For longtime friends and dinner companions, I'm happy to take requests or menu ideas. Sometimes it's to fix a favorite dish, or sometimes it's because I need some external inspiration to break out of a rut. A while back Lady A had requested breakfast for dinner, and I finally got the chance to put it in action.
The concept isn't that unusual, and I make omelets for dinner all the time. And brunch is an elaborate affair with tons of different dishes. But putting together a few courses is a little tougher. You can't go too heavy on various breads, and you can't just keep trucking out various egg preparations. And no, I wasn't going to serve an amuse-bouche of Froot Loops in a large spoon.
For the first course, I chose a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. Very simple, just baby spinach leaves, crumbled bacon, sliced button mushrooms, walnuts, and a red wine vinaigrette mixed with hot bacon grease. Right before serving, toss everything together until the leaves just start to wilt and the mushrooms get just barely cooked.
It's hearty, but not too filling, and while not typically associated with breakfast, it was a fun way to fulfill the bacon requirement. Since this was a dinner thing, I skipped the traditional breakfast beverages in favor of wine. Here a crisp Chilean Sauvignon Blanc cut through the savory bacon grease. (I'm saving the full wine notes for a separate post.)
Next up, fruit and cheese to clear the palate...
I've served something like this in the past--pears with a disc of soft goat cheese, drizzled with honey. Here I served the thinly sliced d'Anjou pears with a mix of ricotta, honey, sea salt, and topped it all off with a dusting of grated nutmeg. It's sweet, creamy, and a little rich, but not too filling. Again, my goal was to avoid a lumberjack-style breakfast. That kind of cooking is a lot better for large groups, where you can keep things warm in the oven and let people serve themselves.
The main course was the show stopper: Eggs Hussarde. It's a variation of Eggs Benedict developed at the legendary Brennan's in New Orleans, and I mostly followed their recipe. The main difference is the addition of marchand de vin sauce, a savory beef and wine sauce that gives it a deeper, earthier flavor. Making two classic French sauces for one course is a lot of work, but fortunately the marchand de vin holds pretty well when covered and set over the lowest setting on the stove.
From there it's pretty standard: poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and Hollandaise. I used English muffins instead of Holland rusks, and I put the marchand de vin directly on top of the toasted muffin slices. (If you pour it on top of the ham, it will run off onto the plate. Purely an aesthetic choice, because once you pierce the poached egg everything starts to run together anyway.) When I make Hollandaise I almost always make asparagus. You've already got a pot of water going for the double boiler, and the two taste great together, so why not? Eggs Hussarde is also traditionally paired with grilled tomatoes (sometimes tucked under the ham). The end result was amazing, but I can't imagine making it first thing in the morning. I paired this course with a Chilean Pinot Noir, which was a good balance, and since I used some of it to make the marchand de vin, it was nice to layer those flavors.
A couple of hours later we'd recovered enough for dessert, some delicious cinnamon rolls that Lady A brought along with her. All in all a success, and a fun change of pace. I think next time I might try something like frittata and stuffed crepes, or a lighter, more elegant version of the Full English breakfast.