Chef Eva PesantezI love brunch. I love going out to brunch, I love fixing brunch for friends. I love the fact that brunch is in between breakfast and lunch and therefore the rules are thrown out the window. Also there’s the whole idea that if you’re having brunch, you must have the leisure time to do so. Love it!
I talked with Eva Pesantez, the new chef at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in Manhattan, who is giving the BBQ joint a makeover and creating a spot where customers come for the culinary delights of brunch and dinner, rather than the beer swilling (although you could still swill a beer or two if you’d like).
We talked all things brunch and Eva gave me fantastic tips -- including an egg sandwich recipe that will bowl your guests over -- and an alternative to the mimosa. Eva also weighed in on the issue we often face -- can we still enjoy brunch with the tiny tots in tow?
Why do we love brunch so much?
I think it's that meal that satisfies everything. It satisfies your slow-moving blobby self and also when you need something savory and sweet.
When is it too early for brunch, and when is it too late?
For me, anytime is good for brunch. We serve brunch starting at 11. I would like to start at 10 because I think that's later than breakfast but still too early for lunch. I think anytime is good for brunch food.
If you could pick only one brunch menu item, what would it be?
Chicken and waffles. For me that's the ultimate salty and sweet dish. We do cornmeal waffles with fried chicken breasts and you can smother it in good, pure maple syrup. Our egg sandwich is also very popular. It's eggs and country ham, barbecue onions, and cheddar on a jumbo English muffin. (See recipe below.)
If I were going to try to create the ultimate brunch at home, what is something I could pull out to wow the crowd?
In terms of doing stuff at home, keep it simple so you can enjoy the meal. Frittatas are great because you throw them in the oven and bake them.
But if you have a waffle iron, the chicken and waffles would wow people from a home kitchen.
The mimosa is the traditional brunch drink. Do you have something better?
We do this Bloody Beer at Brother Jimmy's. It's Budweiser, tomato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and a squeeze of a fresh lime. It's a really good, refreshing drink. Maybe you wouldn't think it would be, but it doesn't feel as heavy as a Bloody Mary.
Sangria is also a nice brunch drink without feeling pretentious -- mimosas always feel pretentious. Sangrias are fun because you can flavor them how you want.
Once you have children, do you think brunch is off the table until they're, say, 12?
Not necessarily. It really depends on the kids. There are days when he (Eva's 6-year-old son) can have a little snack in the morning then hold out for brunch time. He loves chicken fingers; occasionally he'll get the waffles because he likes all the maple syrup.
Check out Brother Jimmy's at these Manhattan locations.
Brother Jimmy's Egg Sandwich
- 1 large Spanish onion
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup Brother Jimmy's Original BBQ Sauce
- 4 sandwich-size English muffins (1 pack)
- 8 slices sharp white cheddar
- 2 slices country ham, sliced thick and then cut in half
- 8 eggs
Ideally these would be cooked on a grill, which may not be practical for most. If you don't have a grill, a grill pan will do fine, if not then a cast iron pan or a broiler will also work.
1. Slice onion into about 1/4-inch rounds, brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. You want to get your grill/pan/broiler very hot.
2. Place seasoned oiled onions on grill/pan/broiler and sear -- you want to get them nice and charred. You will probably need to cook onions in batches, just be sure to get your pan very hot again before adding the next round of onions. When all onions are cooked, toss with BBQ sauce and set aside. This whole process can be done the day before and refrigerated until ready to use. You will just want to warm them before assembling your sandwiches.
3. For the sandwich, toast English muffins, and as they come out of the toaster, place a slice of cheese on each half. Set aside. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, spray with cooking spray, and heat ham on each side. Place on bottom half of the English muffin. Next, spray pan again and cook eggs in pairs, breaking yolk with the corner of a spatula. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until yolk is just set, about 4 minutes. Place egg on top of ham and then divide BBQ onions between sandwiches. Top and eat right away.