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Celebrate the season with brunch

  • Chef Annie Simmons, center, teaches how to make crispy potato cakes with fried apples during her Splendid Holiday Brunch cooking class at Ramekins in Sonoma on Sunday, December 1, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Hosting a cozy brunch provides a good excuse to gather together with loved ones during the winter holidays, when precious sunlight is at a premium.

Whether you sit down with family on Christmas morning or throw an impromptu brunch with friends, hosts can toast the season with sparkling mimosas and a sunny menu of simple, savory dishes.

"I love to celebrate different occasions with brunch and make it really fun and decadent," said Annie Simmons, who gave a festive Holiday Brunch class at Ramekins in early December. "People tend to relax at brunch, because it's the beginning of the day."

Holiday Brunch Ideas

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As the brunch's first course, Simmons chose a few of the season's brightest flavors to whet appetites, slicing up a Fresh Citrus Compote with Honey and Mint.

"I love to use citrus because it's so beautiful this time of year," she said, while cutting up ruby grapefruit, blood oranges and tangerines. "I like to add a little bit of honey because it brings out the floral quality of the citrus."

For the requisite mimosas, Simmons puts pomegranate juice and candied hibiscus blossoms into the sparkling wine, providing an extra splash of color and flavor.

Her menu's main course — Baked Eggs with Chanterelles, Herbs and Cream — takes advantage of the wild mushroom season now underway in the Pacific Northwest.

"Chanterelles are one of my favorite things in the world," Simmons said. "They have a nice texture and a delicate flavor that's earthy and apricot-y."

Simmons wiped the mushrooms clean, then chopped the stems and tore the cap into pieces before sauteing them with olive oil and a splash of Marsala wine.

"I found Marsala and chanterelles have a very happy relationship," she said. "When it's almost cooked off, you add some cream."


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