Danville Express

Living - November 2, 2007

Epicure: Breakfasts for holiday crowds

by Jacqui Love Marshall

Halloween scared us into reality - Thanksgiving is just around the corner, Santa is making flight plans and some are already polishing the family menorah. Rev up your culinary engines ... we're racing into the holidays!

The onset of the holiday season means you'll probably be entertaining a relative or two before the year is out. Maybe you'll even be hosting the main holiday meal at your home, complete with family or friends as overnight "guests." With all the focus on the holiday festivities (and the decorating and cooking prep involved), we sometimes neglect to plan for pre- and post-holiday breakfasts. Unless you can talk Aunt Susie into making her special blueberry muffins or convince your visiting relatives to go out for a nice family breakfast while they are here, most guests are up bright and early in search of that wake-me-up cup of coffee and something to nibble on between sips. What better way to leisurely catch up with family news, right?

Resident cooks, however, are often up late and rising early to slice, marinate, defrost and ice ... who has time to make breakfast? So, work smart ... plan ahead for those minor meals that also make the holidays merry and bright! Epicure offers some helpful tips:

Wherever possible, prep ahead:

• Purchase holiday paper plates, bowls, napkins, utensils, etc. to brighten breakfast meals. (It's the one meal where you can gracefully get away with it!)

• Prepare large batches of homemade granola (see recipe) and store weeks ahead of your guests' arrival.

• Breakfast meats (bacon, sausages) can be pre-cooked and frozen. Re-heat in the microwave just before serving. Don't overcook before freezing.

• Measure out carafes of premium coffee grinds, put in freezer-safe baggies, label and freeze. Type up instructions for making coffee in your specific coffeemaker and enclose in a plastic binder sheet for protection.

• Before you turn in each night (or assign your kitchen helper to do it):

o Set up the coffeemaker to be ready to go with the instruction sheet nearby or put coffeemaker on auto-timer.

o Leave out fruit, cereals, non-refrigerated condiments, etc. on countertops for parents of young kids and early risers to help themselves.

Provide a range of choices:

• Consider that individual guests may be on diets, have dietary restrictions, etc. Ask about special dietary needs ahead of time to avoid last-minute scurries to the grocer. As guests arrive, ask about their preferred morning regimes.

• Offer cold, on-the-run choices (e.g. fruit, yogurt, bagels, muffins) and hot, sit-down options (e.g. eggs, toast, breakfast meats) daily. If you can, provide choices for young kids, teens, adults, elderly guests. Agree on one breakfast during the visit where everyone will join in and make that the most elaborate breakfast meal.

Elegant Eggs, Perfect Pancakes & Wonderful Waffles:

• Eggs: Whether "over easy" or "sunny side up," fried eggs are great for a breakfast crowd. They can be served with breakfast meats and other dishes or alone. Stack several small fry pans on back of stove for easy access. If frying a lot, slightly undercook and transfer them to a baking sheet oiled with cook spray in a 200-degree oven. Divide sections for different eggs or use separated sheets. Also, consider omelets if you have pre-cut stuffing ingredients.

• Pancakes: Use a simple batter recipe (i.e. Bisquick), then add 1 or more tasty ingredients for variety, e.g. mashed banana, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate chips, etc. Leave adequate space between pancakes for flipping. Try to flip only once, after bubbles appear on top side and bottom side is brown. Place on oven rack on towel-lined sheet in 200-degree oven to keep warm until served.

• Waffles: Use a pastry brush or cooking spray to grease waffle iron for the first few times to get the iron well oiled. Use the first waffle as your throwaway sample to test for batter, evenness, timing, etc. Use a kitchen helper to flip waffles between two hands: "airing" them with give crisper edges and prevent sogginess. Place on oven rack on towel-lined sheet in 200-degree oven to keep warm until served.

Some anonymous cook probably said: "Offer a satisfying breakfast in the morning, and you'll have willing kitchen helpers all day long!" So, rev up your engines for the holidays and rev up your holiday breakfasts as well.

Jacqui lives in Danville with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at jlovemarshall@yahoo.com.


Sweet Potato & Chile Hash with Fried Eggs (serves 6):

Holiday Granola (makes 4-6 cups):


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