Portlanders love brunch (though I’m 99 percent sure this isn’t an exclusive Portland thing). But I’ll admit Portlanders can get very intense about their brunch—It goes along well with a long list of other b-words associated with our city: Beards, Bikes, Birds, Beanies, Beer, etc., etc. (Thanks Portlandia). Another thing Portland is famous for is the high amount of people who move here—supposedly because it’s the promise land for all the beer-drinking, brunch-eating, bearded men in beanies whose “other car is a bike” and never forget to “put a bird on it.” So it’s no surprise that at some point I find myself at the intersection of Non-Native-Oregon and the Three-Hour-Brunch-Line.
I happen to live around the corner from a very popular brunch spot in town. While that sounds glorious, it actually just means that street parking in front of my house is near impossible Sunday mornings. I actively avoid having to move my car or go anywhere during the “brunching” hours on the weekend when my normally quant, tree-lined street turns into the parking lot from hell. Not to mention the added frustration of constantly attempting to walk on a sidewalk with a train-during-rush-hour-in-Tokyo-sized crowded of Bloody Mary-starved people. While I do have the advantage of being walking distance to this brunch place, my proximity doesn’t exclude me from the 1-3 hour wait for a table. So naturally, I’ve stricken it from my list of “Gretchen Approved Places To Brunch.”
Unfortunately everyone else still wants to brunch here, so occasionally I get dragged out, against my will, for an oversized portion of whatever potato-egg concoction is currently in vogue. One of these occasions happened a few years back: Through a series of uncomfortable encounters, I ended up “friends” with a guy living in the apartment complex across the way. (He was new to Portland and very eager to make friends; I found him unbearably annoying but was unsure how to politely decline being friends.) Bumping into him out on the street one day, he asked if I, “wanted to get breakfast sometime at for-mentioned legendary brunch spot (that will remain unnamed as to protect my actual address).”
“Sure,” I said being the stereotypical overly polite Oregonian who has no intention of following through with said agreement (Portlander’s are notoriously flaky). It’s like when you bump into an old acquaintance and agree you should “get coffee and catch up sometime” but you both know that neither of your actually intent to do so. Only I guess Midwestern transplants haven’t gotten the memo that that’s a thing because he set an actual day and time for us to go out to one of my most dreaded brunch spots. Utterly panicked at the idea of having to spent 1-4 hours making small talk with this guy (and completely unsure if he thought it might be a date) I invited reinforcements. Turning brunch into a group activity would surely solidify this guy into the “friend zone” … right?
Text chains were formed, insane amounts of coffee were consumed, we huddled for hours outside with the rest of the hungry masses, polite conversation was made, over-priced food was bought and when all was said and done, I had survived an awkward brunch experience (and it only cost me about 3 hours of my precious time and roughly $20). I felt like I was “in the clear” so to speak while I put my box of never-going-to-taste-the-same-reheated leftovers in the fridge. I’d done something polite, I’d taken precautions to create a clear friend zone, and was free to beginning being a bit “too busy” to hangout (in my defense I am often quite busy and don’t really have the time to spend on maintaining a friendship out of politeness, particularly when I really don’t want to be anything more than an acquaintance.) So you can imagine my surprised when only a few minutes after saying goodbye, I found my across-the-street neighbor knocking on my door.
“Are we dating?” the words just kind of bubbled out of him nervously. The dread surged inside of me. I tried to maintain an unoffensive expression on my face while cursing the whole concept of brunch. I was specifically wanting to avoid this very interaction—stuck between not wanting to have constant awkward interaction with a neighbor and wanting to make my stance in the situation very clear.
“No,” I said while shutting the door.
Now days I usually stick to cooking Sunday brunch at home instead.
1/2 a sweet potato
1-3 small purple potatos
1/2 yellow onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1 small bulb of fennel (or half a larger bulb)
Splash of milk
Dash of dried oregano
1 Bartlett pear (peeled)
Salt & Pepper to taste
leak or green onion (sliced)
hot sauce (I often add a small amount of a lemongrass-based hot sauce made locally in Portland).
Prep ingredients so they are all ready to add when you need them. Finally chop garlic, thinly slice onion, cube potatoes (I slice mine into thinner almost matchstick piece to reduce the amount of time they take to cook). Add garlic, onion, potatoes and butter to a larger pan (I use an 9 inch cast iron). Place on medium heat and stir occasionally until the onions are starting to caramelize and the potatoes soften. While you wait, thinly slice shallot and cube fennel. Add shallot and fennel to caramelize onion mixture and let them cook until they also start to soften (5 to 10 minutes).
While your veggies are cooking, whisk eggs and milk together and cube pear. I usually only use 1/2 to 3/4th of the pear but you can use the whole thing if you want the frittata to be extra loaded (if you do this consider using 5 instead of 4 eggs). Add whisked eggs to the pan, gently moving the pan around to evenly spread the egg. Sprinkle with a dash of salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Add pear spreading them throughout. (Add prosciutto. sliced in to smaller chucks, if using it). Top with slices of brie (I cut my slices to be only about an 1/8th inch this so they get nice and melty. I often use about 5 to 6 slices, just enough to make sure there’s brie spread throughout without completely covering the frittata in it).
Cover with lid and turn heat to its lowest setting. Alternatively if you are using an oven-safe pan, you can toss it in the oven at a lower heat (around 300°F). Let sit for 5 minutes and then start checking the frittata every few minutes. It will be finished when eggs are cooked through and cheese is melty. Timing will vary depending on what type of pan you are using and what type fo stove/oven you have. So keep and eye on it and use your instincts.
Top with optional toppings and serve immediately.
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GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.