Calling your family to breakfast can mean just about anything. A bowl of cereal, some eggs and toast or even a big stack of pancakes. Call your family to brunch, and suddenly breakfast takes on a whole new meaning. Pastries, and fancy eggs and sparkling glasses of champagne with a splash of juice. Linen napkins and delicate china. Brunch is something special, something elegant and elevated above the norm. Brunch makes Sundays extraordinary.
Most culinary traditions are surrounded by a hazy of uncertainty. Speculation, guesses and folklore surround the birth of so many traditions, including the prized Sunday Brunch. Some food historians credit the Sunday Brunch to England’s rich tradition of a hunt breakfast, a lavish multi-course meat featuring a smorgasbord of chicken livers, fresh eggs, meats, fruits and wonderful sweets. Still others attribute Sunday Brunch to the Catholic practice of fasting before mass, then sitting down as a family to a large, elaborate midday meal. Still others subscribe to the notion that New York’s abundant dining spots are the true origins of the classic Sunday Brunch with dishes from Eggs Benedict to Bagels and Lox.
The word brunch is easy to trace, a playful blend of “breakfast” and “lunch” that first appeared in print in 1895 in Hunter’s Weekly. British author Guy Beringer suggested in his article “Brunch: A Plea”, an alternative to the heavy, post-Church Sunday meal that we enjoy a lighter fare served late in the morning. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer tells us. “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” Mr. Beringer paints a warm and inviting picture, inviting us all to partake. While Beringer may have coined the word “brunch” he did not come up with the meal itself. Just who created the menu, or where or when remains the subject of speculation and debate.
One thing I think we can all agree on, dishes included in a Sunday Brunch need to be extra special. This Wine and Cheese Casserole is no exception.
Wine and Cheese Omelette Casserole
1/2 large loaf day-old French bread, broken into small pieces
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
6 oz shredded Swiss cheese
4 oz shredded Jack Cheese
1 ½ cups milk
1/4 cup dry White wine
2 green onions, trimmed and minced
1/2 tablespoon mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Pinch red pepper
3/2 cup Sour Cream*
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated*
Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Tear French Bread into small pieces and spread over bottom of baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter, then sprinkle buttery bread with Swiss and Jack Cheeses.
Beat together eggs, milk, wine, onions, mustard and peppers until foamy. Pour over bread mixture. Push down any bread that might float to the top. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night.
Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Bake covered casseroles for 1 hour or until set. Remove from oven, spread sour cream over casseroles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until crusty brown.