by Jesma Reynolds
photographs by Keith Isaacs
Brunch. It’s a tradition most food historians agree is as old as the 19th-century English field sport of foxhunting. Today, brunch is a hearty midday meal perfect for gathering friends and family to linger and enjoy each other’s company. Inspired by the grand breakfasts that followed the hunt, Walter visited the elegant home of John Hardy and Del Hannah, owners of antiques and interiors shop Trends ‘n Traditions, to gather a sumptuous feast of sweet and savory dishes. With contributions from Houston Loper of HL Catering Company, Tudi Jackson of Ladyfingers, and local chef Lee Fleming, a menu came together featuring several make-ahead dishes, all sure to prove useful over the holidays as out-of-town guests arrive hungry and ready to celebrate.
The tradition of brunch after a hunt, no matter the time of day, is as old as the hunt itself.
Sweet potato biscuits with country ham
Pimento cheese and bacon jam with toasted French bread rounds
Bacon and Gruyere crustless quiche squares
Upside-down French toast casserole
Shrimp and grits pie
Asparagus, cherry tomato, and feta salad
HL Catering Sweet Potato Biscuits with Country Ham
3 sweet potatoes, roasted then peeled and mashed, or 3 cups of canned, mashed sweet potatoes
3 packages dry yeast
¾ cup warm water
7 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups shortening
1 stick butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 pounds shaved country ham
Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl, stir to dissolve yeast, then let stand for 5 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the mixing bowl for a standing mixer. Using the pastry hook attachment to standing mixer, cut in the shortening to the dry ingredients. Add the sweet potatoes and yeast mixture, then mix on low until all the ingredients are combined. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out refrigerated dough to ½-inch thick, then cut with 1- or 2-inch round cutter, depending on biscuit size preference. Place on ungreased baking sheets, cover, and let rise in warm place until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake risen dough rounds for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting in half.
In a saucepan, melt together butter and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Spread mixture on both cut sides of the biscuits, then fill each biscuit with country ham. Wrap biscuits by the dozen in aluminum foil and freeze until day of use.
To serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees, then bake inside the aluminum foil for 20 minutes or until hot all the way through. Serve warm.
HL Catering Upside-Down French Toast Casserole
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grease a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a saucepan, melt together brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup, then pour into baking dish. Arrange slices of bread on top of brown sugar mixture so that the bread fits tightly. Beat together eggs, milk, and vanilla, then evenly pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake refrigerated dish for 30 minutes. To serve, cut out slices and invert individual servings onto plates, so the side with the sugar is up.
HL Catering Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jam with Toasted French Bread Rounds
For pimento cheese:
4 cups cheddar cheese, finely shredded
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ cup mayonnaise
4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Make pimento cheese: With an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese, then add cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and spices, and mix until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
For bacon jam:
1 package regular cut bacon, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ can Coca-Cola
Salt, pepper, and granulated garlic to taste
1 loaf French bread, thinly sliced
Olive oil, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic to taste (for toast)
Make bacon jam: In a sauté pan, cook bacon over medium heat until thoroughly cooked and crispy, being careful not to overcook. Remove the bacon and set aside, then drain the bacon grease. In the same pan, cook down the onions until caramelized, stirring frequently, for about 5-8 minutes until translucent. Deglaze the pan of onions with the Coca-Cola and add brown sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add the cooked bacon, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens to a jam consistency. This can be served room temperature or warm, and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
In a bowl, drizzle slices of French bread with olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and granulated garlic to taste, and toss until evenly coated. Lay on sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees until crisp, about 10 minutes. These should be made no more than the day before serving.
To serve all three together: The pimento cheese and bacon jam can be displayed in separate serving dishes, or as a layered dip, or as a cheese ball with the pimento cheese as the base and topped with the bacon jam. Serve with the French bread rounds.
Lee Fleming’s Asparagus, Cherry Tomato, and Feta Salad
2 pounds of asparagus
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
8-ounce block of feta, crumbled
Snap asparagus in two and discard tough bottom ends. Dice asparagus into three or four one-and-a-half-inch pieces. Cook in salted, slow-boiling water for about 90 seconds until crisp -tender. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Toss asparagus and tomatoes with homemade balsamic dressing in a bowl, and let marinate for 6 hours or longer. Right before serving, mix in crumbled feta, leaving a little to garnish on top.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
⅔ cup olive oil
In a jar, combine mustard and balsamic vinegar and shake well. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil and shake well again.
Lee fleming’s Bacon and Gruyere Crustless Quiche Squares
½ cup melted butter
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
10 slices of crisply cooked bacon, roughly chopped
1 pound shredded Gruyere
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
Melt butter and allow to cool. Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add the melted butter that has been cooled for a couple of minutes. Mix in remaining ingredients and pour into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish coated with nonstick spray.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 – 20 more minutes, until middle is firm and set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 15 -20 minutes before cutting into 12 serving-size squares. This is good warm and also at room temperature. It can also be cooked the day before and slowly reheated for serving the next day.
Ladyfingers Shrimp and Grits Pie
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
4 tablespoons scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry white wine
¼ cup grits
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 slices bacon, crumbled
¾ pound sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Texas Pete hot sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup sour cream
One pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté shrimp in bacon drippings with salt and pepper, half of the lemon juice, half of the Texas Pete, and 1 tablespoon of the garlic for 1 minute. Set aside.
Sauté mushrooms in leftover bacon drippings and add salt and pepper to taste, then add remaining garlic and wine. When wine has cooked off, add remaining Texas Pete and lemon juice. Set aside.
Boil 1 cup water with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in grits and slowly bring to a boil, remove from heat, and stir for 10-15 minutes. Stir in sour cream and ¾ cup of the cheese. Pour grits into aerated pie crust. Top with shrimp, mushrooms, remaining cheese, bacon crumbles, and chopped scallions. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or freeze for up to a month.
For more information:
Trends ‘n Traditions