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A feast is a feast, no matter when it's served

The holiday breakfast is becoming more popular each year, and it's easy to understand why.

You can offer a formal morning meal for less money than you'd spend on a dinner. You can do it early in the day, leaving you time for shopping or visiting other friends. And you can make many of the dishes ahead of time, which should free you up to spend more time enjoying those around you.

Yet some people stress and fuss over party meals so much that they can't relax and, consequently, neither can their guests. That's because too many people "don't get themselves prepped," says Robert Fleming, whose Magnolia Pancake Haus has been entertaining breakfast lovers for six years now.

To get yourself organized, start with the menu.

"The good stuff is worth the effort," Fleming says. That means no skimping on the centerpiece, whether it's sausage, bacon, smoked salmon or seafood.

Forget pancakes, he says. They must be served immediately and that ties you up for the entire meal. Waffles, on the other hand, can be made before guests arrive and held in a warm oven to stay crisp.

Plus, you can create a toppings buffet that lets everyone add fruit, whipped cream, butter, syrup or nuts.

Crepes can be made several days in advance and stored in a stack with layers of waxed paper in between, Fleming says. Wrap them in a moist paper towel.

Before your guests arrive, warm them up to 300 degrees in the oven under a moist paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Then let people fill their crepes with their choice of sweet or savory fillings, from strawberries Romanoff to chicken hash.

Quiches, egg casseroles, strata and frittatas can all be made ahead and slowly reheated or served at room temperature.

Eggs and French toast are always inexpensive dishes to make, but they don't have to taste that way.

Dress up a frittata with crab, lobster or wild mushrooms. Use smoked salmon or shrimp on eggs Benedict. (Or try Eggs Benedict XVI, a dish created in honor of the German-born pope. It calls for sauerbraten or sausage and rye bread instead of the traditional Canadian bacon and English muffin.)

Mix up your egg toast batter a couple of days in advance and flavor it with a liqueur such as amaretto, Grand Marnier, Kahlua or frangelico.

"I like Eggnog French Toast," Fleming says. "It's really good made with cinnamon raisin toast."

He also adds a little extra eggnog to his coffee.

Mimosas and bellinis are breakfast standards, but Fleming suggests something slightly different: Mix peach puree with moscato d'Asti, a semi-sparkling wine with a light touch of sweetness.

But the menu is only one part of the party to consider.

Set a convenient time, like 10 a.m., that is not too early for you or too late for your guests to go without a morning meal.

Let your guest know how special they are by setting an elegant table. "I don't hold back," he says. "I set the table just like I would for a dinner party."


Eggnog French Toast

1 1/2 cups eggnog (see note)

1 cup milk

4 eggs, beaten

8 slices cinnamon raisin bread

Nutmeg, to taste (optional)

Butter, for frying


Powdered sugar

- Whisk together eggnog, milk and eggs. (This can be done a day or two in advance to let flavors settle.)

- Dip bread in egg mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired.

- Grill on hot, buttered griddle until golden brown on each side. Top with a mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Note: Eggnog can be made with alcohol or not.


(Ran South Pinellas / Tampa, North Suncoast editions)


Puffy Chile Relleno Quiche

1 (9-inch) pie crust

8 ounces (2 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided use

1 (4-ounce) can whole green chiles, drained and seeds removed, divided use

4 eggs

1 cup half-and-half

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs, separated

Salsa, for serving

- Preheat oven to 425.

- Bake pie crust until color starts to deepen, about 5-8 minutes.

- Sprinkle 1 cup cheese in partly baked crust. Layer with half the chiles (cut in large pieces and laid flat); repeat cheese and chiles layer again.

- In medium bowl, beat 4 eggs, half-and-half and pepper; pour over cheese mixture.

- Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake for 30 minutes.

- In small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold in slightly beaten egg yolks until just blended. Spoon egg mixture over hot filling, sealing to edge of crust.

- Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

- Serve with salsa, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.


(Ran South Pinellas / Tampa, North Suncoast editions)


Smoked Salmon and Italian Fontina Frittata

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced red onion

8 large eggs

1/4 pound smoked salmon, sliced into short, narrow strips

1/4 pound Italian fontina cheese, thinly sliced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

- Preheat broiler.

- Heat olive oil in a large flameproof skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook onion until it is translucent, about 3 minutes.

- While onion is cooking, crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk to blend thoroughly. Stir in the salmon.

- Reduce heat to medium-low, push the onion to the edge of the skillet, and pour in the egg/salmon mixture, making sure the salmon is evenly distributed throughout the eggs. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to spread the onion evenly throughout the eggs.

- Lay the cheese slices in a circular pattern (like the hands of a clock) around the egg. Sprinkle the tarragon evenly over the top. Cook until the bottom of the egg has set, 3 to 5 minutes. The top of the egg should still be runny.

- Remove the skillet from the stovetop and place it on the top oven rack directly under the broiler. Cook the frittata until it is sizzling and the surface has taken on a golden brown hue, 3 to 5 minutes.

- Remove the skillet from the oven, cut the frittata into quarters and serve immediately, garnished with freshly ground pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: The Plump Jack Cookbook, Good Meals for Good Living by Jeff Morgan


Crab Confetti Casserole

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 1/2 cups crab meat (see note)

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper

2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper

2 tablespoons minced yellow bell pepper

2 tablespoons minced celery, or more, to taste

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of hot sauce (optional)

8 eggs

1 cup half-and-half

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Minced parsley, for garnish

- Preheat oven to 350 .

- Melt butter and saute shallot until tender, about 2 minutes. (You can also saute pepper slightly, if desired.)

- In a bowl, mix crab meat, cheese, minced bell peppers, celery, nutmeg and hot sauce, if using. Stir in shallot.

- In a separate bowl, beat eggs and half-and-half, then pour over crab meat mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

- Pour into a 13- by 9-inch dish. Bake for 40 minutes or until desired brownness on top. (This could puff up during baking. It will settle down.)

- Let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Note: Cooked ham or cooked, drained chorizo could be substituted or meat could be omitted completely.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Source: John Griffin