Today is my best friend’s birthday, so naturally I decided to write a post poking fun at him. Back in October, Chris and our friend Anthony came to Boston to see me for my birthday. Excited to have visitors after being in isolation for so long, I planned a three-course brunch to share with my friends.
I told Chris to expect a seasonal brunch, and much to my surprise, he replied something along the lines of “Brunch isn’t really a meal that can be seasonal.” What?! Of course brunch can be seasonal. Any meal can be seasonal, and I generally prefer when they are so. I then set out to prove him wrong. This is an example of a seasonal brunch, although it is not from the current season.
First Course – Maple Roasted Carrots with Glazed Pork Belly
Maple tapping season may be in the spring, but maple is a flavor that we often see pop up in the fall. The deep warm aroma pairs well with autumnal produce, like carrots. The recipe for the carrots comes from Chef Chris Douglass, the lead culinary instructor at BU. Olive oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes are combined to coat whole carrots with the tops trimmed to about an inch then roasted at 400. I like to let the carrots roast on their own for about 15-20 minutes prior to tossing with the glaze, or the sugar will burn too quickly. You want some char and caramelization, not a scorched pan.
I had some extra glaze and used that to mop a piece of pork belly that I also roasted at 400. The pork belly was seasoned with salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Both the carrots and the pork belly had this spicy-sweet balance, and the pork was juicy and tender. This was a lovely first course awakening our taste buds for what’s to come.
Second Course – Poached Egg Over Honey Nut Squash and Potato Hash with a Harvest Salad
I came up with the entree course based on what was leftover in the kitchen from that week’s culinary class, which happened to be radishes, fennel, chives, and honeynut squash. I decided to use the squash for a fall hash and serve it alongside a harvest salad with a mead vinaigrette.
For the hash, I diced the squash, 2-3 peeled russet potatoes, and a yellow onion. After softening the onions, I added the potatoes and squash and sautéed them until the potatoes were tender. The squash becomes soft and velvety while the potatoes provide texture. Honeynut squash looks like mini butternut squash, but it is sweeter. I love when they are in season. This squash in this hash made me want to wrap myself in a blanket with a pumpkin spice latte. Plus, the perfectly poached egg provided a yolky sauce that poured over the hash when cut open.
For the salad, I used a recipe for mead vinaigrette from The New England Cookbook, but I made up my own salad instead of using the one from the book. I chose mustard greens as the base and added thinly sliced fennel, honeycrisp apples slices, thinly sliced radishes, and candied pecans that have a sweet and spicy coating. To serve, I dressed the mustard greens in a bowl and divided that onto the four plates before topping with the other ingredients. If harvest salad doesn’t scream fall, then nothing will.
Dessert Course – Apple Cider Doughnut Cake
I learned how to make this cake during the culinary program and immediately fell in love. The recipe comes from BU’s pastry chef instructor Janine Sciarappa. I figured if I was making a seasonal brunch on my birthday, I should make a fall-themed cake. This cake is typically coated in an apple spice sugar topping. I opted to leave the cake naked and give it an even more decadent topping: apple spice whipped cream and apple cider caramel sauce. This cake is soft, tender, and moist. This may have been one of the best cakes I have ever made. I cannot wait for fall to come, so I can make this cake again.
So, I think it is safe to say that I proved Chris wrong. This was probably the most seasonal brunch I have ever had. Sure, eggs and potatoes can be used every day, but it is what you pair with the eggs that matters. If a brunch only includes eggs and potatoes, there’s such a missed opportunity to make the most of the meal. Bring seasonal produce and flavors into the meal, and your brunch game will soar to new levels.