How To Give Your Friends the Ultimate Holiday Brunch, Virtually
From invites to keeping your hollandaise warm, we have you covered.
Ah, the holiday brunch. Before 2020, this was the perfect way to celebrate the season with friends — seeing as you could sleep in and eat a meal that combines the deliciousness of both poached and deviled eggs with the potential for cocktails. Though this year has brought a lot of changes, with a little planning and a carton of eggs, you can still gift all your friends that experience with a virtual brunch. Read on for the best egg-forward recipes, chef-approved breakfast tips, and video-chat friendly party games to give your crew their best brunch yet, thanks to the gift of eggs.
Make it special with invitesThe good news about virtual brunch? You don’t have to make any reservations. The slightly bad news: You should send out invitations virtually. Since it’s a holiday brunch and you might be gathering friends and family from across the country, it’s good to give everyone plenty of notice and a set time to “show up.” Though brunch plans used to be done by text chain, a formal invite makes it a lot easier to include video conferencing links and proper time zone information so everyone’s eggs don’t get cold while figuring out how to log on. It also helps elevate the entire experience to feel a bit more special than your run-of-the-mill video conference. You can even deck it out with eggscellent breakfast puns, for example: did you know Christmas Day is on a Fry-day this year?
Share a sample menuBeyond taking the guesswork out of what to make for a holiday brunch, setting a shared menu will help you all feel a bit more connected, even if half of you are brunching from bed. Though you can stick with classics like waffles or eggs over easy, why not try something new like this brunch-inspired pastry ring, caprese egg muffins, or these spicy jalapeno deviled eggs? Make prep even easier by outlining a grocery list to accompany the menu so your friends can shop with ease.
If you really want to go all out while creatively knocking out some holiday gifts, arrange gift boxes for all the brunchers that you can ship or have them pick up curbside. Include the non-perishable items they’ll need to pull off the brunch, and hand-write out the recipes and shopping list for a personal touch. To top things off, arrange for prosecco delivery for celebratory mimosas. This holiday season calls for some extra pampering, and your friends will never forget it.
Tackle the big dishes the night beforeGuests may not be appearing in person, but even a virtual host has a packed schedule on Brunch Day. Choose a make-ahead item or two so you don’t have to spend the whole morning cooking. Even if you don’t complete a dish the night before, get the basic ingredient prep out of the way to simplify the morning’s cooking. This overnight French toast recipe, made with eggs, sourdough, and plenty of holiday spices, soaks overnight — so all you have to do day-of is pop it in the oven to enjoy a decadent entree that took almost zero day-of effort.
OVERNIGHT FRENCH TOAST
1 (1-pound) loaf sourdough bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
8 large eggs
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh berries such as strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, to serve
Maple syrup, to serve
Prepare a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place bread pieces or cubes in the prepared dish in an even layer.
In a medium bowl, add eggs, milk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine, then pour over bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap from the dish and bake 45-60 minutes, until desired texture.
Top with fresh berries, sprinkled confectioner’s sugar, and maple syrup, if desired.
Serve and refrigerate leftovers up to three days.
Poach the perfect eggNo brunch is complete without some poached eggs, but pulling them off at home can feel a little intimidating. Truth is, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Just add vinegar to the water! “The vinegar makes the eggs seize up when they hit the water and gives it that poached-egg texture,” says Chris Scott, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education and a Top Chef star. “Another trick is to stir the hot water to create a tornado effect right before you drop the eggs in. This will give the egg a rounded shape, rather than a flat shape.” Once you drop the egg in, let it cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. (Remember: additional eggs may require more cooking time.)
Make it saucyHollandaise sauce is like a banging album. It doesn’t come out often, but when it does, it’s a big deal and everybody loves it. A special holiday brunch is the best time to master this classic sauce. First, know that hollandaise sauce is an emulsion, made with butter and lemon juice that are held together by egg yolks. To get that silky texture, patience is key. First, start by whisking the yolks with water and lemon juice over low heat — making sure to keep the mixture moving constantly. (If the heat is too high, the egg yolks will overcook, leading to curdled sauce.) The butter should be cold and added gradually, which will slow the cooking process, too. The result will be a decadent hollandaise sauce that rivals the one at your regular brunch spot.
Keep it hotSo your food doesn’t get cold while you’re chatting, Scott suggests setting your oven to warm (under 140°F). That way, you can put your dish back in the oven and it’ll maintain its temperature without overcooking. For delicate items like hollandaise, keep the sauce on a double boiler over very low heat, and don’t pour it on the dish until you’re ready to eat. And instead of using a French press or making pour-over coffee, get out the old fashioned drip coffee maker. It keeps the coffee warm practically forever, so you can have a hot cup as brunch stretches into its fourth hour.
Let the games beginTo make sure the convo doesn’t devolve into “What have I been doing? Uh, hanging around the house mostly…” have a few games planned for the video hang. You could play virtual bingo or create a quiz specifically for the group. Take the nostalgic route and play a couple rounds of Never Have I Ever. (That might not be a great choice if your grandma is on the call, but hey, you never know!) With just a bit of planning and a delicious menu, virtual holiday brunch just might become a new beloved tradition.
Photo Credits: Photographer - Matthew Zach; Associate Creative Director - Colleen Lennon; Prop Stylist - Nicole Louie; Food Stylist- Micah Morton; Producer - Alex Friedlander