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.
Cheesy Olive English Muffins is my favorite quick and easy recipe from the Breakfast & Brunch cookbook in the Country Kitchen collection. Like all recipes in this cookbook it is included as part of a multi-course brunch menu. It is recommended as a starter to accompany an Oyster and Bacon Omelet, melon balls, and Apricot Upside-Down Cake, but it’s perfectly satisfying on its own. It’s far from the 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. It belongs in the same family as a Welsh Rarebit, or even the infamous S.O.S. Chipped Beef on Toast. Using a good quality cheddar cheese makes quite a difference, and the pimento olives add a meatiness that obviates the need for ham or bacon. The final broil makes for a pleasing presentation and the comfort of a little bit of browned cheddar cheese.
I’ve made a few adjustments to the original recipe, mostly because I don’t have the wherewithal to conjure up a four course brunch most mornings. Or any morning. Sliced tomatoes add some substance and acid that counterbalance the richness of the cheese sauce. If you are serving Cheesy Olive English Muffins as part of a balanced, multi-course brunch the tomatoes may be omitted. I’ve also added some prepared horseradish to the cheese sauce to round out the flavors.
One day I’ll get around to trying the accompanying omelets and upside down cakes, but for now I just serve Cheesy Olive English muffins with a couple of crispy fried eggs. Paired with the meaty olives it gives off a low-rent Benedict vibe. This would also pair well with a fried slab of ham and fresh fruit. Enjoy!
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.