Brunch ideas made for Mom

The Baltimore International College shares Mother's Day brunch ideas for novice and more experienced cooks

May 04, 2010|By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun

Considering all that mothers do, a decent breakfast on Mother's Day shouldn't be too much to ask.

But often that means standing in a restaurant line waiting for a table, or a sitcom version of breakfast in bed, with burnt toast, spilled juice and a forced smile.

Brunch classics such as eggs Benedict can be intimidating, and traditional French toast can be pedestrian. But not in the kitchen of chef Michael Wagner of Baltimore International College.

"There's nothing to stop you from enjoying these at home and impressing your mother or your wife," said the instructor.

We asked Wagner to show us how to make a mother proud on Mother's Day, so he walked us through the preparation of eggs Benedict — which began as a hangover cure — and helped us punch up French toast, which is neither French nor breakfast but a Christmas dessert in Brazil and Portugal.

A timeline is key for a dish as daunting as eggs Benedict can be for the average cook, he said. "Make the hollandaise sauce first, then keep it warm. And let the eggs poach while you heat the English muffin and the Canadian bacon."

And ask the butcher for the real stuff, he said, which is smoked pork loin, instead of purchasing those Egg McMuffin-style discs of meat. Or substitute crab meat or creamed spinach, he suggested..

A pinch of salt and a little white vinegar in the water will keep the egg whites from separating. And a gentle simmer instead of a rolling boil will help preserve the yolks. Three to four minutes is all the cooking time needed.

When removing the eggs, Wagner said, gently tap the slotted spoon on a clean towel to remove excess water.

But it is the Hollandaise sauce that challenges most cooks, and the answer to making it work is practice. "You'll be more comfortable if you do it a couple of times," he said.

Use a double boiler or a water bath, and continuously whisk the eggs that are the foundation of the sauce, removing them from the heat occasionally so they don't scramble. Add the butter and lemon juice in a very, very slow drizzle so that you are creating an emulsion. Otherwise the sauce might "break" and end up looking more like egg drop soup than a sauce.

"There is no substitute for this sauce," Wagner said. "But it is very rich. You wouldn't want to eat it every day."

To counter that richness, Wagner suggested serving the eggs Benedict with steamed asparagus. And if you don't want to part with cash you'd need to buy fresh truffles, you can top the eggs with sliced black olives.

"But there is nothing to compare with the earthy flavor of truffles," said Wagner, who added that a truffle the size of a walnut might sell for $60 in a specialty grocery store.

Wagner pumped up the French toast by choosing an eggy-buttery bread like brioche or challah — slightly stale so it can absorb the custard without falling apart.

And he added Galliano to the egg and cream mixture and warm honey instead of sugar. But you could add vanilla extract or Grand Marnier, he said.

The key to a good French toast? Don't crowd the fry pan. "Then you are steaming the toast instead of sautéing it," he said. Finish it by placing the pan in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes so the bread will crisp.

The same recipe can be used for Monte Cristo sandwiches, another breakfast delicacy often found in a restaurant instead of the kitchen at home. Simply add some Canadian bacon and cheese — mascarpone or Swiss — between the slices of French toast and finish the sandwich in the oven until the cheese melts.

"You could add mustard for a savory Monte Cristo or jam for a sweet one," he suggested. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Some fresh fruit macerated in powdered sugar and liqueur or orange juice will offset the sweetness of these brunch treats.

Add fresh squeezed juice, a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa, and mothers might be standing in line outside your kitchen on Mother's Day.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Eggs Benedict variations

FOR THE BASIC BENEDICT:

Makes: 1 serving

1 English muffin, split

2 slices Canadian bacon or ham, sliced thin

pinch Kosher Salt

2 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

Bring 1 quart of water to a simmer and add vinegar and salt. Toast and butter English muffin. Warm ham or bacon slices. Gently add eggs to simmering water and poach to desired doneness.

Arrange English muffins on plate topped with warm ham or bacon. Carefully remove eggs from water and let excess water drain on paper towel.

Place poached egg on top of ham or bacon. If making the sauce yourself, top with Hollandaise sauce just prior to serving.

HOLLANDAISE SAUCE:

5 egg yolks

1 pint clarified butter, warm

1 ounce lemon juice

2 ounces warm water

kosher salt to taste

white pepper to taste

cayenne to taste

Combine egg yolks and water in stainless steel mixing bowl.

Heat over a sauce pot of simmering water while whisking vigorously.

Continue cooking until egg mixture thickens to the "ribbon' stage- being careful not to scramble.

Remove egg mixture from heat and gradually incorporate warm clarified butter. If mixture becomes too thick add a little hot water to thin.

Add warm lemon juice and season to taste with salt, white pepper and cayenne.

OTHER VARIATIONS:

Add grilled asparagus, lump crabmeat or sliced truffles for a more elegant presentation.

Recipes courtesy of Chef Michael Wagner at Baltimore International College

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