Christmas Day Brunch

This Christmas Day was a little more low-key than it has been in recent years. Most of our housemates moved away this month and the neighbour we have invited over for the past two years didn't come. So it was just the five of us and our one remaining housemate.

This year we had a Christmas Brunch again because this seems to work well for all of us. It is important to have a special meal when everyone is in their best mood. This year, David and I made a potato asparagus onion fritatta and David made soda bread to go with it (I was going to make biscuits, but he really wanted to try this recipe - and who am I to stand in the way of breadmaking, really?). Recipes (and photos!) follow.

Potato Asparagus Onion Fritatta
a combination of variations from The Kitchen Detective, page 204
serves 6

1 cup + 2 or 3 Tbsp peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups diced onion
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 large eggs
1 Tbsp butter

  • Preheat oven to 450 F.
  • In a large cast iron skillet (say 13 inches across), saute the asparagus over medium heat in 2 Tbsp peanut oil for 2 or 3 minutes (pieces should still be bright green). Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the 1/4 cup water into the pan and cover immediately. Allow asparagus to steam for 2 or 3 minutes more, then remove from pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, saute the onion in 1 Tbsp peanut oil for 3 or 4 minutes over medium heat until soft and just starting to brown. Remove onion from pan (it can join the asparagus) and set aside.
  • In the same pan, heat 1 cup peanut oil to 375 degrees over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are dark golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes and sprinkle with salt.
  • Wipe out skillet. Lower heat to medium.
  • Meanwhile whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until foamy. This is easier to do if you whisk only 2 or 3 eggs at a time.
  • Add about 1/2 tsp salt and some pepper to the eggs and whisk to combine.
  • Place the butter into the skillet. When it has stopped foaming, add the potatoes, asparagus and onion and then the egg mixture. Stir gently.
  • As the eggs begin to set, push and lift the edges of the fritatta to allow the loose egg to run underneath, tilting the skillet if necessary. Continue until the fritatta is no longer runny, but the surface is still wet.
  • Place the skillet in the hot oven and cook untl the surface is just barely wet, about 3 minutes.
  • Serve.

Rich, American-Style Soda Bread
from The Kitchen Detective, page 222
makes 1 round loaf

2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 3/4 - 2 cups buttermilk

  • Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 400 F.
  • Whisk the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  • With a fork or your fingers, stir the softened butter into the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
  • Add 1 3/4 cups buttermilk and stir the mixture with a large rubber spatula until the dough starts to come together. Add more buttermilk if necessary to produce a cohesive dough.
  • Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds or until the dough comes together. The dough should still be rough textured and lumpy.
  • Shape the dough into a round and place it in a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet.
  • Score the top of the dough with a knife, making 2 or 3 slashes.
  • Bake about 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 F.
  • Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, place it on a cooling rack, and let it cool for 30 minutes before serving.
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