It's your party, you can cook if you want to
Say “brunch party” and I think Martha Stewart. Say “brunch party” and I think quiche, flower arrangements, freshly ironed linens, and a cool breeze fondling window treatments in Connecticut. Say “brunch party” and I will think yes of course I’m happy to attend one if there’s booze and I don’t have to wear a sundress, but do I want to throw one? Hell no. A dinner party I can manage, usually; a brunch party gives me the heebie jeebies.
The odds are against you here, that is unless you’re a Type-A planner who likes to make spreadsheets for dinner parties and gets horned up ticking off ingredients at the grocery store four days before your guests will arrive. For the rest of us, brunch parties can be a disaster: there’s the waking up early, there’s the cleaning the house before 11 a.m., there’s the coordination of alcohol before the liquor store opens, there’s so much potential for getting angry about cinnamon buns and other pastry-like things that require significant investments of time, overnight rises, proofing, and pounding. The brunch party is difficult to pull off without veering into full-meltdown territory. Not to mention the fact that you have to shower. (And you should shower: If you need to make a shower beer happen at 10 a.m., well, it’s your party and you know how the rest of the song goes.)
There are, of course, ways to make the idea more palatable, more doable, less awful for you, the host who wants to host but doesn’t like failure. The first and easiest is just to lean hard into the idea of a day party, the happy purgatory between a brunch party and a party-party, where people can flit in and out, get drunk or not, snack or not, drink beer or cocktails, then go home or go out. You have a good four to six hours to prepare after bullying yourself out of bed. It is indeed the happiest medium.
But maybe you’re committed to the egg-and-pastry song and dance! Maybe one of your 2016 goals was “throw a brunch party without screaming,” or your friends have a thing for doughnuts. Brunch is, after all, a time to turn the often-Dickensian, often-hurried meal we dutifully shove into our mouths every morning before we go be WorkingPeople into something joyful and big and boozy. And maybe you want to turn that into a party instead of sitting in a loud room of strangers and paying too much money for too little food. There are still a few manageable directions you can go in, a few tips you can cling to, and a few hail-marys you can throw if everything goes to shit. If you want a brunch party, dammit, you will get a brunch party. Here’s how it can happen. And how you can avoid the situation in which people arrive while you’re still in your jammies.
Consider your eggs
You want to serve eggs. It’s a brunch party. This is what the people want! And if there are really going to be people—like, more than five—you’re going to want to do eggs for a crowd. There are a few ways to do that.
There’s something kind of perfectly basic and home-on-the-range-y about making an enormous batch of scrambled eggs for a crowd: find the biggest pan you have, as many eggs as you can buy, and scramble them low and slow, right when people arrive, adding in some cheese to keep things soft and gooey. Consider DIY breakfast burritos, because all you need is sour cream and sausage and salsa and hot sauce and maybe some scallions and that’s already a party in itself, there you go.
Or, go the baked eggs route. Quiche is your most advanced option here—either you’re going to make pie crust the night before, or you’re going to buy one. Brunch parties require corner-cutting, and no self-flagellating is involved. A frittata is far easier, and a bit lighter, in case you have friends who don’t like carbs, but they probably won’t come to a brunch party anyways. It’s the best way to brag about any seasonal produce you may have recently bought at the farmers’ market, because you can just lightly sauté it and then dump in a whole mess of whisked eggs and cheese and herbs, let it set, then pop it into the oven until it doesn’t jiggle too much.
Of course, shakshuka is an option here, too, because it’s fun for a bunch of people and easy to pair with a fancy loaf of bread. You can set out your hyper-rustic cast iron skillet full of a little atoll of eggs in tomato sauce atop your most rustic tea towel next to a cutting board topped with wobbly slices of crusty bread and you have a party. There, now we’ve covered our eggs.
Consider your carbs
Either you’re going to do a big blockbuster pan of baked goods and make that your centerpiece, or you’re not. If you are, great! Make sure to shop a few days ahead of time and if possible bake the night before, or find something that will rise overnight, so you don’t have to start from scratch after you’ve already had your shower beer.
Another, possibly life-changing option here: Make this a BYOPastry party. This is fun particularly if you live in a place where friends will be coming from towns or neighborhoods with different pastry options. There! Now you have your pastries taken care of.
Yes, you will probably want to serve booze
Mimosas are fun, if that’s what you’re going for. Bloody marys are also great, and bonus points if you make your own mix. But you know what everyone loves, that’s easier than making bloody mary mix? Micheladas. You know what’s an easy way to serve micheladas to a crowd? Buy a thirty rack or two, a bag of limes, a bottle of Maggi seasoning, and some Valentina hot sauce, and let people doctor up their own cans. Call it festive. Mediate a discussion on the world’s best breakfast beer. Let people argue and yell about it as bits of croissant fly everywhere, because the best brunch always gets a little messy.
Please don’t worry about salad
This isn’t a dinner party. That’s all!
Honestly do whatever you want
Brunch is a made-up meal anyways, so you get to make up whatever sort of conventions and traditions you like. Want to serve breakfast nachos? Fucking go for it. Want to stand at the stove and flip pancakes all morning? That is your right! Want to ask all your friends to bring over their leftovers and just top them with fried eggs as you binge-watch television and drink gin and tonics? I’ve seen weirder! Just remember to make things as easy as possible for yourself. The bending over backwards can wait until your next dinner party. It’s not even noon yet.