Lee Schrager's Tips for Hosting New Year's Day Brunch

Lee Schrager and mother Marlene make breakfast at home.
Lee Schrager and mother Marlene make breakfast at home.
Photo by Evan Sung

New Year's Eve, the big annual celebration fueled by champagne and resolutions, is this week. However, what's even more important is the major refuel known as New Year's Day brunch.

Many people celebrate the yearly brunch with family and friends at home for a gathering filled with good vibes and a touch of hair of the dog. Hosting a New Year's brunch can be a great tradition — more casual than a NYE party but filled with the same good cheer and wishes for the coming year. But how do you host a brunch without making yourself crazy? 

South Beach Wine & Food Festival mastermind Lee Schrager is the man to turn to for two reasons. The first, of course, is he knows how to throw a fete. Schrager is also a breakfast maven. His latest book — dedicated to the most important meal of the day, America's Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes From Coast to Coast, written with Adeena Sussman — comes out April 5. 

Schrager shares his tips for planning the perfect brunch that entails the least amount of stress. These easy breakfast hacks work wonderfully on New Year's Day or if you've got a houseful of relatives looking for a respite from the cold.

  • Save on baking time by picking up great breads and breakfast pastries from Zak the Baker, Buena Vista Deli, or True Loaf.
  • Fresh flavors will go a long way and look beautiful — head to a farmers' market and get great homemade granola and lots of fresh berries.
  • Make a quiche the day before. Cheat by using a store-bought pastry shell.
  • Plan ahead to have a make-it-yourself bloody mary or mimosa bar and prep garnishes the night before.
  • Set an easy tone with a good playlist. Try Diana Krall or Nina Simone. 

Schrager also shares his most personal recipe from his latest book. The dish is his mother's German breakfast (for dinner). Schrager says he can't recall when his mom first made this breakfast (or why it's "German"), but the mere scent of frying bacon, potatoes, onions, and peppers is enough to turn back the clock for the SoBeWFF founder. "This dish reminds me of my mother the most and conjures up fond memories of my brothers and I enjoying it together every time she made it."

The beautiful part of the dish is its simplicity in preparation and its universal appeal. After all, who doesn't like eggs, potatoes, and bacon? 

If you're serving company, prepare the potatoes in advance and finish the breakfast while your guests arrive. As Schrager says about making this meal alongside his mom: "Cooking this dish with her as an adult also gave me the opportunity to remember what’s so elemental and incredible about food and family: how pulling together a few simple ingredients — and preparing them, even wordlessly, side-by-side — can be the basis for a beautiful, lifelong conversation."

Lee Schrager's Tips for Hosting New Year's Day Brunch
Photo by Evan Sung

Marlene Schrager’s German Breakfast (for Dinner)
Serves 4 to 6

  • ½ pound bacon
  • 1 jumbo yellow onion, chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced (2 cups)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced (2 cups)
  • 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled, boiled, cooled, and diced
  • 10 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large (12- or 14-inch) skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, seven to eight minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and crumble when cool. Transfer the bacon fat to a bowl and reserve, returning three tablespoons to the skillet. Add the onion and both peppers and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is browned and the peppers are softened, 11 to 12 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, until they begin to break up, six to seven minutes. Push the mixture to one side of the skillet, add another tablespoon of bacon fat, and scramble the eggs until cooked. Add the bacon to the pan, stir together the entire mixture, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.


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