Friday, December 30, 2011

It’s Breakfast, It’s Lunch……no. It’s BRUNCH!

This time of year we seem to have more people around the house at breakfast time. Enjoying the lazy mornings of holiday vacation, what better way than to have a delicious brunch to start the day. We are doing a Mediterranean inspired Strata, which is a great thing to put together the night before and just throw in the oven in the morning. A very versatile dish, you can really put anything you have in the fridge into it and it serves a crowd.  The Eggnog French Toast will help you use up that leftover eggnog and please, who doesn’t love some bourbon-spiked syrup to top! We are doing an old school Ambrosia, well because it brings back good memories (didn’t love it as a child but it was always there around this time of year and as an adult I can’t get enough) and citrus IS in season. Of course, we have a few  “getcha going” cocktails to go along with. A refreshing Mimosa made from the leftover citrus in the Ambrosia, and of course a spectacular Bloody Mary…gotta get your vegetables somehow, right? We used a locally source Bloody Mary Mix we bought from Rosebud Restaurant ( in the VA Highlands…yes they bottle and sell it, locally made hot sauce called CHANTICO , by my friend Ralph Davia (, some celery bitters by The Bitter Truth( that we purchased at Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop ( and to make it super, extra special, we rimmed the glass with some Hiwa Kai black lava sea salt from Hawaii, I know not local but it was a gift and it is tasty! So, please, enjoy, the food (and cocktails) and especially, each other! -V

Eggnog French Toast with Bourbon Syrup - Serves 6-8
2 cups eggnog (recipe here)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Sourdough Boule, 1/2 pound, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (or challah)
butter for the pan and service
Powdered sugar for service
Bourbon Syrup:
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup natural cane sugar
splash of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Bourbon
Special Equipment:
Griddle or non-stick pan, you could use very well seasoned cast iron here!
8x8 baking dish
sheet pan with a wire rack

Whisk together the eggnog, eggs, cinnamon, and salt in an 8x8 baking dish. Heat your griddle over medium heat. Place 2 slices of bread at a time in the dish with the egg mixture and allow to soak on each side for about a minute (let if you are using challah). Butter the griddle and lift the slices out of egg mix and let excess drip off. Cook on each for about 3 minutes, or until golden then flip and cook 3 minutes more. Transfer to a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack and place on a warm oven while you finish the rest. Repeat with the rest of the bread and egg mixture. In the mean time make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the bourbon. Serve the French toast dusted with powdered sugar, more butter and warm Bourbon Syrup.

Mediterranean Strata - Serves 6-8
Butter for the pan
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of salt and pepper
Sourdough Boule, 1/2 pound, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 6 cups
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 big handful baby spinach, or mature spinach chopped, about 1 cup
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Special Equipment:
2 quart baking dish

Butter your baking dish and set aside. Whisk together the eggs, milk, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Place the bread cubes in the pan and scatter the rest of the ingredients evenly over it, toss gently to combine and distribute. Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F and remove the strata from the fridge. Remove the plastic and bake on a sheet pan for about  35- 45 minutes or until it is puffy, golden and set in the center. Cover with foil if it begins to get too brown. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Winter Ambrosia - Serves 6-8
4-6 navel oranges, cut into supremes*
2  yellow fleshed grapefruit, cut into supremes*
2 ruby red grapefruits, cut into supremes*
1 cup Bing cherries, pitted and halved
1/3 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
2-3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

*To supreme means to cut the fruit out of the rind and pith into sections. The best way to do this is by cutting off both ends of the fruit. Set it cut side down and use your knife to go all the way around the fruit removing the rind. You should have a naked fruit, no rind and no pith (the white stuff). Now with the fruit in your hand (and over your mixing bowl, to catch any juice) take the knife and cut down each section between the pith that separates each one and scoop out the section and remove any seeds. Keep the guts of the fruit to squeeze for juice for the mimosas! Combine all of the ingredients and chill before serving.

Get Your Vegetables Bloody Mary
Black lava salt (or whatever good salt you have)
Wedges of lemon and lime
Your favorite vodka, about 1 1/2 ounces per drink
Your favorite Bloody Mary Mix (we used ours from Rosebud Restaurant)
Celery Bitters, optional
Hot Sauce (we used CHANTICO)
Cutting celery, celery, fennel fronds, pickled okra, olives, or cucumbers for garnish

Use a wedge of lemon or lime to run around rim of each glass. Spread the salt out evenly on a small plate. Dip the rim of each glass in the salt. Fill each glass with ice. Pour in vodka, bloody Mary mix and a few dashes of celery bitters and a few of the hot sauce. Stir to combine. Serve with your choice of garnish!

Citrus Mimosa
Leftover juice from insides of citrus used to make the Ambrosia.
1 bottle Champagne, Prosseco, or Sparkling wine

Place about 1 tablespoon of juice in each champagne flute and fill with bubbly! Enjoy!


  1. This brunch looks amazing! And the photos are the best part! I'm so glad you introduced me to your blog and I can't wait to make that Bloody Mary!! YUMMO :)

  2. Thanks Allie! Glad you had a chance to check it out. Enjoy…