Thanks to the warm sun and the longer days of spring, the green garlic and pea tendrils are popping up at farmers markets while the lilacs and wisteria are popping open in our back yards.
After a record-setting wet winter, it’s finally time to celebrate the return of delicate, green vegetables with an al fresco feast for friends and family. And what could be more appropriate than a simple brunch made from farm-fresh eggs and asparagus, crispy potatoes and tender, young salad greens?
Round out your menu with a refreshing cocktail and an edible centerpiece featuring borage flowers and other fresh herbs, and you’ve got the recipe for an easy and relaxing spring brunch.
At The Pullman Kitchen in Railroad Square, Chef de Cuisine John Trunk and Executive Chef/Owner Darren McRonald have been creating delicious dishes for weekend brunch lovers ever since they opened three years ago this month in the historic City 205 building.
“The brunch is getting more popular, and the menu changes at least seasonally,” said McRonald, who started his career at Table 29 in St. Helena in 1991, then cooked at Le Cirque in New York, Chez Panisse in Berkeley and the West County Grill in Sebastopol.
The restaurant features train-station accents like vintage suitcases to go along with its railroad theme. Along with many others in Santa Rosa, the chefs are looking forward to the debut of the SMART train just a block away later this spring.
“We’re still waiting for the train,” McRonald said. “But at least we have the West End Farmers Market now at the train station.”
The chefs, who often buy fresh produce from local farmers, are gearing up for serving a special Easter brunch this month.
“We’ll do a Crab Benedict,” McRonald said. “And maybe a Leg of Lamb Sandwich with a mint salsa verde.”
When he was growing up in New Jersey, McRonald remembers his mom serving up a spiral-cut ham with a side of scalloped potatoes for the family’s traditional Easter feast.
For home cooks serving a spring brunch, he suggested translating those iconic flavors into a Crustless Quiche Lorraine with a side of crunchy breakfast potatoes. His Crustless Quiche is basically an Italian frittata, without all the muss and fuss of making a dough, rolling it out and pinching the edges.
The frittata is perfect for people on the Paleo diet since it’s low-carb. It also cooks up faster than a quiche. You simply sauté your veggies and then pour them with the cheese and ham, the eggs and cream, into a frying or sauté pan.
“Mine is traditional Italian — you don’t mix the egg fully,” McRonald said. “We add a little bit of cream to create airiness, and then the asparagus, Gruyere cheese and ham ... we like to use the Black Forest Ham from Niman Ranch.”
At the restaurant, McRonald cooks the frittata in a black steel pan, but home cooks could also use a high-quality non-stick or a cast-iron pan that has been well seasoned.
“Just heat the metal pan first, so the eggs on the bottom cook and don’t stick,” McRonald said.
For the breakfast potatoes, the chefs use red potatoes that they boil first, then roast at high heat with a little olive oil, thyme and smoked paprika.