Brunch is the most high-maintenance meal I can possibly imagine. It doesn’t need to be, but it wants to be. It wants the most intimidating eggs (poached eggs), the most expensive bread (boozy brioche French toast), the secretly most high-maintenance potato situation (straight up hash browns—I never get them right…that might be a personal problem), at least three beverage options (coffee, orange juice, mimosas, bloody marys), etc., etc.
Sometimes I think brunch should get over itself. But most of the time…I don’t. I love it. My secret (or not so secret) high-maintenanceness comes out around brunch. Yeah, I could just make roasted potatoes like I usually do…OR I could follow this lady’s example and create a nest out of tricky hash browns and bake a little egg in that cozy place. I could just make greyhounds, OR I could buy $400 worth of black pepper vodka, new spices, specialty pickles, organic tomato juice and I could puree celery like this crazy and make the most mind-blowing gazpacho-y bloody mary IN THE WORLD!
If I were a kept woman, I think whomever kept me would get a lot of too-much-time-on-my-hands brunch meals. Sadly (happily) I’m not a kept woman, and I generally don’t have time or opportunity or money to make that crap. I’m either cooking for myself or I’m cooking for 20 people. So I’m either making one fried egg with wilted spinach, or I’m making a giant baked egg thing. This was not so in the days of RunBrunchClub (which are hopefully returning), and luckily I’ve had a couple prime opportunities to brunch it up lately. First my friends Andrea and Brandon had a few people over for breakfast-for-dinner before leaving town for their unreasonably long Christmas break. Then there was the 1/3 DUP Christmas Brunch.
Andrea made some killer French toast for breakfast-for-dinner so I naturally went in the direction of frivolous egg things. I doubt that I’m the first person to think of this, but in my mind I had a completely revolutionary egg idea, combining two of my favorite things: quiche and stuffed mushrooms. I decided to invent bite-sized stuffed mushroom quiche (quiches? quiche?) by filling baby bellas with normal stuffed mushroom stuff (garlic, mushroom stems, and a good parmesan cheese) plus eggs. It was a success, of the brunchiest kind. It would be a delicious addition to any breakfast-for-dinner or girly brunch shower as an appetizer. But it was also a big hassle to pour the filling into those baby, baby bellas and I wasn’t totally sold on the garlic/egg combination. So, when 1/3 DUP Christmas Brunch came around, I knew what I had to do.
I only recently mentioned what/who DUP is. DUP (pronounced dupe) is what we called the duplex I lived in during college. It quickly became an amorphous noun with many derivative adjectives referring to the eight women who lived there in various combinations of six for three years. We are a diverse bunch, currently spread all around the country. Most recently I’ve mentioned Duff (who is a social worker and salsa dancing enthusiast in California) and her delicious pumpkin muffins. I’ve also written about Maria (director of Camp Gladiator kids’ camp in Austin), who I grew up with outside of Chicago. Her twin sister Angie was also a best friend in high school and a member of DUP (she’s a social worker for—by which I mean against—human trafficking in L.A.). Then there is Rachel (a Chilean studying criminal justice and living in Brooklyn), Kate (an air pollution fighting person by day, graduate student in public policy by night, recreational ceramicist in Denver).
The final two DUP members Alex (social worker for adoption cases) and Hutch (Heather-name-sharer and labor and delivery nurse) both live in Dallas in an American dream neighborhood. They live on the same street in houses they own with their husbands and 1-1.5 children each; backyards, dogs, etc. They are probably the DUP members I see most often because they are ever so generous with airport deliveries and I usually fly out of Dallas when I travel. I try to drive up a night early or stick around after flights so that I can see them. I flew out of Dallas this Christmas, so I drove up early and cooked Hutch and Alex brunch at Alex’s house.
I freaking love spending time with DUP. They are the people that I first learned how to cook with. When we were 19 years old, in our first apartment ever, when most people were learning how to drink and date and be normal college students, we were hanging out obsessively with just each other (and the people bold enough to come over uninvited), figuring out food, and sometimes studying. For our entire first year together the DUP and DupDwellers (those guys who hung around—maybe interested in one of us, but probably just waiting to be fed) ate elaborate meals almost every night. Literally; like 5-7 days a week. Dinners always involved Pillsbury crescent rolls, at least an entire chicken breast for every person, and dessert. We had no idea what we were doing; I was working off of untried concepts gleaned from observing my mother’s kitchen magic. We didn’t want people to leave hungry so we always ended up with more than twice what we needed.
It’s amazing that no one developed diabetes; but mainly it’s amazing that we’re still all obsessed with each other. There were dark times in DUP history—inter-DUP tension, Hutch moving to Dallas for nursing school and taking my best-friend-heart with her, boys breaking DUP hearts, some of our first experience of a close friend’s death, and that time that Duff got the chicken pox (which is funny now, but wasn’t when she was miserable and they thought she had meningitis)—but through four years of college ups and downs, we became a family.
Being around them is refreshing in that finally-get-to-sit-in-your-own-living-room-after-too-long-away kind of way. We have always been and are perhaps increasingly very different people, with very different lives, but that doesn’t stop us from still becoming a very loud single unit when together and updating and supporting each other, generally through DUPdate emails and obnoxious group texts. We try to have reunions at least once a year. This year was full of DUP-time because Maria and Kate both had beautiful weddings over the summer. I meant to write bunches about both but I guess got overwhelmed at the prospect and just didn’t. Apparently I’ll have another opportunity to write up a DUP wedding season because Angie just got engaged! (AH!)
I knew that if I tried writing about DUP I’d spiral out of control. So. I guess I’m sorry. Let’s get back to the point: 1/3 DUP Christmas Brunch. For round two of my stuffed mushroom quiche experiment I decided to make life easier by using full sized Portobello caps and going with different egg-friendly flavors.
Stuffed Portobello Quiche
- 4 Portobello mushrooms
- 4 eggs
- Half a yellow onion, diced
- Around 4 oz. of frozen, chopped spinach (defrosted and wrung out)
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1/3 C crumbly feta
- A splash of Half & Half, if you have it
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Remove the Portobello stems carefully, making sure not to tear the caps, and place the caps ribby-side up (technical term) on a baking dish drizzled with olive oil.
- Dice the onion and roughly chop the Portobello stems, then sauté in some olive oil until tender.
- Arrange the onions, spinach, and cherry tomatoes evenly in each cap.
- Crack the eggs into a lil’ bowl (preferably with some kind of pour spout) and whisk with a splash of half and half, a generous grind of fresh black pepper, and pinch of salt. Add the feta and mix well.
- Pour the egg mixture carefully into each Portobello cap. (Do not cry if some leaks or escapes or mocks your clean Pyrex. It’ll be okay; I promise.)
- Carefully transfer to your preheated oven and bake for around 30 minutes. It may take longer than that to firm up—the mushrooms produce a lot of liquid too—so be patient and keep checking until they’re done.
If it’s unclear, they were delicious. I think they are the perfect serving size for a main brunch dish, and would be very nicely complimented by a bloody mary. We just had coffee and tried not to be grossed out by Alex’s morning sickness stories. Sorry, Al.
In some ways, my life could not be more unlike Hutch and Alex’s; they were the first to get married right after college, the first to have children, the first to own homes. But every time I’m with them, I’m more touched by how much we relate (how much we track with big important things despite our very different jobs, relationships, and churches) than how we’re different. It has been a special privilege for me to be able to see their babies and watch them become mothers more than the rest of DUP has been able to. I hope I have many more opportunities to exchange brunches for rides to the airports.