Every year I try to come up with something new and special--but not time consuming--to make on Christmas morning. This time around I decided to ask John Currence, the author of Big Bad Breakfast, what he'd suggest. Currence's recommendation is exactly what I'm looking for--it can be made ahead, is suitably cozy and indulgent, and goes well with a Mimosa...As far as the Eggs Benedict for twenty people that he talks about below? That makes me want to curl up in a little ball, but if you're up for it there's nothing better (except maybe this Monkey Bread...).
From John Currence:
This is a slam dunk! For almost 20 years, I have been having Christmas breakfast with my best friend Andy Howorth and his family and the menu is the same every year.
We pre-make a Monkey Bread that goes in the oven first thing and blows up the aromas in the house. Cinnamon and nutmeg swirl through the house. The gooey, sticky, nutty, fruity testament to all things good, then sits on the counter to be picked away at by all. Bloody Mary’s and Screwdrivers most certainly then get into the game and then, as a group, we dive into the process of getting twenty English muffins and forty poached eggs together at once as Eggs Benedict with a house-smoked pit ham, napé with copious amounts of hollandaise and Tabasco brand hot sauce, after which we kick back with hot mulled cider and a touch of bourbon while kids dive into presents.
Serves 8 to 10
I firmly stand behind the conviction that there are moments when only the most ridiculous store-bought products will suffice. There are times when only French’s yellow mustard or the cheapest hamburger dill pickles will make a certain recipe work. My enormously sweet buddy Chris Sheppard and I spent a boozy hour in NOLA recently expounding the virtues of Miracle Whip to a couple of bewildered young line cooks. And monkey bread is one of those recipes that calls for an ingredient that some people might deem unthinkable: refrigerated biscuit dough.
We worked on this recipe for weeks when we got ready to open City Grocery for brunch service. We tried different biscuit recipes and cooking methods, but until I threw up my hands one day and sent someone to buy a store-bought can of biscuit dough, it didn’t come close to working. On first test run, while not perfect, the Pillsbury Grands monkey bread blew any of the scratch biscuit attempts out of the water.
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3⁄4 cup chopped mixed nut topping (see Note)
1⁄2 cup dried currants
1⁄2 cup diced Granny Smith apple
2 (16-ounce) cans biscuits, each biscuit cut into quarters
1 1⁄4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil a 9-inch round or square cake pan.
Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag. In a bowl, toss the nuts, currants, and apple with 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture, then spread in the bottom of the prepared pan.
Add the biscuits to the bag, seal the bag, and toss to combine well. Layer the biscuit pieces and sugar mixture evenly in a single layer in the pan on top of the nuts, currants, and apple. Don’t be concerned if the biscuits don’t fit perfectly. They will expand to fill out the pan.
In a small saucepan, warm the brown sugar, butter, and vanilla over medium heat until it reaches a very low simmer. Turn off the heat and pour the sugar mixture evenly over the biscuit pieces. Bake until golden brown and puffed up nicely, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 or 4 minutes, then turn out onto a large serving plate. Serve warm and pull off the individual pieces to eat.
NOTE: Chopped mixed nut topping is available in the bakery aisle of the grocery store.