Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Italian Brunch, The Lazy Woman's Way

The after-brunch cleanup crew discovers the creme fraiche.

I like to think of my approach to having people over as "The Lazy Woman's Guide to Entertaining" (inspired by my friend Judie O'Neill, author of
"The Lazy Woman's Guide to Just About Everything.")

The premise of the book (and my entertaining philosophy) is that it's OK to be "lazy" and eliminate or cut corners and and still live a big, luscious life or throw a lavish dinner party.

For example, years ago I spent hours shopping for, preparing and cleaning up after our traditional Christmas dinner of turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. My daughter, the picky eater, would eat a small slice of turkey, a spoonful of mashed potatoes and a slice of jellied cranberry. My husband was finished with his dinner in 20 minutes. I began to resent the low effort to reward ratio (i.e. big effort, little satisfaction).

About seven years ago, I changed the menu for our Christmas dinner to fresh crab from the Fish King in Glendale, Caesar salad and home-made French fries. This new tradition is an easy and lazy alternative that everyone loves. With the lazy approach, my effort goes way down, but my reward sky rockets.

I hosted a brunch for a dozen friends on Sunday and took a similar approach. My goal is to serve food that's beautiful and delicious without spending hours in the kitchen, especially after the guests arrive.

Instead of time in the kitchen, I tend to spend time "hunting and gathering" in the Pasadena area for my favorites that include:
- Cristalino Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) from Cost Plus
- Bellini mix from Cost Plus (I decided the home-made version was too laborious.)
- Prosciutto (for prosciutto and melon) from Porta Via (Jonathan Gold thinks it has the best in LA.)
- Pastries from Federico's Bakery
- Produce from Super King in Altadena
- Three-layer pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and marscapone cheese from Trader Joe's

The main dish was an Italian sausage casserole, a variation on the popular bread-meat-cheese, make-the-night-before brunch dish. I found the original recipe on my recipe, but made some tweaks after "taste driving" the dish for friends a week earlier. I also incorporated some tips from Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl.

Here's the revised recipe:


  • 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage (The 1/2 pound in the original recipe was too skimpy.)
  • 8 green onions, sliced (1 cup)
  • 3 zucchini, diced (increased from two in the original)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard (Added, per Kitchen Girl's suggestion)
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
  • About 5 cups of Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (Reduced from original recipe)
  • 3 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 8 large eggs (increased from original recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 small block of cream cheese (Added, per Kitchen Girl's suggestion)


  • Remove and discard casings from sausage. Cook sausage in a large skillet, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.
  • Add green onions and next 3 ingredients to skillet. Sauté 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in roasted bell peppers. Drain and cool.
  • Mix bread cubes with sausage/vegetable mixture and half of cheese in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk and dry mustard.
  • Add the egg mixture to the bread and mix thoroughly. (The original recipe says to layer the ingredients and pour the egg mixture on top. This results in uneven coverage. This bowl-mixing method results in a more uniform, moist casserole. Thanks, Jo.)
  • Spread the mixture into a lightly buttered 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with the cream cheese and the other half of the cheese.
  • Cover and chill 8 hours.
  • Bake, covered, at 325° for 1 hour or until bubbly and hot.
I also served an easy caprese salad from a basic recipe from Culinary Cory. The only addition I made was some fresh chevre.

I don't know if it was an act of laziness or graciousness or a little of both, but I failed to take any photos of the food. (Bad food blogger, bad!) I do, however have these "after" photos revealing that everything was consumed.

The remains of the day: Italian sausage casserole and Bellinis

Tiger finishes off the last of the creme fraiche, but passes on the berry.
Only one Florentine cookie and a fourth of a petit four remain.


Culinary Cory said...

Hey, thanks so much for trying out my caprese salad recipe. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Susan C said...

Thanks, Cory. We enjoyed the easy caprese and it will become a go to recipe.

Jo said...

Thank you for trying out my methods. It sounds as if your brunch was a success :)

Ps: Dunno if it's my browser or not but I can't see your photos?


Susan C said...

Thanks for letting me know that the photos weren't showing up, Jo. Fixed now!

Cafe Observer said...

SC, there's one more problem with the photos. There's a table mannerless cat in one of them!

We dogs at least stand at attention underneath the table as people eat, happy to get even a crumb or two.

Petrea said...

I never knew about Super King and this week I've heard about it twice! I guess I'd better get over there.

Joanna said...

just found your blog! i think the name of it is hilarious-so cute. love your cat in the picture. it looks like mine. she is always inspecting what i've made.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been here for a couple of days. I'll come back later with a proper comment. I've elected/stuck you with a bloggers buddy award. Kind of works like a chain letter but I think it's supposed to be an honor. It's on my site linking back to you...lucky gal

Anonymous said...

But uh...what did it look like before you and Tiger ate it? Really, I should get to the market. I'm also going to the "lazy" link. I need help over here!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great meal!

Miss Havisham said...

I'm hungry for bagpipes and Italian sausage.