What do you get when you take millions of people, a forced and temporary sense of filial piety, and a limited number of restaurants? You get brunch on Mother's Day, and it is not a pretty scene.
Late or forgotten reservations; hour-long waits in cramped lobbies even with said reservations; overwhelmed waitstaff; mediocre buffet food served by executive chefs whose best sous worked the Saturday night gravy train and are sleeping off their stress on Sunday morning.
I've yet to find anyone who actually enjoys going out to brunch on Mother's Day, but yet everyone puts on the grim sisu face and deals with an unpleasant three hours; they're buoyed somewhat by the omnipresence of cheap sparkling wine and Bloody Marys, but only somewhat.
In the immortal words of Jewish grandmothers everywhere: feh, who needs it? Why put your mother, wife or grandmother through it when there are any number of things you can make quickly and easily at home? Following are five recipes you can make to give your mother a brunch worthy of her role in your life; they're easily expandable, so you can give a party at home and save others the tribulations of eating out on Brunch D-Day.
1. Bread pudding
"That's dessert," you might sniff, and you'd be write; but make it in a loaf pan and slice it and you've got baked French toast that takes essentially no time at all. Find your favorite bread pudding recipe (it's just milk or cream, eggs, sugar and flavorings poured over cubes of slightly stale bread and maybe some raisins or dried cranberries). Pour the custard over the bread, cover it and put it in the fridge; you can press it down and bake it straight out of the fridge; just boost the temperature of your oven 25°F above the recipe's recommendations.
A frittata is just a crustless quiche. If you can make scrambled eggs, you can make quiche. Make a few; maybe one with sautéed leeks and goat cheese, or one with spinach and ricotta. Bacon and mushroom makes a nice hearty one, and you can even put very thin slices of potato in a quiche to make it more like a Spanish tortilla. This, too, can go straight from the fridge to the oven.
3. Roast beef
There's no reason to be frightened of roasting meat. Buy a tenderloin of beef (which is cheaper than you think when you buy the whole loin), season it with what seems like too much salt, and roast it at 350°F until the internal temperature in the middle is 135°F. Pull it out, let it rest 15 minutes, slice, and serve with horseradish sauce.
4. Blintz casserole
This is a bake-from-cold recipe for the Sandra Lee fans in the audience; you can take frozen cheese blintzes from the grocery store (or, if you're here in OC, tvorog-filled blintzes from Moscow Deli in Costa Mesa), and lay them in a buttered baking dish. For each 6 blintzes, mix together ½ cup sour cream, 1 tsp. vanilla, 4 eggs, ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup orange juice; pour it over the blintzes. Let it rest overnight, and bake straight from the fridge for 45 minutes at 350°F.
5. Bagel brunch
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So you really, really have an aversion to firing up your stove; it doesn't matter. We East Coast types are masters of the bagel brunch. Buy assorted bagels, lox and cream cheese from your local bagel store. Don't buy cream cheese with lox mixed in; it's chaloshes--that's "vomitous" in Yiddish--and you won't be fooling anyone. Slice some red onion and tomato very, very thinly, and put out a small dish of capers.
If you're really treating Mom, and you should be, get some appetizing. Appetizing is New York English for "dairy and fish things that get served with bagels." Smoked fish, eggplant salad, fruit salads, marinated herring, nuts, marzipan; all these belong on a great "appy table." Add some good, strong coffee and you're good to go.