Mar. 15, 2016

Speed Up Easter Brunch Dishes

by Lisa Arnett

Ready to poach eggs like your life depends on it? Easter Sunday is just a couple of weeks away, and planning your menu with speedy execution in mind will help your kitchen brace for busy holiday service. “At the end of a four-hour shift, everyone is mentally and physically shot,” says Executive Chef Joe Palma of Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C. “The simpler you make things, the better off you are to make sure that the first dish looks like the last.”

EGGS YOUR WAY

On a fully booked holiday, any customizable dish is basically a death sentence. “You’ll literally have 30 diners and 20 different types of eggs,” Palma says. Standardizing dishes will streamline service and save your staff headaches. Palma suggests scrambling eggs in large pans and poaching eggs for Benedicts in advances and then finishing them in hot water.

BATCH IT UP

Developing a menu with ingredients your kitchen can make in bulk will save a ton of time. For Benedicts at SER Steak + Spirits in Dallas, Chef Kevin Spencer and his crew use a circulator to poach eggs in batches. He also tweaks other elements of the dish for speed. “Using a buttermilk-fried green tomato instead of a bread component gives a nice twist to the classic and a quick pickup with just a few minutes in the fryer,” Spencer says. He adds chervil for an herbal twist on traditional hollandaise, which his staff batches in advance and holds through service.

Bread-based dishes like waffles and French toast can also be prepped ahead of time and in large quantities, depending on expected traffic. “You can do a whole sheet tray of French toast, assuming you’re going to sell it in 20 minutes, which you probably will,” Palma says.

FINE-TUNE YOUR KITCHEN

Reworking each small step of service can ensure the speed and consistency crucial to crushing holiday brunch. For example, if you usually have one toaster for regular service, consider adding a second, and make sure all your breads are placed close by. “You’re not going to have that 20 minutes to regroup,” Palma says. “It’s 11:30 to 3:30 of just going hard.”

GO FOR DURABLE

For SER Steak + Spirits’ Easter brunch, Spencer plans to serve shrimp and grits with red-eye gravy made with local andouille sausage. “Grits are resilient, so they can be made in batches for quick pickup,” he says. In addition, shrimp cooks fast, and gravy can be made ahead of time and heated in batches.

Oatmeal has similar holding power to grits, says Sous Chef James Kerwin of Chicago’s Harvest, who plans to feature oats from local Baker Miller in the restaurant’s buffet. “You can make [oatmeal] ahead of time, and the quality is still going to be there,” Kerwin says. “It holds its heat very well.”

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