Brunch is what you make it. Whether you're stumbling out of bed to the nearest Waffle House for an All-Star Special or whipping up platters of yeasted waffles and cast iron fried chicken, this meal can be just about anything.
If you're planning to play host to family and friends during late morning hours this holiday, we advise leaning into brunch's versatility and letting your guests build their own perfect plates. And you can pull it off without looking like you're putting them to work by making the whole experience as beautiful as possible. How? Build your own brunch board.
What's a brunch board, you ask? Imagine a cheese board, but filled with waffles or pancakes or colorful oatmeal toppings, or even, well, cheese. Depending on the theme of your brunch gathering, the board can be just about anything. Here are five steps to making one yourself.
Choose your heroes
Before you even think about shopping, decide what you want to be the center of attention on your brunch board. Do you want to create a build-your-own breakfast sandwich bar? Or perhaps you'd like to go crazy and stack a platter high with chicken and waffles. Don't be afraid to swing towards the healthy side, either. There are plenty of decadent meals to come in the next six weeks, so why not cook a big batch of grits or steel cut oats and have guests top them with gusto. Whatever you choose, you'll want to put these dishes front and center on your board, which brings us to ...
Plot your plating
Pull out the biggest cutting board and/or platter you have. Will your hero fit on it? If you're going to be serving lots of different toppings around a big bowl of grits, then maybe. If you're going big with casseroles or fried chicken, maybe not. If you're in the latter camp, consider employing multiple boards and platters, stacking them as you see fit. Pull out any bowls you'll need to use and move them around on your display boards so you'll know they fit. Use sticky notes to label each bowl or spot on the board with its intended filling.
Pick supporting players
Once you know how you'll plate the main event, think about other nibbles, bites, sauces and garnishes that will truly make your brunch board shine. Fruit is always a great choice, and it'll add color to what could very well be a platter filled with brown foods. We like easy, low-prep fruits like berries and grapes. Nuts are great on cheese boards and brunch boards alike, so if you don't have any guests with nut allergies, pile on the pecans and pistachios. Sauces are also important additions. Think maple syrup, honey, hot sauce, jams and jellies, adding and taking away from the list depending on what you're serving. Finally, pick up a few green herbs at the grocery store to add a little color to the board. Rosemary and sage are both seasonal and beautiful, so they get our vote.
Cook and plate
Depending on your ambition, you may need to spend a fair amount of time cooking for your brunch. Luckily, many dishes can be made ahead and reheated. Waffles, for example, freeze beautifully and will bake to crisp perfection in a warm oven. Fried chicken can, again, be fried ahead and heated in the oven (pull it from the oil just a tad early to ensure it doesn't get overcooked later). Grits and oatmeal can be made in a slow cooker and held for hours. Or if you're going simple with baked goods and spreads, bake everything the night before and rest easy on the day-of.
When you're ready to plate, start with the items that don't need much attention, such as sauces and fruits. Get those set out on the board around your serving bowls. Layer garnishes in and around the bowls, the same way you'd build a cheese board (above). Pour yourself a mimosa and finish heating up your heroes just before the guests arrive. Speaking of mimosas ...
Don't forget the drinks
Brunch isn't really brunch without drinks. Set up a second table or section of your brunch board area dedicated to mimosas, coffee and bloody Marys. We recommend batching your drinks in advance and serving them in pitchers or carafes so you won't get stuck playing bartender while you're trying to enjoy your meal. Coffee will stay warm for hours in this insulated carafe, while OJ for those mimosas, and your gussied up bloody Mary mixture, will stay cool in chilled stoneware pitchers.
Need more ideas? Here are some of our favorite brunch recipes
Buttermilk Cathead Biscuits
Virginia Willis' Buttermilk Biscuits
Make-Ahead Easy Cream Biscuits
Pumpkin Banana Bread Muffins
Crab and Spinach Quiche
Southern Kitchen's Breakfast Casserole
Asparagus with Crispy Poached Eggs and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Photo Credit (Chicken and Waffles): Ramona King
Photo Credit (Oatmeal Board): Brooke Lark/Unsplash
Photo Credit (Cheese Board): Maura Friedman
Photo Credit (Pitcher): Maura Friedman