Brunching it up for Easter
Easter brunch has become almost as much a part of the Easter celebration as chocolate, eggs and bunnies. It is a way to continue that feel-good sense of contentment with friends, family and loved ones.
Sunday brunch is about happiness; it is a pleasant, slow-paced way to put off chores and think about the week ahead. Good food, good company, eggs. Who could want anything more?
For this year’s Easter brunch, I decided to feature a single dish that combines all three of the foods most closely associated with the season: eggs, asparagus and ham.
Eggs and asparagus, of course, are related to spring, rebirth and renewal, the not-so-subtle subtext that runs through the Easter celebration. Lamb is eaten by some at Easter because it is a springtime dish and because Jesus was called the Lamb of God, but ham is popular for Easter because, well, it just is.
I’m a big fan of fruit salad, so I chose to make one for a first course. Making a fruit salad is an art, and a sense of culinary balance is needed, but it all begins with whatever fruit looks freshest and best at the market. Buy that, and make sure it will be ripe by the day of your brunch.
To make the fruit salad really special, top it with a port reduction glaze, a trick I learned from a restaurant in Michigan. Take four parts of port and one part of sugar and boil it away until it thickens and resembles syrup. Pour the glaze sparingly over the fruit for a hint of unexpectedly complex sweetness.
ITALIAN SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH ASPARAGUS AND HAM
Makes 6 servings
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1¼ cups sliced mushrooms
¼ pound ham or prosciutto, slivered or diced
¾ teaspoon minced garlic
½ medium green pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
½ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1½ tablespoons minced fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 ounces mozzarella, shredded (about 1½ cups)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms, ham, garlic and green pepper. Sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water until crisp-tender. Drain well and set aside. Whisk together the eggs, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cut the cream cheese in bits into the eggs.
2. Just before serving, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the egg mixture. Cook over medium heat while folding the mixture with a spatula to blend in the cream cheese. When the eggs are half set, add the warm vegetable-ham mixture, the mozzarella, Parmesan and warm asparagus. Continue to cook while gently folding in the cheese with the spatula. When the eggs are just done, serve at once.
Recipe from “The Frog Commissary Cookbook” by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller
FRUIT SALAD WITH PORT REDUCTION GLAZE
Makes 4 servings
1 orange or ½ grapefruit
1 wedge melon, your choice
1 pear or banana
1 cup grapes, optional
1 cup strawberries
½ cup blueberries
¼ cup raisins, craisins or other dried fruit
½ cup almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts
1⁄3 cup chocolate chips, optional
1 cup port
¼ cup granulated sugar
Note: For each additional person, add 1 serving of a large fruit (1 mango, ½ cup pineapple, 1 kiwi fruit, another wedge of melon, etc.) and another small handful of berries, raisins, nuts and chocolate chips.
1. Cut each fruit into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. Mix well. Shortly before serving, add nuts and chocolate chips, if using.
2. To make the port reduction, mix together port and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a high simmer or low boil, and reduce by 2⁄3 or ¾ until the liquid clings to the back of a spoon and when you draw your finger across the spoon you can see the trail of its path. Allow to cool. Add sparingly to fruit salad and toss. Extra glaze can be refrigerated for a week or 2.