Who says dinner party has to be after 5? It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, even at 11 AM. This month I decided to have a ladies who brunch party with food from southern Spain. Prosciutto wrapped melon, green salad, Patatas Bravas with baked eggs, cornmeal pancakes, a cheese plate and mini flans.
Spanish food is in my wheel house; I grew up eating it, I know the ingredients and the techniques. Sort of. This menu is actually much easier than it sounds as most all of it can be made ahead of time and in steps.
Don’t over think this. Most of this meal is about eating with your eyes. Here are some confidence building tips:
- The salad is from a bag. Use whatever you like. I put in red onions and pomegranates to keep with the Spanish theme. Vinaigrettes take all of 5 minutes and whatever is in your fridge. Let the creative juices flow!
- The cornmeal pancakes are a box cornbread mix, mixed with pancake mix and a little extra milk.
- Buy sliced melon if its not in season. Wrapping these in prosciutto takes 5 minutes, 2 minutes if you layer instead. The natural sweetness of the melon highlights the smokiness and salty of the cured meat. They’re fun and easy to eat and aren’t super heavy. Because they aren’t a common party snack this appetizer sets the mood on the fancier side.
Back to the magic. Patatas bravas are amazing. This is the kind of dish that fixes everything and warms you from the inside. It’s spicy and savory and then when you least expect it, the paprika and tomatoes offer a lovely sweet touch to your palate. How could you not love that? And so I decided to add baked eggs for that extra somethin’, somethin’. Let the yolk break over the potatoes and sauce! Right! Except for having never made baked eggs. I over cooked them. It happens. I was a little afraid of giving people salmonella. Don’t do that and don’t be afraid. Add the eggs and have a home run when they’re done correctly. And it’s delicious.
This is also a great brunch dish because it can be finishing as guests are arriving and it’s a beautiful presentation. Going for a wow factor? This is what you serve.
Need to balance it out? Then wow them with mini flans. I find that people want to like flan but it’s texture weirds them out after a while. This is why I love mini things, you can have a bite, get the taste and creaminess without being overwhelmed by the softness of the custard or sweetness of the caramel sauce. I did find that my silicone mini muffin trays really served me well here. The flans popped out quite easily, I only lost one!
Your guests will be delighted and fulfilled with all the “work” you did. With this menu, the art is in the balance of flavors: salt, smoke and sweet.
Patatas Bravas with Baked Eggs
*Note: serves two, I tripled in the picture
- Olive Oil- 1 tbs.
- 1 Onion (chopped)
- 4 cloves sliced Garlic
- 1 Red Chilli minced, or chili pepper flakes to taste
- 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes diced
- Red Wine Vinegar- 1 tbsp.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Potatoes (boiled and cubed)- 2 medium
- Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
- Eggs- 1-2 per person
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Cut your potatoes into large cubes and parboil until soft but not falling apart. Drain and cool the potatoes. Set aside for later.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and cook chopped onion and sliced garlic over low heat until translucent. Add chili, canned tomatoes, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper, bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Blend in a food processor until smooth.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in an oven safe frying pan, preferably cast iron, and add your cubed potatoes, cooking until they are golden brown and crispy. Add the bravas sauce; you may have a little extra depending on the size of your pan. Make little wells in the sauce and potatoes and carefully crack your eggs into them. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Do not over cook. Once the the eggs are set, take them out, sprinkle them with chopped parsley.
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Be patient, it will get to that beautiful color but it does take a little while. If you think it’s done, compare to this. Spoon caramel into muffin pan cups. Working quickly, tilt cups, coating bottoms and part of sides. The pastry brush and spoon will help here.
In a medium sauce pan, stir milk and 1/2 cup sugar over low heat just until sugar dissolves (milk will be lukewarm). Whisk eggs in medium bowl until blended. Slowly whisk in milk mixture. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Strain custard into the muffin pan. You’ll see some of hardened caramel soften and some may float up. This isn’t the end of the world.
Place the muffin tins into a larger pan for a water bath. In my case they fit perfectly into a 9×13 pyrex. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake flans until just set in center, about 50 minutes depending on the size of the muffin cup. In this instance they baked quicker because of the min size. Remove cups from water and let stand 30 minutes. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. Cut around sides of each cup to loosen flan; turn out onto plate.