With the ever-changing fickle spring weather, a brunch menu that satisfies cravings for both fresh, springy foods and comfort food is a perfect combination. Whether you celebrate Easter or are looking for ideas to enjoy on any weekend, the following menu by chef and cookbook author Molly Stevens, which she created for Real Food, is the perfect choice. You can prepare it in its entirety and have a festive brunch, or you can pick and choose one or two dishes to serve as breakfast, lunch or even supper. And just as spring is all about transition, so is this menu: Many of the recipes also include do-ahead tips. There is also a batch of tender, buttery scones because something warm from the oven suits any season, says Stevens.
Brown Sugar and Bourbon Glazed Ham
Makes 10 to 12 servings
Most ham sold today is already fully cooked, but taking the time to bake it before serving greatly improves the taste and texture and provides the opportunity to baste it with a deliciously sweet, sticky glaze.
1 (5- to 6-pound) fully cooked boneless or (7- to 8-pound) bone-in ham
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons mustard, Dijon or yellow
1 tablespoon bourbon or other whiskey (or substitute apple cider)
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup apple cider, chicken broth or water, as needed
- Heat the oven to 325°F. Remove the packaging and place the ham on a heavy-duty baking sheet or in a low-sided roasting pan. Let it sit at room temperature while the oven heats.
- Combine the sugar, mustard, bourbon and allspice in a bowl and mix to make a smooth paste. Pat dry the surface of the ham, and spread 2 tablespoons of the sugar glaze over the top side. Pour enough cider (or other liquid) into the pan so there is about ¼-inch liquid in the bottom (this prevents the glaze from burning).
- Bake, basting with pan drippings and spooning more glaze on every 20 to 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 135 to 140°F, about 1½ hours (12 to 15 minutes per pound) for boneless and 1½ to 2 hours for bone-in ham. If at any point the pan seems to be drying up, add more cider (or other liquid).
- Transfer the ham to a carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours before carving. If desired, save the pan drippings to drizzle over the ham before serving.
• The frequent basting and glazing will slow down the cooking. If you glaze it less frequently, expect it to bake more quickly.
• Baked ham needs no sauce, but if you like, put out a jar of honey mustard. You can also make a quick creamy mustard sauce by whisking your favorite mustard into mayonnaise or sour cream and seasoning it with a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.
Mushroom and Herb Egg Bake
Makes 8 servings as a main course, 10 to 12 as part of a buffet
This versatile egg casserole can be served warm from the oven or at room temperature. It’s suitable as a main course for brunch, lunch or even supper. You can also cut it into small bites to serve on a buffet or as a snack with drinks.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for the dish
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
12 ounces mushrooms, white or cremini, trimmed and sliced
4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
12 large eggs
½ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
1 cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar or a mix of cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, chives or a combination
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces favorite sausage, cooked and crumbled (optional)
- Heat the oven to 350°F and generously oil a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, scraping the skillet with a silicone spatula, and return it to the heat. Add the remaining olive oil and the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until tender and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and continue to sauté until fragrant, another 30 seconds or so. Add the mushroom mixture to the onions.
- Whisk the eggs and sour cream until well combined and slightly frothy. Stir in the cooked vegetables, cheese and herbs. Season with ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste) and several grinds of black pepper. Pour into the baking dish. If using the sausage, scatter it over the surface (this ensures that it will be evenly distributed).
- Bake until the top is puffed and golden and the center jiggles only slightly when you shake the pan, 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.
• If there is no meat in your menu (and you’re not making a vegetarian meal), consider adding the optional cooked sausage for an even more satisfying dish.
• Vary the cheese according to your taste and what’s in your fridge. For an even cheesier bake, add an extra ½ cup grated or crumbled cheese.
• For a make-ahead option, assemble the casserole and refrigerate overnight before baking. You may need to add a few minutes to bake time.
• For mini egg bakes, pour the mixture into 18 to 20 well-greased muffin tins. Reduce the baking time to 12 to 15 minutes.
Cauliflower and Leek Gratin
Makes 8 servings as a side, 10 to 12 as part of a buffet
Cauliflower replaces potatoes for a lighter and more flavorful take on a classic casserole, making a delightful addition to a festive brunch. The leeks add a sweeter, more complex flavor, but you can substitute onions if you like (see Cook’s Notes).
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets
4 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more for the dish
1 large or 2 medium leeks (12 ounces), trimmed, split lengthwise, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
1 cup shredded Gruyère or Comté cheese
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat the oven to 350°F and butter a large gratin dish or a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a palmful of salt, and add half the cauliflower. Return the water to a boil and cook until the florets are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Scoop them into a strainer to drain and repeat with the remaining cauliflower. Shake the strainer to remove excess moisture, then spread the cauliflower onto a towel-lined tray to cool and dry. Set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, season with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. If the leeks threaten to brown at any point, lower the heat and stir to prevent them from turning crisp. Scatter the leeks evenly over the bottom of the gratin dish.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to create a smooth paste. Cook, whisking steadily, for about 2 minutes, but do not let the paste brown. Slowly whisk in the half-and-half or milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, and simmer until thick, about 1 minute. Season with mustard, nutmeg, about ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste), and plenty of black pepper. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
- Arrange the cauliflower on top of the layer of leeks. Spread the sauce evenly over the cauliflower and top with the cheese. Bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to settle. Serve hot or at room temperature.
• Boiling cauliflower in batches allows it to cook more quickly and not become waterlogged and sodden.
• Leeks require careful washing. After chopping, drop them into a large bowl of cool water and swish around to remove any dirt. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and drain in a colander. Shake dry before cooking.
• If leeks are unavailable, substitute 1 medium onion or 2 large shallots, and sauté until tender and golden.
• The cauliflower can be boiled and refrigerated for 24 hours, and the gratin can be assembled and refrigerated for several hours before baking.
• For a crunchy topping, combine the cheese with 1/3 cup breadcrumbs or panko before spreading over the unbaked gratin.
Asparagus-Arugula Salad with Sunflower Seeds and Citrus Vinaigrette
Makes 8 to 12 servings
Sweet asparagus pairs with the sharp taste of arugula for this green-on-green spring salad. The asparagus also gives the salad enough heft so that it can stand up on a buffet longer than leafy salads. If fresh pea shoots are available, their sweet flavor makes an exciting contribution; add a few handfuls when tossing.
For the Dressing
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine or sherry vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Salad
2 pounds asparagus, preferably thick
10 ounces baby arugula or spinach
¼ cup chopped chives
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup sunflower seeds, roasted
- Prepare the dressing: In a small jar, combine the shallot, orange and lemon zests, lemon juice, and vinegar. Add a pinch of salt. Cover the jar and shake to blend. Add the oil and shake well to combine.
- Snap off the tough bottoms of the asparagus spears and discard them. Cut off the tips and set aside. Slice the stems on a sharp diagonal about ¼-inch thick. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tips and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and immediately rinse with cold water. Repeat with the sliced spears, allowing them to cook only about 1 minute. Spread both out onto a towel-lined tray to dry.
- Put the asparagus tips in a small bowl and coat very lightly with dressing. Set aside. Combine the arugula, chives and asparagus spears in a large bowl. Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat lightly (you may not need it all), and salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the top with sunflower seeds and the asparagus tips and serve.
• The dressing can be prepared and refrigerated for up to 2 days ahead. Shake well before serving.
• The asparagus can be cooked up to 1 day ahead. Wrap in towels and refrigerate until serving.
• If you can only find raw sunflower seeds, toast them yourself by heating in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darkened, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt and let cool.
• Save any extra leftover vinaigrette to drizzle on steamed vegetables or grilled chicken.
• If you have leftover hard-boiled Easter eggs, they make a great addition to this salad. Peel, chop coarsely and add along with the asparagus tips and sunflower seeds.
Toasted Oat, Flaxseed and Pecan Scones
Makes 16 (3-inch) scones
Toasted rolled oats, pecans and whole flaxseed add a nutty taste and pleasing heft to these not-too-sweet scones. They are best the day they are made.
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup flaxseed
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (use ¾ teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes (salted or unsalted)
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup cold buttermilk, plus more for glazing
1 tablespoon turbinado or granulated sugar, for glazing
- Heat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the oats in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking and stirring, until toasty and slightly darker, about 3 minutes. Add the flaxseed, stir and remove from the heat as soon as the seeds begin to crackle, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Stir in the cooled oats and flaxseeds. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients, flattening and breaking up the pieces until the mixture looks pebbly; no pieces should be larger than a pea. Add the pecans and mix to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and stir a few times to combine into a shaggy dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and fold the dough over onto itself, kneading gently 6 or 8 times until it holds together in a loose but cohesive shape. Pat the dough into a slab about ¾-inch thick and use a cookie cutter or knife to cut into 3-inch scones. Gather the scraps and re-roll and shape into more scones. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake until nicely browned, about 16 minutes. Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack.
• For make-ahead scones, assemble and shape the scones a day ahead, place on the baking sheet and refrigerate overnight before baking. Bake directly from the refrigerator. You can also freeze the unbaked scones for up to 2 weeks—bake directly from the freezer, adding 3 minutes baking time.
• The scones are also delicious served with a spoonful of fruit jam.
Ham and Wine Pairing
Savor the flavor of ham even more with a delicious wine partner. Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, coauthors of What to Drink with What You Eat share suggestions.
Nutrition info (per serving):
- Mushroom & Herb Egg Bake: Calories 203; Fat 16g (Sat. 6g); Chol 220mg; Sodium 248mg; Carb 4g; Fiber 1g; Added Sugars 0g; Protein 11g
- Brown Sugar & Bourbon Glazed Ham: Calories 406; Fat 19g (Sat. 7g); Chol 122mg; Sodium 3161mg; Carb 9g; Fiber 0g; Added Sugars 6g; Protein 47g
- Asparagus-Arugula Salad with Sunflower Seeds & Citrus Vinaigrette: Calories 153; Fat 14g (Sat. 2g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 167mg; Carb 5g; Fiber 2g; Added Sugars 0g; Protein 3g
- Cauliflower & Leek Gratin: Calories 132; Fat 10g (Sat. 6g); Chol 30mg; Sodium 251mg; Carb 6g; Fiber 1g; Added Sugars 0g; Protein 5g
- Toasted Oat, Flaxseed & Pecan Scones: Calories 249; Fat 14g (Sat. 6g); Chol 23mg; Sodium 296mg; Carb 27g; Fiber 2g; Added Sugars 5g; Protein 4g