Monday, March 26, 2012

Brunch with Friends: Menu Four

So much Brunch with Friends! Technically, Brunch with Friends: Menu Three happened in February but after the big holiday and some serious photo review with guest photographer Dean, the post didn't see the light of the online world until March... which was only days before Brunch with Friends: Menu Four.

I've said before how much I enjoy having brunch with people. Dinners are great but there is something even better about a great brunch - which can lean more to the sweet or to the savoury, depending on your particular inspiration at that moment - where you can spend great time with friends, justify alcohol before the PMs, and say goodbye while still having your entire day ahead of you.

This particular brunch seemed to require a great deal of negotiation. Not with the menu but with disparate and conflicting schedules of the invitees, we booked this brunch in - no lie - January and then had to further tweak the date come March. Finalizing a date and time in the last three days before the proposed date felt like a battle won... then to the quick planning, purchasing, prepping, and prodding... then Brunch.

Brunch with Friends: Menu Four
Cheese Plate
Brie and Spiced Golden Plum Jam
Aged Dubliner Cheddar and Paprika Spiced Almonds
Lots of Prosecco

"Steak and Eggs"
Italian Influenced Marinated and Grilled Flank Steak with Sunny Eggs
Sauteed Mushrooms
Fresh Tomato and Basil Salad with Argentine Olive Oil

Cinnamon-Spiced Coffee with Homemade Vanilla Sugar Cubes
Sparkling Water with Cucumber Slices
Lavender-Infused Egg Custard

Assuming you have made your preserves and almonds in advance or just have them on hand for a quick and crowd-pleasing appetizer plate, you're ready to go. If not, grab a jar of tapenade or a great jam from the store and make those almonds... because they really are irreplaceable. If you're in overboard land and have spent too much time on Pinterest (as I have... and an DIY crazy), you can also try out these pretty little homemade sugar cubes. Something so small that makes your guests smile.

The night before is the time to marinate the flank steak. I love flank steak. So inexpensive and so tasty.

Italian Influenced Marinade
makes enough to marinate two large pieces of flank steak
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice or the juice from one lemon
Lemon zest (zest before you squeeze that buddy!)
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have a smooth-ish paste. Portion the marinade into two plastic freezer or food saver bags. Put one flank steak in each bag. Seal, then mush that marinade around and all over the meat until it is coated well. Put the steak in the fridge to marinate overnight.

The next morning... get up and pull that flank steak from the fridge. You want it to warm to close, if not, room temperature before you grill it.

Brew your coffee and enjoy a cup on your own.

First up is that custard... I wanted something sweet but not too sweet and this was a great option. The lavender was a new experiment for me and it certainly was not overpowering.

Lavender Egg Custard
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen
600 ml milk
4 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons culinary lavender
Fresh nutmeg
Butter for greasing/buttering

Preheat the oven to 275 F. Butter (I always think it sounds better to use butter as a verb rather than grease... not much appealing about "greasing"... but that is just me) your ramekin. Nigella suggests a small round ramekin (small but large enough for four+ servings). I didn't have one that size and shape, so I opted for two smaller square ones. Use what you have, right?!

Fill a kettle full of water and heat it to boiling.

Heat your milk, either stove top or by microwave. Steep your lavender in the milk for about 5-6 minutes. (A chance bit of advice from Ocean Odyssey Inland (via Twitter recommended to steep for about five minutes... "Just think of the lavender tea. The longer you steep it in the scalded milk, the more acrid the flavour." You can find Ocean Odyssey Inland and their sustainable fish at the City Market in downtown Edmonton.)

In a large bowl (you will be adding the milk to this bowl, so plan accordingly), whisk your eggs, sugar and vanilla. Using a fine mesh strainer or a bit of cheese cloth, strain the lavender from the milk and, while whisking, add the hot milk to the egg mixture. Whisk so you don't find yourself with scrambled or coddled eggs.

Set your buttered ramekins into a large baking tin or roaster. Carefully pour your custard into the ramekins (I grated a bit of nutmeg on the surface of each too), then pour the hot water into the larger baking tin so that it reaches about halfway or so up the sides of the ramekins. You just prepared a bain marie or water bath.

Without splishing or sploshing, move your bain maried custards into the oven. Bake for 90 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave on the counter to cool. I opted for room temperature rather than fridge-cold, so the little ramekins just sat on the counter until dessert. Before serving, give the custard a quick sprinkling of sugar on the top of each and a moment under the broiler (or with my new fave kitchen blowtorch), dollop with some unsweetened whipped cream, then you are ready to present and enjoy. 

Cheese Plate... and Tomato Salad
While the custards are baking or cooling, arrange your cheese plate. Then chop your tomatoes and tear some basil into a nice serving bowl for your quick tomato salad. Leave to drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper closer to when you're ready to eat.

Sauteed Mushrooms
Roughly chop your mushrooms. Melt a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to the melted butter. It's a great trick and stops the butter from burning. Add a bit of chopped garlic if you'd like and let it perfume your kitchen. Then toss your mushrooms in the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender... depending on how many mushrooms (and guests), this should only take about 10 minutes. Set the pan aside or on a back burner. These can be left on a very low heat until your guests arrive.

Flank Steak
If you have a barbeque or grill, turn that on and heat it to a nice high heat. We have a tiny little  portable barbeque, so I cooked the steaks one at a time. Put the first one on the grill, then close the cover. Cook the steak for about 4-6 minutes on each side, depending on how you like your meat but err on the rarer side of done to keep the flank steak tender. Most blogs or cookbooks will tell you that medium rare is a good temperature for this particular cut.

So, four minutes, then flip. Four minutes, then transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to rest. Cook your second steak the same way, if you're having enough company to warrant two steaks (but, even if you are having a small party, this steak makes great leftovers on a salad or sandwich... so grill away!).

If you don't have a grill, you can cook the flank steak in a cast iron or similar saute pan. Heat that pan to a very high heat, then saute for the four minutes on each side.

Once the steaks have rested and are no longer in danger of losing all of the juices when you slice, get to the cutting! You need to slice flank steak against the grain and in thin pieces. It is quite easy to see the grain on the flank steak. Find those lines, then start slicing perpendicular to that grain. I also slice the steak at a slight angle. It's nice for presentation and gives you slightly larger (while still thin) pieces.

Sunny Eggs
While your guests are enjoying the cheese and almonds, transfer your sliced steak and mushrooms to a serving tray. Right before you are going to sit down to eat, cook your eggs. This is one thing that you just cannot do in advance. The Sunny Eggs will suffer for it.

There isn't much to say in regard to cooking the eggs. I served the eggs sunny-side up because I wanted that yolk to run over the flank steak, grab some of the marinade off the surface, and create its own little sauce. The only thing that I can say about cooking the eggs is to heat your pan to a medium heat. I used to heat my pan too hot and would inevitably overcook my eggs. A gentle but still warm temperature will cook the bottom and the white around the yolk while still leaving your yolk runny.

Serve your guests. Pour their coffee. Sneak a bit more prosecco.

Enjoy one serving... then another. And have fun!

2 thought(s):

Anonymous said...

it all looks perfectly perfect!

i have been having friends for dinner, but you have inspired me to have friends for brunch next time.

thanks for the share

su :)

wannafoodie said...

Thanks, Su! I hope you enjoy brunch as much as dinner parties. I certainly wouldn't get rid of either but there is a certain charm to brunch that I love.

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