I love that at weekend brunch, you can eat traditional lunch fare like salads, burgers and sandwiches or you can pick a meal reminiscent of breakfast and order omelets, French toast and home fries. Another thing that restaurant brunches have going for them is all you can drink mimosas or sangria. And finally, I’ve learned that a bread basket is a highly underrated element in the restaurant world.
There are plenty of restaurants that offer quasi-stale crusty Italian bread along with an entrée but that isn’t necessarily a good bread basket. It’s vanilla, there is nothing remarkable about stale dinner rolls made with white flour and warmed under a heating lamp seconds prior to serving.
A good bread basket has a nice variety of breads – white and wheat, rolls and slices, sweet and savory, salty and buttery. The best brunch-table bread basket might have some soft, fresh rolls and thick slices of crusty multigrain nestled between blueberry or bran mini-muffins and brioche. Soft, thick brioche that practically melts in your mouth with each bite and a savory, buttery crust.
Brioche is great on its own in a bread basket, when turned into indulgences like French toast or bread pudding or when sliced and eaten as a sandwich. Since brioche is sweeter than most yeast breads, I like to top or stuff it with savory fillings like ham, egg and sharp cheese.
I made Poor Man’s Brioche last week for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge and came up with a tasty sandwich creation that could easily moonlight as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Poor Man’s Ham, Egg & Cheddar
Makes 1 sandwich
2 slices Poor Man’s Brioche (from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Alliance) or your favorite brioche
2 slices deli-style ham (I used Applegate Farm’s Organic, cured without nitrates or additives)
1 egg, fried over easy
1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
Handful arugula or other mixed greens
1. Slice brioche into two even pieces and spread one side of each slice with dijon mustard.
2. In a small skillet or frying pan, cook egg as desired (I prefer over easy) until cooked through.
3. Top bottom half of brioche with a small handful of arugula – use as much or as little as you like. Top with 2 slices of ham, egg and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper, as desired. Serve with garden salad or mixed greens.