French Toast for Dinner

Many more hours this week were spent festooning our house for the coming Beauty and the Beast Halloween party than preparing proper meals in the kitchen. I lament that nachos and French toast and hospital cafeteria food have been stand ins for dinner over the last week. Let them eat breakfast for dinner, says this Antoinette wig.

And then, of course, the jobs we do. Busy times. I had the great fortune of creative direction and assistance from my mother in law during her recent visit and she created these wonderful silverware chandeliers for the dining room.

Can’t wait for guests to be ours!

French Toast Bake
Adapted from Penzeys Spices Earth Day book
1 loaf French bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick and allowed to dry out
8 eggs
2 Cups milk
2 Cups half & half
1 TB. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Topping:
1/2 Cup butter (1 stick), softened
3 TB. maple syrup
1 1/2 Cups brown sugar
1 1/2 Cups chopped pecans

Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Layer the dried bread in the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, half & half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour over the bread. Pat plastic wrap over the bread and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Make sure the bread is sitting fully in the liquid; place a plate on top of the plastic wrap to keep the bread submerged if necessary.


Preheat oven to 350°. Place a piece of foil on the rack to catch any drips. Remove the French toast from the refrigerator. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, syrup, brown sugar and pecans. Mix until crumbly. Spoon the topping evenly over the French toast. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour, or until puffed and golden. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Candied Pecans Meet Hurricane Nate

As is custom in New Orleans, we prepared to meet Hurricane Nate swirl to swirl—with revelry until the lights went out. And then with candles and raincoats. But then the lights never went out. The winds came in a loud frightful gust and sailed on past and we were left with the spoils of all the indulgent food we had prepared at Midcity Dinner Club, just in case it was our last meal.

I made this. A worthy last, had it been.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Candied Pecans

Adapted from Southern Living

CAKE

1 cup salted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole buttermilk

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

CANDIED PECANS

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

pinch salt

1 cup roughly chopped pecans

BROWN SUGAR ICING

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup salted butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugars, and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended. Add pumpkin and vanilla, beating just until blended.

Stir together flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in chopped pecans. Spoon batter into a greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour. While cake bakes, prepare Candied Pecans.

Prepare the Candied Pecans: Stir together granulated sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan over medium. Add 1 cup roughly chopped pecans, and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar melts and coats pecans, 7 to 8 minutes. (Sugar will appear grainy before it melts and coats pecans.) Spread on lightly greased (with cooking spray) wax paper, and cool 20 minutes.

Prepare the Brown Sugar Icing: Bring 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup salted butter to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan over medium, stirring often. Boil, stirring often, 1 minute; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth.

Spoon icing over top of cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Top with Candied Pecans while icing is still soft.

Delicious, just delicious. But try to save it for “last meal” sort of occasions….

I Love Yuzu

My Seattle in-laws are coming for a visit so I’m pulling out all my old salmon recipes to score some points! It’s still pretty summery here in New Orleans, and there is this citrus-esque stuff called yuzu really does it for me. You can blend it up as a marinade for fish, or swizzle it into a porch drink—try this salmon and gimlet combo.  Turn it up .

Yuzu Glazed Salmon

Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed or bottled yuzu juice

1 tablespoon yellow miso

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 heads baby bok choy, trimmed and sliced lengthwise

1 skinless center-cut wild salmon fillet (2 pounds)

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut a square of parchment about three times larger than salmon fillet.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together yuzu juice, miso, soy sauce, and maple syrup.
  3. Lay parchment on a sheet pan. Arrange bok choy on right half of parchment, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered on all sides. Place salmon on top of bok choy, drizzle with yuzu mixture, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  4. Take left side of parchment and fold it over salmon. Pleat edges together to form a parcel, sealing fish tightly in packet. Check to make sure there are no gaps along edges.
  5. Place in oven and bake 25 minutes. Salmon should be cooked through and just tender at center.
  6. Remove from oven and let rest a few minutes. Cut packet open, divide salmon and bok choy among plates, and drizzle with some cooking juices.

 

Sparkling Yuzu Gimlets

Adapted from Food and Wine

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons hot water

2 cups lightly packed mint leaves, plus small sprigs for garnish

1 1/2 cups lightly packed basil leaves, plus small sprigs for garnish

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons yuzu juice

2 cups chilled vodka

2 1/4 cups chilled sparkling water

Ice

In a small bowl, whisk the sugar with the hot water until dissolved. In a pitcher, muddle the mint and basil leaves with the sliced cucumber and the sugar syrup. Stir in the yuzu juice, vodka and sparkling water. Serve in ice-filled collins glasses garnished with small sprigs of mint and basil and a cucumber spear.

 

Midcity Mule and Tangerine Ribs for Humanity

You know, I was at Death Café tonight, where taboo is the topic, and I am still swimming in the sea of good thoughts offered to me by my brilliant colleagues. A medical student likened bearing witness to his cadaver as gazing on the ship of Theseus—a philosophical totem that challenges notions of permanence—if a ship is replaced plank by plank, piece by piece, everything exchanged but yet the ship retains its same shape and size and essence, is it the same? In the same way, as we humans are replaced year after year, cell by cell, molecule by molecule, what is it that retains our essence, that makes us the same? And when we die, where does that essence go? Is a dead person the same as the one moments prior who lived? Guh.

Or this gem of a find, an article co-authored by Einstein in 1955 and published in The Lancet medical journal, titled “Nuclear War: An Appeal to Scientists and the Public.”

“There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

This one goes out to those with their fingers poised on the bomb launch button: Remember your humanity. Food and drink helps—you are what you eat, how’s that Theseus? I would gladly replace each cell of mine, each stale plank, with the blocks of Midcity, NOLA.

Midcity Mule

Shout out to my neighborhood for this one

2 ounces bourbon

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 cup light ginger beer

1 fresh mint sprig 1 lime slice

In a copper mug or highball glass, combine bourbon and lime juice. Fill cup with ice. Add ginger beer; stir gently to combine. Garnish with mint sprig and lime slice.

Tangerine Sticky Ribs

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 rack baby back pork ribs, about 3 pounds

4 to 6 star-anise pods

Peels from 2 tangerines, coarsely chopped, plus more, chopped, for garnish

1 cup orange-blossom honey

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped

1 knob fresh ginger (2 inches), peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns (so spicy!)

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 tablespoon sambal oelek (available at Asian markets)

Rinse ribs under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place ribs in a baking dish, sprinkle with star anise, and set aside. In a blender, combine remaining ingredients and process until mixture is fairly smooth. Pour over ribs, cover tightly with foil, and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Remove ribs from refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Place covered dish in oven and cook 2 1/2 hours. Remove ribs from oven. Remove foil and set aside. Baste ribs with sauce and return to oven, uncovered. Cook another 30 minutes. Remove ribs from oven and tent with reserved foil. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Transfer rack to a cutting board and cut between bones. Serve with a sprinkle of tangerine peel.

 

Culinary Fight Club Redfish Showdown

I have the pleasure of introducing Colleen Simmons, the author of this fabulous guest post, mastermind of the forthcoming Midcity Porch Crawl Best Group Costume Contest winners-to-be, and fellow hostess and secretary of the Midcity Dinner Club. Thank you Colleen and Mike for being Bake This Day ambassadors to the local Culinary Fight Club last week!

Last night we attended the third and final installment of Culinary Fight Club in New Orleans. It was a beautiful September night at Central City BBQ. The air was thick with the smell of seafood and bbq sauce for the Redfish Showdown!

As the chefs lined up to race to the pantry we placed our imaginary bets on who would win the night. I had to go with the only female chef. Mike voted for the oldest chef, “because he is the most confident.”

The pantry consisted of staples like butter and garlic, but also had some strange items like heavy whipping cream and pineapples. I was curious to see what the chefs would do with them. The chefs grabbed only what they could carry in their arms and aprons and started cooking. They would only have sixty minutes to make a winning redfish dish.

As the sixty minutes ticked by we explored the ground of Central City BBQ. It was a picturesque evening.

From 6:37 to 7:37 the sky got darker and the free NOLA Blonde flowed. Everyone was having a great time when they rang the bell for the finish. Each of the five chefs plated their dish and brought them up to the Judges table.

The Judges were kind to all the chefs, which made us that much more excited to taste the dishes for ourselves. No criticism? Please, well give them some criticism!

We lined up to taste all five dishes, but only got to taste four, because Chef Robert Vasquez ran out of his sheepshead fish dish with redfish ceviche. We were disappointed, and also gave him some criticism because redfish was not the main protein of his dish.

All of the four dishes we tasted were delicious.

Chef Diana Hicks made a blackened redfish with sweet pepper hash. The fish was crispy and cooked perfectly, but we didn’t get any of the sauce it was supposed to be topped with, so marks off for that. Chef Michael Brewer made a spicy and sweet redfish dish with spinach and miso and siracha. This one was the front runner for a minute. Next up, we tasted Chef Wayne Cooper’s redfish with cabbage slaw. This one got points off because the fish had tiny bones in it.

Finally we tasted the sweet heaven of the winning dish. Chef Nick Puletti made redfish with bbq butter and fried garlic on a bed of polenta. It was oh so unctuous and the taste of fried garlic stayed with us for the rest of the night. Perfect!

Mike’s face says it all. We turned in our ballots for the garlicy goodness, and waited for the final results. We were happy the Judges and audience agreed with us and Chef Nick took home the gold!

Potato Focaccia with Gaea Oil and Okra Tofu Curry

If I could have a substance other than blood running through my veins, I would wish for olive oil. The smell, the green fruit essence in liquid gold. Gaea recently sent me a little love package of oil estate grown in Crete, Sitia Olive Oil, and I drizzled it like a giddy drunk all over this potato focaccia (or shall we just call it what it is—a pizza with potato chips and thyme on top).

In my opinion, bread dipped in olive oil remains near a sacrament. And this oil is some of the best I’ve ever had.

Tartine Potato Focaccia

Adapted from the Tartine Bread Book

Make the Tartine Country Bread dough

2-3 pounds waxy potatoes

1 ½ tsp salt

½ cup olive oil

1 bunch of fresh thyme

3 ounces pecorino cheese

Shape the dough as directed in the tartine country bread recipe. Section in half, and then one at a time, allow each half to rest on a work surface for 30 minutes. Then cut the potatoes into thin, translucent slices. Place in a colander and toss with salt. Let stand for 20 or so minutes, and the potatoes will leech out copious amounts of water. Sponge it up, let it drip through the colander, and then toss the potato slices with pepper, olive oil, and thyme.

Preheat the oven to 500. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Transfer the dough to the pan and stretch into a rectangular shape—do not rip the dough. If it resists stretching, just wait. It will relax in a few minutes, and then you can try again.

Distribute the potatoes over the surface of the dough. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan so it can bake evenly. Continue until the potatoes are golden brown, 20-25 minutes total. Remove from the oven and top with shaved cheese. Cut and serve warm. Yum.

On the subject of good oils, I’ve made another dish with palm oil that I find fabulous. I love curry anything, but this curry made with backyard okra, tofu and red palm oil hits a nice savory chord.

Okra Tofu Curry Rice

Adapted from Palm Done Right campaign

4 cups cauliflower florets

3 TB organic red palm oil

1 TB palm oil (stir fry liquid type)

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 scallions, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, cut into long pieces

8 okra, chopped

1 lb tofu, chopped into one inch cubes

1 ½ TB curry paste, I used green

1 tsp Penzeys curry spice

1 TB minced ginger

1 ½ cups brown rice, cooked

1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp coconut oil

Sea salt

Red pepper flakes

Black pepper

 

Cauliflower should be steamed in advance. I used frozen cauliflower that I blanched from fresh stuff I bought at a mega sale. Stir together the red palm oil and regular liquid palm oil in a small dish. Heat 1 TB oil blend in a skillet over medium and saute garlic, scallions and cauliflower for 5 minutes until starting to carmelize. Transfer to a bowl. Add another TB of the oil blend into the skillet and cook the onions, okra, and bell pepper for 7 minutes. In a separate skillet, add 1 TB oil and cook the tofu until browned on the edges.

 

Into the onion skillet, add 2 more TB of oil (or whatever is left) and stir in curry paste, curry and ginger. Let cook until fragrant and then add rice and saute. Add ½ cup chicken stock and scrape up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the other ½ cup chicken stock, the tofu, the heavy cream and coconut oil. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Finally, add back the cauliflower and garlic and heat until cauliflower is warmed up. Serve. YUM.

Blueberry Walnut Brownies and Treats for Recovery -Popcorn Giveaway!

Restorative time has been the course of the last week. After surgery, I’ve been making the slow march back to the world of the upright. The kindness and care from neighbors and friends has been the strongest medicine and the warmest rehabilitation. Used to tending to patients from the bedside, I think it has been good for me to spend a short season in the bed myself. Helplessness is an important master of ceremonies to entertain from time to time—a reminder that the show goes on without you. And it’s a good show, worth not missing.

Sometimes it’s your job to munch on popcorn and take a seat in the audience of things. I was sent the most delicious flavored popcorn from GH Cretors which I enjoyed on the sickbed couch with mugsful of Saints Coffee from CC’s Coffee. I love dark coffee and the Saints blend is a delicious dark roast, just my style. Looking forward to more Monday night couch time in the football season to come with both of these tasty delights! Comment below to win a Popcorn Giveaway from GH Cretors! Deadline is Sept 16th, midnight.

For now, I have gratitude brownies to bake for the cast of my recovery. Decided to take one of favorite cookbooks off the shelf and use some Stoneridge orchards blueberries to bake some delicious brownies.

 

Blueberry Walnut Brownies

Adapted from Farm to Table Desserts

4 ounces dried Stoneridge blueberries

4 oz unsalted butter

2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2 eggs

1 cup dark brown sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10 inch square pan. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. When completely melted, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, stir until smooth. Add the dried blueberries to the chocolate. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla, then blend in the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour, the walnuts, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix until just incorporated. Spread the brownie batter in the pan, you can top with more blueberries, I suggest the chocolate covered ones. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

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