How to Make the Perfect Brunch for a Crowd

From savory strata and DIY granola spreads to berry-bursting scones and Italian-accented Bloody Marys, we’ve gathered recipes and tips from Portland’s brunch pros. Best of all? You can prepare every single one of these dishes the night before.

Edited by Benjamin Tepler and Kelly Clarke April 27, 2015 Published in the May 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Olympia Provisions Laser Potatoes
(Serves 12)

The whisper-thin potatoes stacked in this classic Olympia Provisions side aren’t really cut with a laser—but your guests will never know the difference. The buttery spud pie makes for a luxurious dish that plays wingman to any brunch star, from eggs to meat to fish. 

  • 12 tbsp (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus 3 tbsp for coating
  • 4 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 5 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat onions and season potatoes: Slice potatoes about 1–2 mm thick using a mandoline and set aside. In a pot large enough to hold the potatoes, sweat butter and onions over medium heat, stirring continuously, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add potatoes to the pot, mixing until coated with butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking sheet below oven rack to catch any overflow. Cut a round, 10-inch piece of parchment paper and press into the bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Evenly layer potatoes and onions into skillet (it will be overflowing). Cut another 10-inch piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the potato pile and cover the skillet with foil. Bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes, or until a skewer passes through the potatoes with no resistance. Remove the foil and top parchment paper and broil for another 10 minutes.

Refrigerate: Remove skillet from oven and let cool at room temperature. Gently press down on the potatoes with a spatula to flatten. Cool in refrigerator (in the skillet) until solidified, at least 5 hours or overnight. Wrapped with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator, these potatoes will keep for 1 week.

Slice and reheat: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with 3 tbsp melted butter. With a knife or spatula, carefully cut around the edge of the pan to loosen the potatoes. Invert the pan over a cutting board or large plate and remove the parchment paper. Cut potatoes into 12 slices, lay them in the buttered baking sheet, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. 

Bacon for a Crowd

How to sizzle your pig like a pro, according to Olympia Provisions’ Elias Cairo: Line a baking sheet with foil and lay thick-cut bacon strips on it, without overlapping. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 6 minutes, flip, and bake 6 minutes longer. Lay the bacon on paper towels or a rack before serving. 

How to take it up a notch, according to us: For sticky candied bacon, periodically baste your bacon as it bakes with maple syrup spiked with black pepper or brown sugar mixed with a bit of Dijon mustard. And get our picks for top local bacons, from Tails & Trotters to Pono Farm, here.

Lauretta Jean's Braised Greens & Sausage Strata
(Serves 10)

A close cousin of frittata and quiche, think of strata—like this one from Lauretta Jean’s biscuit and breakfast-pie queen Kate McMillen—as a savory, crusty-edged bread pudding, with layer after layer of sausage, cheese, and greens waiting to be discovered. 

  • 8 eggs
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp butter, plus more for 
  • buttering pan
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb loose breakfast sausage or chorizo
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
  • 5 cups focaccia, cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella

Prepare strata ingredients: Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme. Set aside. Heat butter over medium heat and sauté onion until golden, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add sausage and sauté until browned, about 10 minutes more, breaking apart big chunks as it cooks. Add kale and sauté until wilted, about 3 minutes, and set aside.

Layer and refrigerate: Butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and layer in the following order: bread cubes, 1 cup mozzarella, sausage-kale mix, 1 more cup mozzarella. Pour egg mixture over the entire pan, cover, and refrigerate overnight. 

Bake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a baking sheet below oven rack to catch any overflow. Cover strata with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5–10 minutes longer, or until nicely browned. Let rest for 30 minutes before cutting. 

Dawn Farmers Market Raid

Invited to a last-minute brunch potluck? Keep it local with some tasty finds from the Portland Farmers Market. Snatch a load of Fressen Bakery’s pretzel rolls, some hand-churned butter from Jacob’s Creamery, and a jar of four-berry jam at Groundwork Organics. Add an armful of fresh-cut flowers from Lucky Farms, and you’ll be crowned the best brunch guest ever

Cathy Whims' Cetara-Style Bloody Mary
(Serves 12)

When Nostrana chef Cathy Whims ate her way down Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 2013, she smuggled the recipe for this impossibly fresh, juicy Bloody Mary from the Italian fishing village of Cetara home with her. The secret? It’s spiked with the salty smack of colatura (Italian fish sauce) and trades Portland’s usual arsenal of pickled bites for basil and a luxe drizzle of olive oil. Just wake up, garnish, and say cheers. 

  • 3 cups juice from three 28 oz cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes 
  • 1 tbsp colatura* 
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1½ cups vodka (Whims likes Monopolowa) 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 bunch of basil, thinly sliced, or one bunch microbasil
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wheels
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Ice 

*Pastaworks carries Delfino, Whims’s preferred brand of Italian fish sauce. It can also be ordered online.

Make ahead: Push tomatoes through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl to reserve their juice; it should yield about 3 cups (the spent tomatoes can be frozen to use later in a sauce). Combine tomato juice, colatura, lemon juice, and vodka in an airtight container. Stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight. (You can use the mix immediately if so desired.) 

In the morning: Fill old-fashioned glasses with ice and add Bloody Mary mix. Garnish with a generous pour of extra-virgin olive oil (1–2 teaspoons per glass), a pinch of basil, freshly cracked pepper, and a lemon wheel. Salute

Bakeshop Berry Rye Scones
(Makes 10 scones)

Expert baker Kim Boyce crafts these fluffy, understated cream scones with rye flour for a subtle whole-grain flavor and crowns them with bright, jammy berries at her Bakeshop in Northeast Portland. 

  • 1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups light rye flour
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 6 oz fresh or frozen boysenberries, blackberries, or marionberries
  • ½ cup boysenberry, blackberry, or marionberry jam

Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients. Pour in heavy cream, and, using a rubber spatula, fold mixture until flour is moistened and a shaggy dough has formed, about 30 seconds to a minute. 

Shape and freeze: Form a ½ cup ball of dough (roughly the size of a pool ball) and place on a buttered or sprayed piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Continue forming balls with remaining dough. Press three fingers into each unbaked scone to create a shallow cup for the berries, and, using a pastry brush, wipe two coats of cream over the rim and sides. Sprinkle each scone with roughly 1 tbsp sugar. Cover the tray of scones with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. 

Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, toss berries with jam to coat and place about 4–5 berries in each indented scone. Bake scones for approximately 30–40 minutes, or until scones are slightly firm to the touch and golden around the edges. Serve with whipped cream. 

Next Level Coffee

  • Failed coffee logistics will ruin your brunch. You need enough, you need it hot, and you need to keep it coming. For small affairs, rely on early-and-often French-pressing backed up with a carafe. Go fancy with the Stelton vacuum jug, a classic of 1970s Danish design, available from local snazz-coffee emporium Clive. 
  • For big gatherings, go pro. Call ahead to your favorite café and ask to borrow a stocked-up airpot. Ristretto Roasters, for example, will lend you fully loaded bad boys for $18 apiece ($22 with cream and paper cups); each serves 13 cups. Or buy your own airpot at a restaurant supply store like Rose’s Equipment & Supply ($38–85).
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