty much expected)
Fruit and pastries (which I purchased at the grocery store and simply arranged on platters)
A mixed herb, citrus vinaigrette (optional for the veggies)
Apricot jam & butter (for the grilled toast)
Easy peasy. Right?
Then there were cocktails. I mentioned earlier that there are really only a few you can get away with for brunch, most notably mimosas and Bloody Marys. But how could I make them a little more interesting?
For the mimosa, I took my cue from Peter Cottontail and decided to use carrot juice–in concert with the traditional choice of orange juice. To take it a step further, I decided to spruce up the juice with caraway, since it compliments carrots so nicely. I was also adamant that little carrots with their tops still intact be used as garnish. This proved a little difficult as most of the tops get mangled. However, I found a few in decent shape and then skinned the carrots to remove their less appealing skins.
For Bloody Mary inspiration, I thought about micheladas and decided that the most important compliment to a tomato-based cocktail is lime. What goes well with lime? Cumin. What else? I settled on celery for it’s fresh taste and ability to be used as a garnish.
With my menu and cocktail plan settled, it was time to think through the logistics. My strategy was this:
Do as much as you can the night before
So, I sliced up the mushrooms, zucchini, and bread. (I held off on the potatoes so that they wouldn’t turn brown and the tomatoes so that they wouldn’t release too much liquid.) For the deviled eggs–which were a mayonnaise-free, cheesy, lemony, herb-forward variety–I did everything BUT squeeze the filling into the egg white halves. I also blended up dill, parsley, chives, basil, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt for the vinaigrette. In short, anything that didn’t need to be cooked was ready to serve and anything that needed to be cooked was prepped and ready.
The only thing left to do was:
Style the space
Thankfully, this too can be done in advance. Since I was expecting to feed 10 people with a dining table that only sits 6, a more casual set up was in order. So, I dragged my dining table across the room and sat it in front of the fireplace to hold the food. This way, the spread became part of the room’s focal point. Then I arranged every chair I had into intimate clusters, using stools as side tables. I even placed a few cocktail napkins on each one so that folks had a place to set their cocktails.
Then, I turned to the serveware, arranging the platters and chafers I wanted to use for each dish on the table in a logical sequence. Hot items went on one side and cold on the other and I used sticky notes to remind myself which dish would go where in the morning. Next, I chose my glassware: water goblets, champagne flutes, and rocks glasses. Plates, napkins, and utensils were similarly laid out.
And last, but certainly not least, I created a few flower arrangements. One near the entry, another on the buffet table, and a few blooms in the empty vessels on my mantel.
Long story short, the morning was a breeze and brunch was a hit. I hope your Easter Brunch goes just as well and that one or two of these tips help in some way.