Cozy Winter Brunch Menu (plus a bunch of other stuff)

photo 4Happy 2014 dear readers!  I am not quite sure where the time has gone but after a flurry of holidays accompanied by the soundtrack of shreiking babies and a couple of scary visits to the hospital emergency room, I'm now suddenly back in the quiet of our little garden flat watching the endless rain whip through the trees and catching up with my fat little orange cat.  I've spent these past days going through the many cookbooks that were given to me for Christmas: What Katie Ate, Rene Redzepi's A Work in Progress, Notes from the Larder by Nigel Slater, making notes about which to play with first (tonight I'm making Katie's lemon cream roast chicken).photo 2I'm also busy familiarizing myself with what's new in the London food and restaurant scene.  You see, I'm to be a regular contributor to Travel & Leisure Magazine's Carry On blog - their London based foodie around town.  Alas, I feel sorely out of touch having been away for two months, but I'm talking to people and keeping my eyes open as I reacquaint myself with this vibrant if soggy city. More details on that to come as soon as I have them.My new year's resolution is to get myself in gear with the photos I share with you on this blog. I've been pestering my photographer-husband extraordinaire to help me get set up to share clearer, more interesting images here.  Alas, he isn't around much of the time when I find something I want to share with you or when I've cooked something special, but I'm hoping his lessons will pay off, so please indulge me a little longer.For some reason it's been a real trial getting this particular blog post written. Perhaps I'm trying to jam too much into one story arc (an accusation lobbed at me often during my writing school workshops) or perhaps it's because I'm yearning for that clean fresh start to 2014 but still have much of 2013 I didn't share with you. So I'm going to clear my plate, as it were, in order to move forward.For instance, my Christmas Eve spread was quite special if I do say so myself:

Chestnut Soup with Sherry
Honey & Rye Glazed Ham served with Salt & Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits and Cranberry Chutney
Buckwheat Blini with Caviar & all the trimmings
Crudite with Buttermilk Ranch Dip
Shrimp Cocktail
Cheese Board including: Eppoise, Red Hawk, Smokey Blue, Truffled Parmesan
My mom made her famous Bouche de Noel and mini Pecan Bourbon Tarts along with a super special ice mold for the bottle of vodka which the sons-in-law made quick work of.   This kind of buffet, an informal yet festive spread, was perfect given that there were three eight month olds in the early throes of slumber, or not as the case was, and their parents were up and down stairs trying to keep them all quiet. There was no food to go terribly cold here, so we sat and picked and drank and enjoyed one another, storing up another year of fond family memories.
Christmas morning, breakfast was a collaborative effort.  It just wouldn't be Christmas without my mother's Warm Fruit, my sister and her husband spearheaded what's likely to be a new tradition in their Puffy Oven Pancake and I made Maple and Pink Peppercorn Bacon.   This fruit recipe has been around for as long as I can remember and I think served my mother particularly well all of those years we lived in Moscow when fresh fruit wasn't available.  Please don't scoff at the list of canned ingredients - this is a delicious treat, something to certainly add to your brunch repertoire.
Mom's Warm Christmas Fruitphoto 3
serves 8
2 oranges
2 lemons
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 16 ounce can apricot halves
1 16 ounce can pineapple chunks
1 16 ounce can sliced peaches
1 16 ounce can red, tart, pitted cherries
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Using a microplane, grate the zest from the oranges and lemons into the brown sugar, mix and set aside. Now cut the skin off of the oranges and lemons, making certain to remove all of the bitter white pith. Using a serrated knife cut the citrus into thin slices, making sure to remove all the seeds.  Mix these slices along with the rest of the DRAINED, canned fruit and place a layer into a baking dish. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mix and a little ground nutmeg on top.  Repeat with remaining fruit, sugar and nutmeg. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.
Meanwhile, Kevin and Ellen made their Scandinavian inspired puffy pancake which was an immediate hit.  Breakfasts like these are heaven if you're hosting friends.  You're not standing over the stove flipping pancakes or frying bacon or poaching eggs.  No!  Just prepare it all in advance, throw it in the oven, mix up a batch of bloody mary's and enjoy your friends/family. This recipe offers you the same satisfaction as eating decadent pancakes without all of the fuss.  Plus you could add fruit to the batter, lemon or orange zest, cinnamon, even, dare I say it? smoked salmon? Or keep it plain and simple just like we did.
Puffy Pancakephoto 5
serves 4
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, sugar and salt until smooth. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or overnight covered in the refrigerator.   Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a large slope-sided pan (like a paella pan) into the oven with the butter in it.  Remove the pan once the butter is melted and add the batter to it.  Place the pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until puffy and golden.
Finally, my addition to the menu.  No brunch is really complete until you've got bacon and this is special version without much added effort.  No recipe needed.  Just take some thick cut streaky bacon and place them very close together on a foil-lined baking sheet (they shrink dramatically so don't be afraid to overlap here).  Brush on a little maple syrup and sprinkle with some crushed pink peppercorns.   Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until crispy.
Now, onto 2014!