Another entry from Jean Childress’ Country Kitchen Collection, Breakfast and Brunch is a short selection of brunch recipes in Ms. Childress’ familiar hand-lettered calligraphy. The epigraph gives the flavor of what’s to come:
a delightful, relaxed way to entertain or to give the family a weekend treat. Less time consuming than an evening meal, brunch is an easy and fun way to start a day of skiing, sailing, swimming, or antiquing
In my family, brunch is an excuse to sleep late and gorge yourself on breakfast food and not stumble out of the house until well past noon.
Unlike her other cookbooks, Breakfast and Brunch is conceived as a selection of nine different multi-course brunch menus. Each menu generally includes a fruit or vegetable, a starch, a protein, and a sweet – sometimes paired with a cocktail. In keeping with the spirit of the Country Kitchen Collection, individual recipes can usually be prepared in under an hour. An ambitious home cook, working in parallel, might be able to assemble brunch for six in under ninety minutes. The menus are wonderfully varied and skillfully avoid basic breakfast standbys. There are a couple of simple scrambles and breakfast sandwiches, but also breakfast breads and salads. Some menus include mini-recipes for simple pairings like a medley of melon balls or a quick fruit salad.
The individual recipes are bright and fresh and usually low effort. There’s an excellent “guacamole” recipe, which is served on pita squares. I’ve used quotation marks because the inclusion of cream cheese means this is more of an avocado sauce than a true guacamole, but a dish need not be authentic to be delicious. There’s a sweet and citrusy tropical chicken salad, paired with strawberry daiquiris and sweet breakfast breads. And one of my favorites is Eggs Annapolis, which is similar to an Eggs Benedict, but with crab meat and Swiss cheese. (no need to make a tricky Hollandaise). A variant of Lemon-Blueberry Bars from Cookie Cookbook appears, paired with a Sausage Spinach Bread and Sangria. There’s also a version of Chipped Beef on Toast, with a Worchestershire-seasoned white sauce and served on rye.
The recipe, though, that I enjoy most in Breakfast & Brunch is Cheesy Olive English Muffins. In the book it’s paired with an Oyster and Bacon Omelet, melon balls, and an Apricot Upside-Down Cake, but it’s perfectly satisfying on its own. It’s not the tastiest or most sophisticated recipe in the book, but it captures everything I love about Breakfast & Brunch and encapsulates Ms. Childress’ approach to cooking.
The recipe is straightforward – it’s a simple white sauce with cheddar and olives served over English muffins, essentially a simple breakfast sandwich. The pimento olives are a charmingly retro inclusion, but they add a meatiness that obviates the need for ham or – dare I say – bacon. The final broil makes for a pleasing presentation and the comfort of a little bit of browned cheddar cheese.
I’ve added sliced tomatoes and a little bit of horseradish to round out the flavors. If you don’t have the wherewithal for the recommended four course brunch, serve with a couple of crispy sunny-side up eggs.
Breakfast & Brunch is no longer in print and is not consistently available on the used market.
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup pimento olives (chopped)
- 1/8 tsp hot sauce (Crystal or Tabasco brand work well)
- 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
- 1 tsp prepared horseradish
- 6 thick slices tomato
- 3 English muffins
- freshly ground black pepper
- Melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour to form a roux and continue stirring until lightly browned.
- Drizzle in milk, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add seasonings and stir a couple of times, then add cheese and olives. and continue cooking and stirring until cheese is melted.
- Slice English muffins in half. Place a tomato slice on each muffin, then top with the cheese sauce. Place under a hot broiler 2-3 inches from the heat and broil until bubbly.