When I lived in France, there was no such thing as brunch. We would start our day with le petit déjeuner, which was quick and delicious — grab a croissant and coffee, or a slice of baguette with butter and jam and a cup of tea, and you were good to go.
Long, lazy brunches are an American concept, one that I’ve come to embrace. After an intense week, what could be more pleasant than relaxing with friends and grazing on delicious breakfast foods, from eggs to bagels? (Throw in a Bloody Mary or glass of Champagne, and the mood turns even more festive.) The secret to a great brunch, I’ve learned, is to combine sweet and savory dishes.
At home, I serve the meal buffet-style and give it a French twist. You can never go wrong with sweet crepes. To cut the sweetness a bit, though, I top them with a compote of orange marmalade blended with fresh grapefruit, lime, and orange. Tartines, or open-face sandwiches on crunchy toasted bread, are endlessly versatile. This version consists of multigrain bread topped with ricotta, scrambled eggs, lemon, garlic, and prosciutto. It’s a complete breakfast in miniature. I dare you to eat just one.
CREPES WITH THREE-CITRUS COMPOTE
Makes 12–15 crepes
2 egg yolks
2¾ cups whole milk
1¾ cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar, plus ¼ cup for dusting
Butter, for greasing the pan
1 grapefruit, zested and segments cut into chunks
1 lime, zested and segments cut into chunks
1 orange, zested and segments cut into chunks
⅓ cup orange marmalade, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 T mint leaves or edible flowers, such as pansies (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and milk until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk the flour and sugar until combined, and form a well in the center. Add the egg mixture to the well in four additions, whisking from the center outward each time to gradually incorporate the dry ingredients for a smooth batter. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and chill for at least 1 hour. The batter can be made the day before and refrigerated, covered, overnight.
Heat a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly butter the pan. Add ¼ cup batter and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until the crepe is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Loosen the edge with a spatula and quickly flip. Cook 1 minute more. Slide onto a plate and repeat with the remaining batter. When all of the crepes have been made, cover the stack with foil to keep warm.
In a small bowl, gently stir the citrus zests and segments with the marmalade.
To serve, fold the crepes into quarters and fan them around a platter. Spoon the compote over the top and dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with mint or flowers, if desired.
Makes 12 tartines
1½ cups whole milk ricotta
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
½ clove garlic, finely grated
Zest of ½ lemon
½ tsp. Tabasco
3 T butter
5 eggs, whisked well
Freshly ground white pepper
2 T whole milk
12 slices multigrain bread, toasted
6 slices prosciutto, torn in half lengthwise
½ bunch fresh watercress
In a bowl, whisk the ricotta, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, and Tabasco with 1 teaspoon of salt, until the oil is emulsified and the ricotta is light and smooth. Set aside.
In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the eggs, stirring constantly; season with salt and white pepper. When the eggs are half-cooked but still very runny, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the milk. The eggs should have the consistency of thick oatmeal.
To assemble the tartines, spread a tablespoon of ricotta onto each piece of toast. Top with a spoonful of the scrambled eggs and a strip of the prosciutto. Garnish with watercress and freshly ground white pepper.
WHAT TO DRINK
“One can never have too much wine on the table at brunch,” says Raj Vaidya, head sommelier at Daniel restaurant. “I like to offer options, especially when entertaining. A fruity Beaujolais, such as Julien Sunier’s Fleurie 2014 ($24), plays off the spicy Tabasco, white pepper, and watercress of the tartines. An off-dry German Riesling like Daniel Vollenweider’s Wolfer Goldgrube Kabinett 2013 ($29) pairs beautifully with the sweet citrus of the crepes.” And what is brunch without Champagne? Vaidya suggests Delamotte’s Brut non ‚vintage ($20). “It has a fruit-forward character—and despite being a brut, it’s not too dry for the crepes.”