Wednesday, May 5, 2010

weekend brunch party

I've said it before and I'll say it again: brunch is annoying. Now, don't get me wrong, eggs benedict is a meal I'd like to treat myself to far more often than I'd like to admit. But I'm the first to volunteer going to the closest diner (so not chic, right? meh. whatever) rather than waiting in the hour PLUS line that's wrapped around Jane (though I love your braised lamb ravioli) or Spitzer's (and your eggs benedict wasn't too shabby) or Egg in Williamsburg (I have to take how many trains and transfers to get there?). Long winded story short, there's far too much planning involved and more often than not it's more about the scene than it is about the food. Scene, schmene. Just gimme a plate of food and an optional belini. Enough with all the hooplah. I'm so over it.

So, my friends, that said, let's do brunch IN this weekend. If your apartment or home is not big enough to host a crowd, then place a friendly (and I mean friendly) call to your most well-endowed apartment friend and suggest hosting it at theirs. You'll do all the cooking at your place, and like any good caterer, bring the food and drinks on over to the site the morning of. And with this spread, there'll be no scrambling the morning of. No setting the alarm clock for 7am on a Sunday. Are you nuts? This spread takes care of itself in the refrigerator. All you'll need to do the morning of is shower off the weekend's havoc, throw on a perfectly casual spring outfit, and pack up your basket of goodies.

Because on a late Sunday morning, gravlax with sweet mustard sauce and bloody orange mary's are about as good an option as you're going to find anywhere. Step aside, Pastis. You're in trouble.

The following recipes are courtesy of Martha Stewart Living and I just couldn't help but share them with you. Not into pumpernickel bread? Please feel free to pick up a few of New York's finest bagels. Because I'm pretty sure I'll be doing the same.

Gravlax with Sweet Mustard Sauce
Serves 8 to 10
Martha Stewart Living, May 2010

1 side skin-on wild salmon (about 3 lbs.), halved crosswise
2 cups fennel fronds or fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coarse salt
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons whole pink or black peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon caraway seeds crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon aquavit or vodka
sweet mustard sauce (recipe follows)
1 loaf pumpernickel bread, thinly sliced and crusts removed
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb or cucumber (peeled and seeded), thinly sliced

1. Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels. trim excess fat and bones, and pull out pin bones using kitchen tweezers.
2. Combine fennel, sugar, salt, lemon zest, peppercorns, and caraway seeds. Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap (we suggest using a glass baking dish).
3. Spread a quarter of the curing mixture onto plastic wrap. Place 1 salmon piece, skin side down, on top. rub salmon wit half the remaining curing mixture, and drizzle with aquavit. Top with remaining salmon, skin side up, and rub with remaining curing mixture.
4. Wrap salmon tightly in the plastic wrap. set a baking sheet on top of salmon, and weigh down sheet with cans or bricks. refrigerate, flipping salmon halfway through, for 1 or 2 days (the longer the fish cures, the denser the flesh will be)
5. Unwrap salmon; discard liquid, and wipe off remaining curing mixture. thinly slice salmon on the bias with a long, thin knife. spread sweet mustard sauce on bread. top with gravlax, onion, and fennel.

Sweet Mustard Sauce

1/3 cup dijon mustard
1/3 cup grainy mustard
1/4 cup sugar

Stir together all ingredients.

Bloody Orange Mary's

4 cups bottled tomato juice (32 ounces)
1 cup aquavit or vodka
3/4 cup fresh blood-orange or regular orange juice (from 4 oranges)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as tobacco
salt and freshly ground pepper
ice cubes
Garnish: blood orange and tomato wedges and fennel or cucumber spears

Whisk together tomato juice, aquavit, orange and lemon juices, horseradish, and hot sauce in a large pitcher. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into 6 ice-filled glasses, and garnish each with an orange wedge, a tomato wedge, and a fennel spear.

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