Top | Dinner Guest Blog
(post, Cynthia Lair)
Each year during the holiday season, we give our friends a warm feliz navidad with a big huevos rancheros brunch — the Buena Onda Brunch. This year, our sixth annual, we had a record 17 people in our small home. Spirits were high, the food tasty, and the smiles wide. Buena onda, after all, means "good vibes." For each diner, we serve two butter-softened tortillas with a fried egg on top of each. The top is covered by a hot salsa, which cooks the top of the egg. That’s the whole authentic dish. To American-ize it a bit, we sprinkle some cheese and avocado slices on top, and give diners a scoop of chipotle black beans on the side. The bright red salsa, green chile peppers, golden egg yolks, and tortillas beam bright holiday colors. On the table, which is covered with a cheerful red-flowered oilcloth, are pink ramekins filled with cilantro salsa, sour cream, hot sauce, and lime wedges for diners to decorate their plates. If that’s not enough color to send irises spinning, we also use Fiestaware in bright primary colors for serving the food. [%image reference-image float=right width=300 caption="Huevos rancheros, party dish."] In the first year of this weensy festival’s existence, we were slow at getting plates to the table. Our stove only has four burners — one for the salsa, one for the beans, one for the tortillas, and one for the eggs. There was a lag time of about five minutes between each guest being served. But the beer, margaritas (pomegranate this year!), or seltzer with Lime Boost chill out the hungry brunchers, so there’s rarely a complaint. Waiting is part of the fun. Nevertheless, we challenge ourselves to spin plates out faster each year. We were pretty slick in 2009. The between-time for diners was down to about 1 or 2 minutes. We enlisted two Crock-Pots from neighbors, putting the beans in one and the salsa in the other. Whew. That freed up two burners, giving us two skillets dedicated to eggs, which meant we could get out two plates at a time. Nice. Our mise en place was the best ever, too. Plates lined up like soldiers, grated cheese in a big wide bowl, egg cartons stacked at attention, spatulas at the ready. We had all 17 served within 35 or 40 minutes — a record. As a side note, this is not only a fun big-crowd menu, it’s affordable. Dry beans, tortillas, eggs, and peppers are relatively inexpensive. If you don’t get too carried away with buying tequila and avocados, you can serve 17 for under $75. We even had leftovers. Holy mole. Maybe you're thinking that I hail from Zihuatanejo and that’s what stimulates my attraction to cumin and beans. But no; I’m an English-Scottish-Irish-German Kansas-raised señora. Go figure. Does another culture’s food inspire you to entertain? Tell me yes. Which one, and how?