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Welcome to Make/Buy/Zhuzh, a series where we plan a dinner party with three components: one thing you make from scratch, one thing you buy straight off the shelf, and one thing you accessorize to completion.
Hosting a New Year’s Day brunch always seems like a good idea — until you’ve stayed up way past your bedtime to watch the ball drop and you’re dragging come morning.
Instead of scrambling to make everything from scratch the morning of, lean into a combination of make-ahead tricks and store-bought saviors. That’s how I put together my favorite New Year’s Day brunch menu, which serves six to eight people seamlessly, is satisfying and savory, and pairs as well with strong coffee as it does with mimosas. Here’s the plan of attack:
Parmesan-Herb Dutch Baby Casserole: A Dutch baby sounds fancy, which is a good thing for a celebratory occasion, but it’s also ridiculously simple to make. The eggy, family-style pancake, also known as a German pancake, is a bit like a giant popover because it rises and puffs in the oven as it bakes. It’s wonderful drenched in maple syrup, but it also takes very well to cheese, as is the case here. This extra large, casserole-style Dutch baby is bolstered with chopped fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese, and it’s the perfect foundation for savory toppings like smoked salmon.
While the batter for the Dutch baby comes together in just a minute or two, it can also be made ahead without the herbs, covered, and refrigerated overnight — just stir in the herbs before baking.
Parmesan-Herb Dutch Baby Casserole
Servings 6 to 8
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
6 large eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus more for serving
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces crème fraîche
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon roughly chopped capers, drained if brined or rinsed well if salt-packed
12 ounces smoked salmon
Place the flour, milk, eggs, and kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until combined and no lumps remain, about 1 minute. Stir in the thyme and chives.
Drizzle the melted butter into a 9-x13-inch baking dish and tilt to coat the bottom and sides of the dish. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Place the pan on a rack in the bottom third of a cold oven, then turn the oven on to 375°F. Bake until the pancake is puffed and lightly browned on top, 35 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the lemon-caper crème fraîche. In a small bowl, mix together the crème fraîche with the zest and capers until evenly combined, and set aside.
Once the pancake is finished cooking, cut and serve immediately with smoked salmon, lemon-caper crème fraîche, and more minced chives.
Coffee: Choose your preferred method, though I like to use my extra-large insulated French press for a crowd because it’s completely unfussy even though it feels a little extra. If you happen to have a programmable coffee maker, though, get it set up the afternoon before so you don’t even have to think about it in the morning. Before guests arrive, stacks mugs alongside the coffee. Lay out dairy and non-dairy milk options, a bowl of sugar or sugar cubes, and a handful of small mixing spoons so everyone can help themselves.
Mimosas: Buy a bottle or two of Cava or Prosecco and a jug of orange juice, and task a friend with combining equal parts bubbly and juice into Champagne flutes, wine glasses, or even juice glasses for each guest.
Fresh Fruit: Make store-bought berries tastier by tossing them with a sprinkle of sugar, which helps draw out their sweet juices. Alternatively, slice apples or ripe pears right before your guests arrive and squeeze lemon juice over them to prevent them from browning. Or take the lazy but no-less-nice route and fill a bowl with clementines for guests to pluck and peel at their leisure.
Gluten-Free Bagels: If you happen to have any gluten-free guests joining, make them feel included by picking up a package of gluten-free bagels, made tastier with the lemon-caper crème fraîche and smoked salmon.
Mini Salted Chocolate Croissants: A little something sweet rounds out this brunch spread. There’s no need to bake something fresh, though. Instead, grab a package of mini croissants from the grocery store. Cut each in half horizontally but not all the way through and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill them each with a scant tablespoon of chocolate chips then brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle them with flaky sea salt. Bake at 375°F until the chocolate is just melted, 4 to 5 minutes.
Looking for more New Year's ideas? Check out this biscuits and fried chicken brunch!
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Food Stylist: Cesar Aldrete
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez