Genius Recipes

19 Genius Mother's Day Brunch Recipes (Because She's the Best)

Starring cinnamon rolls, olive-oil granola, and more.

April 24, 2019

With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we’re revisiting the column’s Greatest Hits with brand-new videos—and hearing from a few special surprise guests. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)

I’m a mama’s boy. When it comes to sons who dote on their mothers, I win first prize. I call Jean every week, send her recipes I’m excited about, and fly home to Atlanta whenever my dad goes out of town on business. She says she loves my brother and me equally, but let’s be real: We all know who’s the favorite.

As award-winning as I am in the son department, there’s one thing I’m terrible at: buying my mom gifts. For years I sent her kitchen appliances that just ended up in the closet, bottles of wine she never drank, and sweaters that still have the tags on them.

Until one day, I realized there was a priceless gift I could give her, something she’d appreciate more than anything: a home-cooked meal.

Which is why every chance I get—on Mother’s Day weekend and otherwise—I cook her a bountiful spread filled with new dishes she’s never tried. Even better when the spread is for brunch, her favorite meal. Think: olive-oil granola, mochi pancakes, and the crispiest roasted potatoes on the planet. (And, best yet, she loves when I write down all these Genius brunch recipes, so she can make them on her own.)

As it's Kristen's first year as a mom, I feel a great responsibility here to do Mother's Day justice, Genius-style. So here are some of my favorite recipes from the column over the years, carefully selected for their unparalleled cleverness—and for how much my mother will love eating them:

Mother's Day Brunch Recipes

1. Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil & Maple Granola

My mom likes grainy, seedy, nutty things, especially granola with yogurt. "This recipe, adapted very slightly from Early Bird Foods' best-selling Farmhand's Choice Granola, is like muesli after a vampy makeover," Kristen writes. "Olive oil, maple, brown sugar, and coarse salt form a rich, shaggy crust on wholesome innards like oats, pecans, and coconut shards."

2. Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs

There are 1,001 ways to scramble eggs. Daniel Patterson's technique? Poach them. This small detour lends the fluffiest texture without the need for butter (a flavor which my mother, for some reason, isn't the biggest fan of). One tip from Kristen: "If you're serving them minimally, with just a ribbon of olive oil and sprinkle of flaky salt, go ahead and salt the water till it tastes like the sea, as you would for boiling pasta or blanching vegetables."

3. Cynthia Chen McTernan’s Buttermilk Mochi Pancakes

Growing up I spent many a Sunday morning at IHOP with my family. And let me tell you: Jean can down a stack of pancakes. So I'm excited to show her this recipe, which has a surprise Genius ingredient: sweet rice flour. "Interestingly, a bit of sweet rice flour mixed with all-purpose flour results in pancakes that aren’t dense and chewy like pure mochi is," recipe author Cynthia Chen McTernan writes. "Instead, they’re just the slightest bit softer and more tender, with a faint milkiness I like."

4. Aretha Frankenstein's Waffles of Insane Greatness

Or maybe, instead of Team Pancake, your mom's on Team Waffle. In that case, here's your "insanely great" recipe for the best waffles she'll ever have. According to Kristen, "The cornstarch in the batter helps tamp down gluten formation, making these waffles silky and moist inside with a crust as thin and crisp as an eggshell." <- I love that description.

5. Sally Schneider's Slow-Roasted Salmon (or Other Fish)

Smoked salmon is a welcome addition to any brunch table—but for Mother's Day, why not a more elegant take? For almost as little work, slow-roast gorgeous center-cut fillets in a low 275°F oven, then garnish with Greek yogurt and fresh herbs for a lovely homage to spring (and to Mom).

6. Molly Yeh's Roasted Potatoes With Paprika Mayo

When we published these roasted potatoes, they almost broke our site. "There is this one little step to getting the finest, crispiest roasted potatoes: Boiling in salty water first," Kristen advises. "It seasons the potatoes all the way through in a way that a cloak of fat and salt on a raw potato can’t. But maybe more importantly, boiling brings some of the potatoes’ gelatinized starches to the surface, so they get even crispier in the oven."

7. Nancy Silverton's Bran Muffins

Homemade muffins are always very nice to have at brunch, and these are the best. As Kristen tells it, "Silverton was uninspired by bran muffin recipes that called for processed bran cereals and lots of sugar. So she built a recipe based on unprocessed bran, which is pretty easy to find at health food stores and online. She toasts the bran briefly to develop the flavor, but otherwise stirs it straight in—so there really is no reason for using cereal, other than the fact that cereal marketers are good at their jobs."

8. Canal House's Pimentón Fried Eggs

"Fried egg?" is the question my mom asks whenever we sit to a home-cooked dinner. It translates to: I love you. (Also, in our house, fried eggs seemed always to round out a meal and make it more complete.) Jean's eggs are crispy at the edges, just like these Canal House ones, only without the Genius trick of spicing your frying oil. Spanish paprika is the original, but Kristen's also tried turmeric, za'atar, and chile flakes—each delicious in its own way.

9. J. Kenji López-Alt's Butter-Basted, Pan-Seared Thick-Cut Steaks

Why do moms get brunch, but dads get dinner? If you're like my mother, then you want a perfectly cooked steak just as much as a plate of crispy fried eggs (anyway, there's a reason those two are a match made in heaven). Kristen swears by this particular method from The Food Lab's J. Kenji López-Alt, where you're encouraged to flip your steaks often. "It leads to a more evenly cooked steak," she says.

10. Violet Bakery's Cinnamon Buns

My mom loves anything cinnamon-flavored, and nothing fits the bill better than a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven morning bun. The thing about homemade cinnamon rolls, however, is that they usually take forever. These are different. "If you can make scones (or muffins or banana bread), you can make these," Kristen encourages. "It’s all because the tiny Violet Bakery didn’t have the space to proof yeasted doughs, so founder Claire Ptak had to get crafty with a quick bread-style technique inspired by cookbooks from the 1950s."

11. Charlotte Druckman's Olive (Oil) Cake

This Genius olive cake is here because my mother loves it. I made it for her thrice on my last visit home, because I myself love it, too (and have since its publication memorized the recipe...and paraded its weird, confusing, perfect, beautiful flavor profile to the world). It’s a constant oscillation of maximal saltiness from the oil-cured olives, to minimal harshness from the sweet olive-scented cake, which gets its crisp chewiness from a scant 1/4 cup of ground almonds and a preheated cast-iron skillet. This is the ideal breakfast with a cup of coffee in the morning, or as a light snack in the afternoon with tea.

12. Roberta's Parsley Cake

Again, one of the main reasons I love cooking for my mom is that each meal is an opportunity to share something new I've learned during our time apart, whether that be a smart trick, a unique flavor combination, or a wonderful recipe (hello, Genius). In this case, it's all three: As it's a "bright spot at the end of a dense, salty meal," Kristen says, Roberta's green herb-flecked cake will make you rethink the way we cook with parsley and mint. Even more, you'll appreciate them as ingredients in their own right (and not as mere garnishes, their usual plight).

13. Chrissy Teigen’s French Toast Casserole With Salted Frosted Flakes

When it comes to brunch, it helps to have menu items you can prep in advance so future-you can enjoy your guests (especially Mom) on the day of. Even better where there's a little whimsy involved in the spread. As Kristen tells it, this French toast casserole from Chrissy Teigen "is spilling over with glee," thanks to the toasty, salty, buttery Frosted Flake topping, which "you will want to palm up like trail mix." In case you're still not convinced of its genius, a final note from Teigen herself: "I am so proud of this dish I could cry."

14. Michael Ruhlman's Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken

My mom adores fried chicken—but then again, whose mom doesn't? "This is a fried chicken recipe you just can't mess up," Kristen promises. "Ruhlman uses a speedy rosemary lemon brine, which is key to keeping the chicken flavorful and moist. Because of this (and its ultra-crispy buttermilk battered crust), the chicken will hold well in a warm oven for a couple hours before guests arrive."

15. Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

Homemade bread says two things: 1) home and 2) "you're worth it." I love this approachable, Genius baguette recipe because even I (a self-proclaimed bad baker) can make it. "It will only take you 4 hours of intermittent attention," Kristen promises, "and won't require a starter nor any equipment you don't already own—and it will rival your favorite bakery's."

16. Andrew Feinberg's Slow-Baked Broccoli Frittata

Finally, a not-dry, not-hard frittata for your wildest brunch dreams. (You're welcome.) "Instead of cooking the eggs quickly in a hot oven," chef Andrew Feinberg says, "I cook them slowly in a low oven and the result is a very custardy and creamy texture that traditional frittata do not have."

17. Nancy Silverton’s Egg Salad With Bagna Cauda Toast

So. Y'all really love this recipe. “It’s a very straightforward egg salad,” chef Nancy Silverton writes. “What makes it special is that every element of the salad is done correctly.” As Kristen tells the story, "correctly" means a few things: 1) "Boil the eggs just enough to be firm but yielding, with a still-glowing yellow middle." 2) "Make your own well-balanced garlic mayonnaise, aka aioli." 3) Serve on "bagna cauda toasts, bathed in warm garlic-anchovy butter," which "are in every way the right contrast to the egg salad spooned on top: the warm to its cool, the crisp to its soft, the prickly intensity to its complete, elemental comfort."

18. Anthony Myint's French Toast Crunch

"What happens when the minds behind Mission Chinese cross creme brûlée, French toast, and tres leches cake?" Kristen poses. "An indulgent, 5-ingredient treat—maybe the best pick-me-up we've ever had. French Toast Crunch is Anthony Myint's brilliant brûléed buttered toast resting in a pool of warm, sweet milk: our old friend milk toast, all dressed up."

19. Louisa Shafia's Watermelon, Mint & Cider Vinegar Tonic

Aaand, to finish, a refreshing watermelon mocktail—because there's nothing like a pitcher of a pre-mixed somethin' somethin' to bring a meal together and make it feel extra special.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
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  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
Eric Kim is a senior editor at Food52, where his solo dining column, Table for One, runs Friday mornings. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.


Whiteantlers April 24, 2019
Eric, your Mom is so very lucky to have you. What a sweet, considerate son. <3
Gotta say, you're certainly MY favorite!

Lacking children, I am going to have to leave this article with the recipes by the cat beds and cat tree with the hope that they read it, get the hint and do some shopping (they know FreshDirect delivers) and prep for the special pet parent day next month. I don't trust them with eggs but I bet they could handle Molly Yeh's spuds...
Author Comment
Eric K. April 24, 2019
judie April 24, 2019
I will try out the olive oil.. I have always used coconut oil & I also use molasses..
Author Comment
Eric K. April 24, 2019
Bet coconut oil lends nice flavor.