Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bridal Shower: Part II

This past weekend I celebrated my friend Nicole’s bridal shower with my group of eight girlfriends from college.  The shower was held in D.C. at my friend Melissa's house, and we all traveled in for the occasion.  As I previewed in my first post about the shower, I was in charge of the menu for the brunch, but everyone helped with the cooking.  The day of the shower we all woke up at 9:00, put on a giant pot of coffee, and got to work.  We divided up tasks, Sarah electing to be in charge of the pancetta and spinach strata, Hallie chopping fruit for the salad and Liz whipping up the blueberry crumb cake.  Others ran to the bagel store or continually washed dishes.  I made the muffin batter and sweet and spicy bacon, and a couple of us pitched in for the Gruyere and chive egg custard. We also made a simple arugula salad with a red wine dressing, a fruit salad of melon and berries and a lox platter with sliced red onion and tomato.

Though there was a brief bowl shortage, everything went off without a hitch. This was largely due to our combined efforts and to the double oven, which at one point was cooking three dishes simultaneously.  The two sweet items were baked a few hours in advance, while the egg dishes and bacon were cooked right before serving.  Somewhere between all the chopping and mixing we got dressed up and poured a few mimosas.

The food was all finally done at 1:00. We all sat crowded around a giant table, the tablecloth barely visible underneath all the food. The brunch began with a flurry of plates being passed and drinks being poured.  Eventually everyone’s plates were filled and we dug in.

Everything was delicious.  The egg custard was unlike any egg dish I've eaten before.  It was very light, almost like a cross between an omelet and a souffle.  It was nsanely simple and insanely tasty.   The strata was also very good, and quite different from the custard.  The top was crisp and the inside creamy.  The arugula salad went very well with both of the egg dishes, the acid cutting through all the richness.  Inevitably, the sweet and spicy bacon disappeared quickly.

We worked their way through the savory dishes to the crumb cake and lemon raspberry muffins.  The muffins were very light and fresh, not dense at all. The raspberries had exploded into the batter in the oven, spreading their juice throughout the muffin.  I think I preferred the crumb cake however, moist and rich with a crunchy topping, the blueberries settled in a layer along the bottom.  

Not only was the food fantastic, the meal was wonderful.  An Ella Fitzgerald album played softly in the background and we all felt very classy.  Everyone ate too much, and, for a rare two hours, we slowed down and paired our food with conversation and laughter.  Most importantly, the bride to be had a great time. 

Later when plates were piled high in the sink, we put on more danceable music and all pitched in to clean up.  Eventually we sadly packed our suitcases and put muffins and lox sandwiches in our bags for the road.  Sitting at in the airport terminal that night, I couldn't help but feel incredibly lucky to have shared this perfect meal with such fantastic and inspiring friends.  

Pancetta and Spinach Strata
From Giada de Laurentiis
Olive oil
1/4 lb. thinly sliced pancetta, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed with the excess water squeezed out
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
8 c. cubed Italian bread, about 1 lb.
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
3 c. whole milk
10 eggs
1.  Coat a large frying pan with 2 tbs. olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Saute the pancetta until crisp, and remove using a slotted spoon to a bowl.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the spinach and garlic.  Cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is tender.  Transfer to bowl with panceta.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and the nutmeg.

2. Place half of the bread in a 9x13 (3 quart) baking dish.  Cover with half of the Parmesan, then half of the pancetta-spinach mixture.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.
3. Combine the milk, eggs and remaining salt and pepper in a bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Pour over the bread.  Cover and chill the strata for at least 2 hours, up to 12.

4. Preheat the oven to 350.  Remove the strata from the refrigerator and bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve. 

Baked Egg Custard with Chives and Gruyere
From Gourmet

2 c. grated Gruyere
1/2 c. chives, chopped
10 eggs
1-1/2 c. whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 2 quart baking dish.  Cover the bottom with the Gruyere and chives.
2. Combine eggs, milk, cream cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Either blend or mix until smooth (ours never got entirely smooth, but this wasn't a problem).

3. Pour the egg mixture over the Gruyere.
4. Bake until set and golden brown, about 35-45 minutes (ours took about 45).  Serve.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
From Ina Garten

For the topping:
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 stick butter, melted
1-1/3 c. flour
For the cake:
6 tbs. butter at room temp.
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
2/3 c. sour cream (not low fat)
1-1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9-inch round springform pan.

2. To make the crumb topping, combine the sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.  Mix in the flour and butter until well combined.
3. For the cake, cream the butter and sugar either with a fork or electric mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla, lemon zest and sour cream.  In a different bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries.

4.  Pour batter into pan and spread out with a spatula.  Crumble the topping over the cake.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

Raspberry Lemon Muffins 
1-1/8 c. sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
2 c. flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanila
About 1 pint raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Line or grease 14 muffin cups.

2. Mash together the lemon zest and 1/8 c. sugar.  In a different bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Using an electric mixer or fork, cream butter and remaining sugar.  Beat in egg, followed by vanilla and lemon sugar, and finally the dry ingredients.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Do not fill all the way, the muffin expand quite a bit while baking.  Top each muffin with 3-4 raspberries.  Bake about 35 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

The recipe for the bacon is here.


  1. That blueberry crumb cake looks so delicious!!! I think I'll make it RIGHT NOW :) Except that I'm going to do something crazy and use some blackberries .... I'll let you know how it works out.

  2. Just made the egg custard - yum! And my mom said she made the bacon a few weeks ago and it was delicious also :)