Chefs' Picks: Brunch for a Crowd

We chatted with a handful of chefs to get the scoop on their best crowd-pleasing brunch dishes to end the holidays on a delicious note.

Photo by: Nicole Franzen

Nicole Franzen

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.  

The presents have been opened and the holiday dinner digested. But how do you keep guests sated in the days after the big event? We chatted with a handful of chefs to get the scoop on their best crowd-pleasing brunch dishes to end the holidays on a delicious note.

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

Chef Craig Koketsu currently serves up a smaller version of this butternut squash bread pudding at his restaurant Quality Eats in New York City, but thinks it’s the perfect dish to serve up for a large group. "This is one of those great dishes for feeding a crowd — you can multiply the amounts easily, and you can even serve it directly from the casserole dish that you bake it in!" he says. "This is a twist on a traditional bread pudding — it's comforting and savory, but it also has a sweeter element from the butternut squash, which makes it interesting.”

Quality Eats Butternut Squash Bread Pudding
12 cups brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup leeks, cut into 1/2-inch squares, washed well and drained
Salt, sugar and cayenne, for seasoning
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon thyme
3 large eggs
1 yolk
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Emmentaler, grated
1/2 cup Comte, grated
1/2 cup aged Gouda, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread brioche cubes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool; transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Heat a wide-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add butter, squash and leeks, and sweat. Add thyme and season with salt, sugar and cayenne. Cook until squash is tender. Pour leeks and squash over the toasted brioche cubes.

In another bowl, whisk eggs, yolk, milk and cream together. Season with salt and a little sugar.

Mix grated cheeses together; set aside 1/2 cup of the cheese mix.

Toss the remaining cup of mixed cheeses into the bowl with brioche, squash and leeks, and mix well to evenly distribute ingredients.

Big Crowd Eggs

Chef Sarah Welsh, from the modern breakfast-only Detroit diner Parks & Rec, has a foolproof dish to feed the masses that has become a Christmas morning tradition for her family. “We make this before we open gifts," she says. "It is my Aunt Julie's recipe from a book she used to write for her church back in the day when she was the preacher’s wife. I used this recipe as an inspiration for the Smoked Leek Strada recipe served in Parks & Rec Diner.” The dish can be customized with ingredients you have on hand.

Sarah Welsh’s Big Crowd Eggs
8 eggs
3 cups of milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup shredded cheese
8 sausage links
1 cup ham, cooked
8 slices bacon, cooked
8 slices of bread, cubed
1 cup of Swiss cheese
Any additional ingredients

Place cubed bread in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Cover with meat, sprinkle with cheeses. In a separate bowl whisk together milk, eggs, butter and mustard, and pour over cheese and meat in pan. Cover and chill overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes until bubbly.

Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

Who doesn’t love biscuits? For the meat-centric Chicago restaurant and butcher shop Chop Shop, biscuits aren’t complete without a bit of bacon, of course (they use the slabs from the butcher shop). The flaky disks are served with maple-bourbon butter, but it’s easy to make it without the booze by mixing maple syrup with butter at room temperature for a family-friendly twist. For similar flavor, try Sunny Anderson’s speedy paprika-spiced version, or Kelsey Nixon’s bacon-cheddar-chive biscuits, made fluffier with buttermilk.

Korean Fried Chicken & Waffles

Chef Dale Talde, of his Brooklyn namesake restaurant, Talde, likes to make his houseguests Kung Pao Chicken Wings and Waffles, an Asian-American favorite from his restaurant’s brunch menu. Some of the preparation can be done the night before so guests aren’t waiting too long for the sweet, spicy, sticky dish.

Chef Dale Talde’s Korean Chicken Wings and Waffles with Coconut Brown Butter Syrup

For the Kimchee Yogurt:
4 cups Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
4 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
2 tablespoons paprika

For the Chicken and Batter:
1 pound chicken wings

First Fry Rice Flour Batter:
3 1/2 cups rice flour

2 1/2 cups water         

Second Fry Tempura Batter:
3 1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 cups water
1 tablespoon paprika

Mix all the kimchee yogurt ingredients together until incorporated; reserve 1 1/2 cups for serving in a separate bowl. Marinate the chicken wings in the remaining yogurt overnight, storing in the refrigerator.

When ready to fry the chicken, remove it from the marinade, dredge in rice flour batter and fry at 280 degrees F until 90 percent cooked, about 6 minutes. Drain on a wire rack, letting the first layer of batter crisp and dry.

Then dip the chicken in the tempura batter and deep-fry at 350 degrees F until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on a wire rack and serve on top of waffles with coconut brown butter syrup.

Waffles
1 packet (.25 oz) dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 cups milk
2 each eggs
1 teaspoons salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Combine warm water with the sugar and dry yeast and allow to sit until it bubbles and the top becomes foamy. Add yeast to a mixing bowl and pour in the milk and eggs. Whisk until incorporated, and add the flour and salt and whisk until smooth. Drizzle in melted butter while whisking. Cover the bowl and allow proofing for at least 3 hours or overnight. The next morning, prepare with waffle iron on medium heat. Add the baking soda to the waffle batter and pour into waffle iron. Cook until golden brown and crispy.

Coconut Brown Butter Syrup
8 ounces butter, cold
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons salt

Cube the cold butter and brown over a low heat until it is foamy and smells nutty, then strain. In a separate pot combine brown sugar and water and cook over low heat until a candy thermometer reads 225 degrees F. Combine brown butter and caramel, and whisk together. Add salt and vanilla extract.

Photos courtesy of  Dan De Los Monteros, Nicole Franzen, Sarah Welsh and Talde Restaurant

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