If you’ve ever hosted a large meal at your house, you’ve probably experienced a moment of panic when you’re certain it won’t come together in time. Maybe the custard broke, you forgot to buy an important ingredient, or the roasted veggies are edging dangerously close to charred. Despite the momentary meltdown, the meal usually turns out fine and your guests are none the wiser. But why go through that kitchen crisis at all if you can avoid it? Hosting a meal – in this case brunch – should be enjoyable for you and your guests. You should have time to relax, mingle, and – crazy as it might sound – actually eat something yourself.
Most hosts tend to get overly ambitious now and then in an effort to make an impressive meal. It’s understandable; individual, perfectly risen soufflés in little porcelain ramekins are always preferable to frozen waffles, but it is possible to find a balance between simple preparation and show-stopping spreads. In fact, there are really only three rules that, if followed, should give you the best of both worlds.
Rule #1: Anything that can be done in advance should be.
The best strategy for avoiding an unreasonably early morning of hurried, stressful cooking is to leave very little to do when you wake up. Some baked items like scones and biscuits can be mixed, shaped, and kept on a baking sheet in the freezer days before your brunch. Setting the table the night before means one less thing to do before your guests arrive. Look for other ways to prep ahead of time, and enjoy that extra hour of sleep.
Rule #2: Choose recipes you can make in batches.
It’s hard to socialize with your guests if you’re flipping pancakes all morning or whipping up omelets for one person at a time. Whether you’re making cocktails or food, try to choose recipes that yield multiple servings per batch, like a pitcher of frosé or a 12” frittata (both recipes below).
Rule #3: Don’t hesitate to delegate.
As host, you’ll probably be doing post of the prep work and cooking, but that doesn’t mean you have to take on everything yourself. If you didn’t get a chance to set out plates and silverware the night before, assign the job to someone else. Have a friend who was a former bartender? Ask if they’ll take on cocktail duty for a while. You’ll find people are generally more than happy to pitch in, even when it comes time to clean up after the meal.
Build Your Brunch Menu
We collected a few recipes that can be made ahead or in batches. Use this list as a starting point when building your menu, add your own favorites, and find other breakfast and brunch options in our recipe center.