In spite of the hordes that line up at our city’s many fine brunch joints at 11:30am every weekend, I don’t think I am the only non-bruncher out there. I got the feeling that lots of people are starting to scoff at the meal-turned-phenomenon from this year’s Time Out New York guide to brunching, which seemed to consist of a series of ways to avoid the typical eggs benedict and thick French toast.
I can tell you the best way: have brunch at home.
I’m not against spending the mid-morning (or mid-afternoon, depending on what stage of your twenties you’re in) out at a restaurant with friends. I’m not even against over-paying, a little, for eggs and cheese and bread and bacon I know I could make at home for less. And I actually have a favorite brunch place, Hundred Acres on MacDougal Street.
On the other hand, it’s a true pleasure to mix bloody Marys and bake French toast and have people over to our place for brunch. I love lounging around the apartment on weekend mornings, without any pressure to get ready and get on a rerouted subway to go out. And last, I love to improvise great homemade dishes, at once more down-to-earth and adventurous than what you’d find on a menu.
Restaurants’ brunch dishes can be really unhealthful. I’m not against fats or sweets or carbs, it’s just that I’m a little picky about my indulgences. At home, it’s easier to incorporate vegetables into your eggs or fruit into your pancakes, to lighten things up. That’s the strategy I used for these spicy open-face egg sandwich gems, transforming a bunch of rainbow chard from the market into an Indian greens sauté, which I then piled onto toasted bread beneath my favorite slow-scrambled, cheesy eggs. This brunch dish works just as well for two as for ten; the spice mixture in the greens makes it slightly unusual, though the scrambled eggs are familiar indeed.
Scrambled Egg Tartines with Spiced Rainbow Chard
Makes 4 tartines; serves 2 (easily doubled)
You can make the greens ahead of time. Just bring them to room temperature (or warm them) before assembling the tartines. Also: these get messy, so opt to eat with a knife and fork.
1 tablespoon safflower or other neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 onion, sliced
1 glove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 small bunch rainbow chard (about 8-10 big leaves), washed, trimmed, and stems and leaves cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons butter, plus more for the bread
4 eggs, lightly beaten
about 3 tablespoons finely chopped mozzarella cheese
4 slices good bakery bread, toasted
Garam masala (optional), for garnish
Heat a heavy cast-iron pan over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the oil – it should ripple, showing you that it’s very hot. Add the mustard seeds and cover the pan. You’ll hear the mustard seeds pop for about 60 seconds; when the sound slows down, uncover, add the onions, and turn the heat to medium low. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are very soft and brown in spots, about 20 minutes.
Add the cumin, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper, and stir to mix in.
Turn the heat up to medium. Add the chard (leaves and stems), with any water clinging to it from when you washed it. Cook, stirring, until the chard has wilted and incorporated into the onions. Add the sugar and mix to combine. Taste for salt, adding more if needed, then set aside.
In a small nonstick pan over very low heat, melt the butter. Add the eggs and a big pinch of salt. Scramble the eggs slowly, as in this video. When the eggs are nearly set, add the mozzarella and let it melt into the eggs.
Spread the toast with a bit of butter if you like. Top each slice with about 1/4 cup of the greens mixture and a quarter of the eggs. Garnish with a little bit of garam masala. Eat immediately.