glitter to gourmet“What’s brunch?”

“You’d love it.  It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.  You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal.”

— The Simpsons

Food-wise, Las Vegas has come a long way in recent years.  From commercially proven brand names like Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Emeril Lagasse to prestigious folk like Alain Ducasse and Todd English, the city has experienced an influx of celebrity chefs, fine dining, and its very own season of Top Chef.  Once known for gristly $4.99 prime rib and shrimp of dubious origins, Las Vegas is now a serious foodie destination, new and shiny, not old and scuzzy.

However, there are two old, scuzzy affiliations that I hope Las Vegas never loses.  The first are the downtown casinos, which I love because I can play 25-cent roulette there.  And the second is the buffet.

Oh Las Vegas casino buffet.  I have tried you at the Palms.  I have tried you at the Flamingo.  I have tried you at MGM.  And I have loved all of you.*  I know it’s tacky and gauche, but the buffet is my weak spot.  And there is no better time to get a Las Vegas buffet than brunch-time, right around 11, when the omelette station is still swinging, but the pork tenderloin doesn’t yet have that waft of Sterno and steam table about it.

And so this week, as I dive into the Junior League of Las Vegas’s Glitter to Gourmet (2001), I thought, what better way to celebrate it than with brunch?  Glitter to Gourmet really pulls out the big guns, tracking down recipes from celebrities, famed chefs, and a surprising number of local politicians.  The first dish I’m cooking this week was submitted by former Governor of Nevada and U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, and I’m convinced, it must be why brunch was invented.

Blueberries Bryan

Blueberries Bryan

Blueberries Bryan

French bread, cut into 3/4-inch slices
8 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 to 2 cups fresh blueberries

Place the bread slices in a greased 6 x 10-inch baking dish. Cut extra bread to fill in any open spaces on the bottom. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Pour over the bread slices. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes for the bread to soak up the liquid. Turn the bread slices over to evenly soak the other side.

Combine the butter, brown sugar and flour in a bowl. Mix with a pastry blender. Stir in the oats. Sprinkle over the soaked bread. Top evenly with walnuts and blueberries.

blueberries bryan unbaked

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until puffed and the edges are bubbling. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut into squares to serve.

Yield: 8 servings

This diabolical brunch plot is sheer elegance in its utter simplicity.  Take baked French toast, combine it with a fruit crisp topping, and add fresh fruit.  It is quick and easy, and the result is mind-bogglingly delicious.  Additionally, the blueberries and rolled oats give all the dish an air of healthy wholesomeness, of which it is clearly undeserving.

Later this week, I’ll be making some savory brunch dishes, but hope this tides you over until then.

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* I must submit that the MGM brunch is my favorite.  For what you pay, it is far, far better than it needs to be.

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