Tips for Planning an Easter Brunch for a Crowd

Celebrating Easter brunch can be very special and loads of fun… personally for me, breakfast foods and even some main “lunch” type meals are among my favorite foods. I always try to keep it simple with as many do-ahead food items as possible… I’m a firm believer in not slaving in the kitchen while family and friends are enjoying the party.

Deciding on the Menu

Now is the time to start thinking about a menu. Things to think about:

The first consideration is just how big the party will be. The bigger the guest list… the more you need to concentrate on buffet type items and not individually cooked food items. More on this topic in a moment.

Another consideration is timing… is everyone arriving at the same time…. or will guest be wandering in over a time period… like an open house.

How many ovens and their size do you have…. How many things can you bake at once or keep hot in them.

Do you have the necessary equipment to keep hot foods hot… and cold ones cold.

Dietary restrictions and food preferences of the guests. Let’s face it… as nice as some gourmet foods are… if Uncle Charlie and Aunt Mabel and their brood …. don’t like odd food ingredients.. don’t bother killing yourself making things they won’t touch… maybe include an item or two that’s different that they may try… but nothing is worse than working hard … then having guests leave hungry and leaving you with tons of expensive leftovers.

Just another note on that topic… nothing drives me crazier than all those food sites, mostly the professional ones, that concentrate on foods that have exotic, expensive and hard-to-get ingredients that most people can’t even pronounce …let alone know what they are … and unusual flavor combinations… sure I like to throw something different on a menu … but it’s one item… maybe two… not the whole darn menu. I think it reeks from the “I’m so special and you’re not syndrome”. I truly dislike pretentious food… I like to serve favorites that people will really enjoy….. (I’m stepping off my soap box now).

Many restaurant buffets offer a variety of food types after all … it is brunch… and that will include lunch… a salad… maybe some fruit…and an entrée or two is very appropriate for a larger crowd. In fact… if you have a favorite place to go for brunch… take your cues from their assortment…

If you serve something like a stroganoff with noodles or rice… and want to serve another alternative… try to pick something that will go well with the noodles or rice… perhaps a seafood alternative…

I always serve desserts… we all have a sweet tooth… and well… a holiday celebration isn’t a celebration without sweets… I like to make these small… have a variety… and make them look special.. miniature pastries, miniature cheese cakes and cupcakes… are among my favorites.

Don’t forget beverages….juices… cold soft drinks… possibly include alcoholic ones…and of course, tea and coffee. Mimosas and Bloody Marys are terrific… or find another fruity drink… try to pick something that you can put in a pitcher and let guests serve themselves… If serving alcoholic beverages… make a “virgin” alternative so those driving or those not wanting alcohol can enjoy the special drinks.

What not to serve:

Recently I was watching an older episode of the Barefoot Contessa … in the episode she was recounting some of her party “disasters”… one of which was a party where she made omelets… for something like 15 people… a total disaster… they took too long to make… so people were waiting for theirs while others were eating… she was running around like crazy… it was a “never-again” moment for her.

I had to chuckle to myself… we all have those “never-again” moments… I certainly did… a number of times with different food items… I, too, made the omelet mistake. As I was running around like a chicken without my head… I had one of those …DUH moments… all I could do was laugh.

So unless you have a chef at your party … maybe two of them… leave omelets off the menu. A perfect alternative to omelets would be frittatas … they bake while you do other things…

Poached eggs are another one I would probably stay away from…. although… it depends on the size of your crowd…

I have an egg poacher that does 6 eggs at a time… which is probably the max amount you can make if you’re making them in boiling water …. they only cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on how runny you like the egg white and yolk… so it is still a possiblility.. the decision to serve them will depend on how many other last minute things you need to do.

I once went to a restaurant brunch.. a fairly upscale restaurant… they included poached eggs on the buffet…. they were “lined-up” in a large buffet pan that was heated… admittedly the yolks were almost hard… but some people like them like that… I personally don’t… I like a runny yolk.

Getting started:

Make lists!

So pour yourself a cup of coffee… grab a pad and pen… and go idea hunting… peruse the archives here and elsewhere… see something you like... write it down… list where you saw it… and when you’re done…

Group the items by type… breakfast item… lunch item… dessert and beverage. Then look over the list and mark the ones that can totally be made ahead… those that need to bake… those that require the stove-top … the microwave… etc.

Start picking items that will fit into your budget… consider dietary restrictions and preferences… what items will go well together… eggs, meat, potatoes, casserole types, pancakes, bread or pastry types, desserts etc… and your menu will make itself!

Come back often during the next two weeks… I’ll have more ideas for different size celebrations, tips and recipes for you to consider… have fun planning!

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