I used to work with a clever and talented young editor who always said that cooking was easy; shopping was hard. It can be a pain in the backside, true enough. I mean, we’ve all seen the parking lot at Trader Joe’s–any Trader Joe’s. I subscribe to the search-and-destroy approach to shopping. I like to get in and get out. And I start with a list.
For a Thanksgiving weekend brunch, we put together the following menu and posted the recipes:
Here’s what you need to buy for that menu:
ready-made appetizer of your choice (or not, also your choice)
1 quart milk
one dozen eggs
eight croissants (or one per person)
1 or 2 pounds bacon (or turkey sausage or Morningstar tofu patties, or…)
16 ounces soft cream cheese
syrup or syrup ingredients (sugar and cinnamon sticks)
powdered sugar if you want to serve it
fresh fruit: grapes, oranges, strawberries, melon (we found all of these at our local farmers market)
2 Bartlett pears
4 ounces Cambozola
light-flavored oil, preferably walnut
mild vinegar, preferably champagne but rice vinegar is also fine
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
either a ready-made pie crust or the ingredients to make one: flour and butter
Check it twice. I’m assuming you’ve got serving bowls and baking pans and measuring cups. If not…well, see Hazel’s advice about hitting Ross Dress for Less or Marshalls or your friendly neighborhood thrift shop. Or have a fabulous time at Surfas, Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma…. You know your budget and your ambitions better than we do.
Shop for groceries at least a day before you plan to serve. Trying to do everything the morning of a brunch is the road to madness. Ideally, you have most of your supplies well in advance and can get the house ready the day before, including making a centerpiece.
We’re partial to the many terrific farmers markets here in Los Angeles, and if you share that enthusiasm, you know thatyou have to schedule your produce shopping around the day of the market. We broke our own rules and dashed off to the Sunday market in Encino (I figured we had time–brunch at 11:30, market opens at 8:00–and I wanted genuinely fresh greens). We were lucky: we found end-of-season fruit–a gorgeous honeydew melon and the last of the Seascape strawberries–as well as grapes and salad greens. And then we dashed home to assemble our salads.
The French toast, however, is best made earlier in the day so it can absorb the egg mixture and transmogrify into something more delicious than the sum of its parts.
*With all due apologies to Alfred Bester and his classic science-fiction novel