Brunch. Quite literally, it is a blending of words, like beefalo, dramedy, or spork, but unlike these examples, the true definition of brunch evokes a more subjective idea than a simple combination of the words breakfast and lunch. In my late twenties, brunch meant a weekly assembly of my best friends and pitchers of mimosas. As young women who chose paths that took us to new cities far from our families and college friends, we became a family, and brunch was our family time. While we had some favorite dishes at our brunch spots, food didn’t exactly dictate our choice of venue.
The first consideration was always drinks and the price of those drinks, and the second reason would be atmosphere, which primarily meant deciding if we wanted to sit outside. We gathered and pored over our relationships, work, and the previous night’s debauchery. Depending on the seriousness of our twenty-something problems and the number of pitchers ordered, our brunches could be a couple of hours at the restaurant or a prolonged engagement with setting changes enduring into the evening. It seems like another lifetime since that was my definition of brunch.
Seven years after moving away from those friends in Birmingham and choosing a new life in Miami, I find myself with a completely different idea of Sunday brunch. I seek out casual Sunday brunches with thoughtful dishes, and the food is always the reason for brunch. If I’m not making brunch at home, I am most likely at Josh’s Deli in Surfside. Josh Marcus has created an inviting breakfast, lunch and brunch spot in Surfside that offers a modern twist on some very traditional Jewish breakfast items. It’s my choice for brunch because of its casual, friendly environment and ever-changing, interesting menu. Lobster ‘n’ Biscuits, Smoked Sable Platter, Escargot ‘n’ Grits, and Scallop-Edamame Cakes are just a few examples of the brunch dishes I’ve enjoyed at Josh’s over the last six months. It’s always a treat.
I also enjoy Sunday brunch at home. Most of the time, that means a lazy morning on the couch with the New York Times Sunday crossword and a cup of coffee followed by a quick inventory of what I can throw together from the pantry and fridge. Let’s face it. The last thing I’d want to do on Sunday morning is change out of my pajamas and go to the grocery store. Today was one of those Sunday mornings with one significant exception. I actually had a plan for brunch inspired by a recent weekend away.
A few weeks ago in Austin, Texas, I discovered a great spot in the SoCo district called Elizabeth Street Café. While their regular menu is full of Vietnamese favorites, such as pho and bahn mis, their brunch menu intrigued me with its thoughtful fusion of Vietnamese ingredients and traditional brunch dishes. I ordered the rice vermicelli cakes with poached eggs, housemade ginger sausage, sliced radishes, Thai bird chiles, basil, and mint, and my husband ordered the sticky rice with the same accoutrements. Brilliant! Brightening heavy brunch ingredients with the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine transformed these dishes. I thought, “I can do this…easily.”
After lazing on the couch a few hours and epically failing to complete the NYT crossword, I set out to emulate our Austin brunch today. Without question, this is a fantastic and unfussy brunch dish. My version definitely lived up to Elizabeth Street Café’s presentation. My sausage was better than theirs, but they won the sticky rice battle. Making sticky rice is truly an art form that I’ve yet to master. I used cilantro, instead of basil, because I had a bunch in the refrigerator. Both added freshness to the dish, and I don’t think one was better than the other. All in all, I was quite pleased with the dish…and myself. A triumph on every level!
Who knows how my idea of brunch will evolve in another ten years? One thing is sure: I’ll still look forward to it every week!
Feeling inspired and want to try out this Vietnamese-inspired brunch dish on a lazy Sunday morning in your home? Here’s how to do it yourself:
You’ll need the following ingredients to make the dish for two people:
Ingredients: Pork, Fresh Ginger, Garlic, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Sticky Rice, Cheesecloth, 1 Serrano Pepper, 2 Radishes, Eggs, Fresh Mint and Cilantro.
On Saturday afternoon, make the ginger pork sausage. I guessed my way through the whole process, so you can, too.
Grind pork (or just buy already ground pork). I knew I needed a combination of lean and fatty pork, so I used two pork chops that looked like they would have the right balance. I used a meat grinder attachment on my stand mixer to mince the pork, but you could pulse it in a food processor, too. Mix in three inches of grated fresh ginger, four large garlic cloves, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Let the mixture rest overnight in the refrigerator.
On Saturday night before going to bed, soak the sticky rice so it will be ready in the morning.
On Sunday morning, put together brunch in about 35 minutes.
Start a pot of boiling water to steam the rice. Cut a piece of cheesecloth large enough to hold the rice. (This simplifies the process of removing it from the steamer and flipping it later.)When the water is boiling, add the sticky rice in the cheesecloth to the steamer insert and set the timer for 25 minutes.Form the ginger pork sausage patties.Wash the cilantro and mint. Slice a Serrano pepper and two radishes.Fry the sausage patties.Remove the rice at the 25 minute mark and flip it over. Return it to the steamer with the top layer now facing down for another 5 minutes. Then, remove the rice and steamer insert from the pot.Poach the eggs.
Assemble the bowls: sticky rice, ginger pork sausage, poached eggs, sliced radishes and Serrano peppers, fresh mint and cilantro.
Or if you prefer heading out for Brunch:
9517 Harding Ave.
Surfside, Fl 33154
1501 South First St
Austin, Texas 78704