Entertaining at home has drastically changed over the years; formal dinners of perfectly presented cocktails, caviar canapes, Beef Wellington and Grand Marnier souffle, have slipped into the category of passé. All I can say is “thank heavens!” Yes, you want to WOW your guests, but you also want a life outside the kitchen the week before guests arrive – and enough energy to enjoy them once they do arrive. You also don’t want to have to take out a second mortgage just to fund the menu.
So what’s your alternative? Think fabulous brunch! Not only is it something you can prep ahead, over 2-3 evenings if needed, but you’ll actually enjoy your guests since final preparations are simple and fast. Even better, the menu is now based on eggs, which are not only budget-friendly (despite recent price hikes), but also a true culinary chameleon; there isn’t a nationality of flavor that can’t be paired with the humble, neutral egg.
Fortunately, it’s also super-easy to adjust for guests who avoid wheat, carbs or have other health restrictions too, so long as its not eggs they’re allergic to. Once you’ve chosen that main dish, decide on complimentary side dishes, beverages, dessert and table decorations. Then relax, you’re about to have one of your most pleasant entertaining experiences yet!
My personal favorite brunch preparation is a trifecta of perfection, it’s scrumptious, healthy and easy. If your guests ask what it’s called, you can give them the more impressive French pronunciation, Petit Formage Quiche – Style de l’Arizona (for the rest of us, petite quiche Arizona-style).
Fortunately, these Southwest inspired eggs are as extraordinary as they are easy to prepare. Simply grease a jumbo muffin pan (butter for lush flavor or coconut oil for health), then layer in the same ingredients you’d use for chile rellenos. They key is to use 2 eggs per; one is beaten and poured over the top, the other is carefully broke and nestled on the top right before baking for 30 minutes.
Once baked, a knife run around the edge loosens the whole; add a little deft work with two thin spatulas and voilà, your main dish is done! I like to pair these with a savory-sweet fruit salad of cubed fresh pineapple, sliced red onion, cilantro and lime juice. If offering a starch, try quick oven-roasted “house fries;” simply cut potato wedges and drizzle with olive oil then toss with a generous dose of taco seasoning. You can precook them 3/4 through and refrigerate until the morning of the brunch.
You can prep your muffin pan, have your ingredients chopped and portioned, and potatoes partially cooked a day or so ahead. The fruit salad can be done the night before; just drain (and enjoy) any pooled juices in the morning before tossing with red onion, lime juice and cilantro.
If you want to keep your theme going, make a good, strong batch of French-press coffee then offer it with horchata (a sweet, rice-based beverage) or Mexican hot chocolate (flavored with almonds and cinnamon) as coffee creamers. You may also want to present a selection of fresh jugos (fruit juices) like mango-orange, strawberry-watermelon, or kiwi & honey-dew; simply run the fruit through a blender, thin as needed with water, then adjust to taste with a touch of salt and/or lime juice.
The morning of the brunch, pop the potatoes back in the hot oven while you assemble the eggs. Cook eggs on the bottom shelf and allow potatoes to finish cooking on the middle shelf while you set the table. Serve coffee and juices while the eggs cool briefly (5 minutes to set so they’re easier to remove) and the potatoes finish crisping. You’ll get to enjoy your guests, and they’ll enjoy your amazing hospitality. Once you experience how enjoyable entertaining brunch-style is, you may never choose to invite guests over for dinner again!
Petite Quiche Arizona-Style
1 jumbo muffin pan, metal* (holds 6)
3 tablespoons butter (or coconut or olive oil, or nonstick spray)
6 medium or 3 very large roasted & peeled green chiles** (if using poblano, use only 3)
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced***
1 cup shredded mozzarella or jack cheese (if going authentic, use Oaxaca cheese)
1/2 cup crumbled feta (if going authentic, us crumbled cotija or anejo cheese)
6 tablespoons sour cream (if going authentic, use Mexican crema)
12 eggs (from farm-fresh, free-range hens if possible)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using convection) Generously grease the muffin tins.
2. Open each fresh chile up and remove stem and seeds, if needed (canned chiles won’t need). For large chiles, place 1/2 a chile in the bottom and up the side of each pan; for medium chiles, place a whole chile in each.
3. Divide the shallot slices between the 6 tins, sprinkling evenly over the chile.
4. Divide and sprinkle both cheeses between the tins, distributing evenly over the shallot.
5. Roughly spread 1 tablespoon of sour cream over the top of each.
6. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl. Pour over the top of one tin; repeat with the remaining 5. Using the back of a spoon, make a little well in the middle of each. Break the 2nd egg into the well so the yolk stays centered.
7. Bake for approximately 30 minutes on the bottom shelf, or until top egg is cooked and the underneath is just firm if you lightly shake the pan. Cool briefly; run a knife around the edge to loosen as needed. Use two thin spatulas (or large spoons) to push out of the muffin pan (easier to push out rather than try to lift up). If desired, garnish the plate first with a crescent of thinly sliced avocado.
Options: Replace the chile with a slice of quality ham, cooked and crumbled bacon, or 1/4 cup cooked sausage of your choice; add chopped cooked vegetables (broccoli, onions and bell peppers, or cooked and drained spinach or mushrooms are all excellent) to replace a portion or all of the cheese.
* If using a silicon muffin pan, keep it on a cookie sheet for the entire process; also add an additional 10 minutes to the baking time.
** Canned green chiles are perfectly acceptable, but fresh-roasted chiles taste even better!
*** If you don’t have shallot, substitute approximately 1/3 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
Candy Lesher, Chef and Culinary Wellness Coach, Training and coaching clients to achieve a healthy culinary lifestyle based on their medical directives and personal tastes, through custom-designed menus and recipes. You can reach Candy at email@example.com, or call her at 480.266.0701.