On New Year’s Day, many people will not want to fuss too much in the kitchen, which is why a simple brunch is perfect. After a night toasting the old and ringing in the new, why not begin the New Year with an easy and relaxing brunch. Invite friends and family over. Food always plays a big role in Italian homes, so some of these brunch recipes are basic, while others are more elaborate. How much fun would it be to start off the day with a “cleanse” cocktail (no liquor). Look up one on a health food website and serve in a champagne flute. Your guests will get a kick out of it and they might even feel better if they celebrated a bit too much the night before. The recipes this week are just ideas, so don’t think that you should make all of them. Add one or two to your menu, add a nice organic green salad to your braised short ribs or Sicilian Pizza. Anyway you do it, just enjoy 2020 with family and friends.
Deep Dish Amarena Cherry French Toast
butter for greasing the baking dish
1 brioche loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 oz cream cheese, sliced into cubes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup Amarena cherries, liquid reserved
4 large eggs
1-1/4 cup eggnog
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp melted butter
confectionary sugar for dusting
Butter an 8 X 8 square baking dish. Place half of the bread cubes in a single layer, filling in all of the gaps. Evenly scatter the cream cheese, 3/4 cup of cherries and walnuts on top of the bread cubes and then cover completely with the remaining bread crumbs. Spread the remaining cherries on top.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, eggnog, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Evenly pour the mixture over the bread crumbs. Gently press down the cubes with your fingers.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the French toast for about 30 minutes, until the bread is puffed and browned and there is no more liquid at the bottom of the dish.
Transfer the dish to a rack and drizzle some of the reserved juice from the cherries and the melted butter on top. Run a knife around the rim of the pan to release the French toast. Cut into squares. Serve dusted with confectionary sugar and warm maple syrup.
Italian Brunch Torte
2 tubes (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent rolls, divided
1 tsp olive oil
6 oz fresh baby spinach
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
7 large eggs
1 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 lb prosciutto
1/2 lb thinly hard salami, thinly sliced
1/2 lb provolone cheese, sliced
2 jars (12 oz each) roasted sweet red peppers
Preheat oven to 350°F. Drain, slice and pat dry the red peppers and set aside. Place a greased 9-inch spring form pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inch square). Securely wrap foil around pan. Unroll one tube of crescent dough and separate into triangles. Press onto bottom of prepared pan to form a crust, sealing the seams well. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until set.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the spinach and mushrooms. Sauté and stir until the mushrooms are tender. Drain on paper towels, blotting well.
In a large bowl, whisk six eggs, the Parmigiano cheese, Italian seasoning and pepper. Layer the crust with half of each of the following: prosciutto, salami, provolone cheese, red peppers and spinach mixture. Pour half of the egg mixture over top. Repeat layers. Top with the remaining egg mixture.
On a work surface, unroll and separate remaining crescent dough into triangles. Press together to form a circle and seal seams; place over filling. Whisk remaining egg and brush over dough.
Bake, uncovered, 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until a thermometer reads 160°F, covering loosely with foil if needed to prevent overbrowning. Carefully loosen sides from pan with a knife; remove the rim from pan. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
Sfincione (Sicilian-Style Pizza)
For the dough
3 1/2 cups 00 flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water
1 tsp fine sea salt
about 1 cup water
For the topping
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
3 medium onions (thinly sliced)
6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
8 oz caciocavallo cheese
1 tbsp oregano, chopped
1-1/2 cups breadcrumbs
On a large cutting board, form the flour into mound with a center well. Add the dissolved yeast to the center well, along with the salt, followed by the water. Knead until the dough is of a consistent quality and form into a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add water a tablespoon at a time until the proper consistency is reached. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for at least 3 hours.
Heat the olive oil over low flame in a large skillet. Add the sliced onions and sauté until softened and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic, using a wooden spoon or spatula to help the tomatoes break down as they cook. Continue cooking until sauce is slightly thickened, another 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Spread the rested dough as a layer in the pan, about 1 inch high. Spread the anchovy pieces evenly over the dough and press in gently. Sprinkle about a quarter of the grated cheese over the crust, then cover evenly with a thin layer of the tomato sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, breadcrumbs and the oregano. Drizzle the top generously with more olive oil.
Bake until the cheese and breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Slice into squares and serve. Sfincione can be served hot or at room temperature.
Braised Short Ribs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 bone-in short ribs, cut 2 inches thick
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 celery ribs, sliced
3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 bottle dry red wine
4 sprigs thyme
3 cups veal stock
In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned and slightly charred, about 18-20 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a shallow baking dish, arranged in a single layer. In the skillet, add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Sauté over a low flame, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, 15-20 minutes.
Add the wine and thyme and raise the flame to high. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cook until the liquid reduces by 1/3. Pour hot marinade over ribs and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning the ribs once.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Transfer the ribs and marinade to a large, enameled cast-iron casserole dish. Add the veal stock and allow the liquid to come to a boil in the oven, then cover and cook in the lower third of the oven for 90 minutes, until the meat is tender, but not falling apart. Uncover and braise for 45 minutes longer, turning the ribs at least once, until the gravy is reduced by half and the meat is very tender.
Transfer meat to a clean, shallow baking dish; discard bones as they fall off. Strain the gravy into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off the fat. Pour the gravy over meat. Preheat the broiler. Broil the meat until short ribs meat comes off the bone.