This Make-Ahead Brunch Puts the Ease in Easter

An easy to make, easy to love spread.

7 min read

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Welcome to Make/Buy/Zhuzh, a series where we plan a get together with three components: one thing you make from scratch, one thing you buy straight off the shelf, and one thing you accessorize to completion.

Among the long list of annual holidays, Easter ranks fairly low on the stress level scale — or at least it does in my book. For the last few years, Easter has become a time to gather with family and friends, enjoy the early spring season, and enjoy an egg hunt.

With that in mind, Easter brunch shouldn’t be stressful. The secret to keeping it low key yet festive is to employ make-ahead wonders and pepper your spread with a few store-bought conveniences. My plan? Cook up a showstopping main event that feeds your whole crew and then some, and round it out with sweet and savory brunch sides that will make everyone happy. Here’s how to tackle it all: 

Make: Spring Vegetable Strata 

A strata is a savory bread pudding of sorts. Soak stale bread in an eggy custard, pile in vegetables or meat and plenty of cheese, and bake until it’s puffed to perfection. This spring-inspired version is filled with verdant green asparagus and peas and kissed with a spoonful of zingy Dijon. 

The brilliance of a strata isn’t just its ability to heartily feed a crowd, but how make-ahead-friendly it is. Assemble the strata on Saturday, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and refrigerate overnight. On Sunday morning, take it out of the fridge while the oven preheats, then bake as directed. 


Serves: 10 to 12


  • Cooking spray or oil

  • 1 (1-pound) day-old loaf crusty bread, such as sourdough or Italian, cut into ¾-inch cubes (8 loosely packed cups)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • ½ medium red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • ½ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas

  • 12 large eggs

  • 3 cups whole milk

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)


  1. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with oil or cooking spray. Place the cubed bread in the baking dish in an even layer.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas.

  3. Whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper together in a large bowl.

  4. Sprinkle the vegetable mixture over the bread cubes, followed by the cheese. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the top and press down gently with your hands so that all of the bread cubes are soaked in the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or, if baking immediately, let the casserole rest on the counter while you preheat the oven.

  5. Heat the oven to 350°F. If you made the casserole ahead, take it out of the refrigerator so it can warm on the counter while the oven heats.

  6. Bake, uncovered, until the strata is bubbling around the edges and the top is beginning to brown, 50 to 65 minutes. (The strata is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.) Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Buy: Assorted Pastries and a Fruit Salad


Balance the savory strata with a little sweetness by putting out a mix of sweet breakfast pastries. Order an assortment of morning treats from your favorite local bakery, be it croissants, doughnuts, or muffins. Opt for a variety of flavors, if possible, both fruit or jam as well as chocolate-centric to please everyone at the table. 

A prepared fruit salad adds a little juicy freshness to the brunch spread. Though if it’s looking a little sad, toss with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a drizzle of honey to perk it up. Serve the salad in your prettiest bowl and no one will know you didn’t assemble it yourself. Order some fresh flowers as well to brighten up the table.

Zhuzh: Millionaire’s Bacon


Finishing off a brunch spread with a platter of crispy bacon is always a strong play, especially when the bacon is spiced and candied. Combine ⅔ cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon ground ginger in a large bowl. Add 2 pounds thick-cut bacon and toss well to coat. Arrange the bacon in a single layer among 2 aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheets. Sprinkle any remaining brown sugar mixture over the top of the bacon. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping the bacon halfway through and rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom, until the bacon is deeply caramelized. Let cool for 1 minute then transfer to a clean piece of parchment paper and cool until the sugar is fully set, 5 to 10 minutes more.

This candied bacon can also be made-ahead — not just overnight but up to three or four days in advance! Let it cool completely then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat the bacon in the microwave for 20 seconds before serving. 


  • Photographer: Paul Quitoriano

  • Food Styling: Lena Abraham

  • Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez