Brunch at Home (featuring Russ & Daughters)!
My parents were in town so we decided (for once) to invite them over for a “home-cooked” meal! Brunch, of course. It’s the only meal I really ever host. I like the flexibility (and ease!) of serving eggs or sandwiches or both. I’m definitely not ambitious or crazy enough to tackle dinner.
I have a set formula for hosting brunch. Buy a bunch of classic NY bagels, pick up a variety of yummy cream cheese, splurge on some high-end smoked fish, gather a couple other fun toppings and bake two quiches (plus or minus a couple minor adjustments for each specific brunch). It’s making a meal without much cooking (just assembling)… what I do best!
So here’s revealing all the brunch tricks I have up my sleeve…
First stop, Russ & Daughters. A New York institution that’s been around almost 100 years in the Lower East Side. I have to say, I love Zabar’s more than anyone I know, and it is one of my most favorite places in this whole city. But when it comes to smoked fish and other like specialties, Russ & Daughters takes the cake.
Expect a line, a crowd… probably both. Expect to be overwhelmed by choices. Expect to be delighted by the offerings.
I mean, just look at that selection of caviar! Where fish eggs go to die, and New Yorkers go for take-out luxury ;-).
So here’s what we ended up taking home on this trip. For our little starters, we’ve got wasabi-infused flying fish roe and smoked trout mousse. Spread on crackers or bagels. Equally good either way. In fact, the flying fish roe was delicious on just about everything - just ask my dad who was putting it on his smoked nova. Also pictured is the veggie and plain cream cheese from Russ & Daughters (even their cream cheese is better than most!).
Mmmm…. carbs!! The stage for all the toppings. The bialys at Russ & Daughters are freakin amazing! Best in the city.
A closer look at the smoked sable and the classic Gaspe nova smoked salmon. Beautiful. We’ve had the Western nova and the Scottish before as well, but the Gaspe nova - so mild and rich - has the widest appeal and is always a crowd pleaser! Sliced perfectly thin for ultimate enjoyment. And ATO audibly sighed with happiness at his first bite of smoked sable. Sooooo good.
Quiche and salad go together like peanut butter and jelly. Here’s my simple go-to salad: fresh, slightly bitter arugula tossed with crisp, sweet apples and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add blue cheese to taste. This Long Clawson blue was the PERFECT blue for this salad. It had just the right amount of bite and saltiness to creaminess ratio. Recommended to me by Murray’s Cheese. Love that place. Spot on suggestions.
Here’s my culinary crowning glory. Quiche. The one out of three things I know how to make. I’ve mastered my quiche-making skills over the years and come up with these recipes by trial and error. My classic-style quiche: caramelized onions, scallions, pancetta (sometimes I sub with turkey bacon, real bacon or ham, or sometimes I go sans meat) and smoked Dutch gouda. Throw it all into a Fresh Direct whole wheat pie crust, toss in some eggs mixed with milk, and bake til done. Voila! Bubbling hot melty quiche is served. I love it, I love it, I love it!!
Here’s another look at my quiche. I get two pics since it’s such a rare occasion when I cook. This one is a new development for me, but it’s probably my most successful and my best received. Jumbo lump crab with fresh asparagus, fresh spinach and Parmesan. Lighter and a bit more vibrant than the other version. What can I say? I make good quiche! :-).
And sometimes it’s just the little things that make the difference. Like good juice. I’ve discovered a love for Sir Real juice - it tastes fresh-squeezed, like a lovely hot summer day on a farm. It’s also less sugary than your typical Tropicana; especially the grapefruit juice (above), which is refreshingly tart and tangy.
We had a lot of leftovers. I’ve never been good at portion-controlling for a set number of people. But have no fear: no leftovers were left behind!