Pain perdu.

First of all, let me say THANK YOU to all the military men and women who have served, are serving, or have died defending our freedoms and liberties. Your sacrifices are appreciated, and you are loved.

Onto the food…

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day, filled with fellowship and great food. I don’t know about y’all, but Memorial Day means bbq, coleslaw, sweet tea, potato salad and apple cobbler, to say the least. That’s normally at home, of course, with family and old friends and summer heat. Today, I’m not at home with family and old friends, so I decided that I’d make the day special for me with a good breakfast.

Pain perdu

Pain perdu is “real” French toast – soaked bread in custard, pan-seared and baked to perfection. If you like creme brulee – and I do, I do, I do – then this is definitely your overindulgent breakfast. I’d never heard of this particular feast until I came across Marc’s recipe in March. I’d wanted to try it for a while but never acted on the notion until this morning (well, last night).

I’m a little low on utensils – well, on kitchen in general, on the weekends for a little while. Being between apartments – just far enough apart to make a dent in fuel if I went back to the ‘old’ apartment to get anything – can be tough. (Don’t you love my Dixie plates?) I brought all I could remember for the recipe, but I still forgot some things – like milk and butter, for example. I used a loaf of ‘Italian’ bread from Kroger that I’d had in the freezer for a while. I used only cream for the custard, one large egg and a little less than a teaspoon of Reyna Natural Gourmet Vanilla (/plug).

I can’t tell you how much I love the stuff. Really. I would use it as an air freshener if I could. Or a body wash. Maybe a sugar scrub recipe is in order… anyway. If you ever get the chance to go to Mexico, BUY some Reyna, and thank me later. Back to breakfast.

I didn’t bake the pain in the same pan I fried it in, because the pan I borrowed had a plastic handle (and who likes melted plastic in the oven?). All I did was swap from the frying pan to the baking pan and stuck it in the oven, no timer. I fried up the bacon while the pain baked, and about the time the bacon was done, I checked the pain – perfect. The custard had set, no liquid excess. It came out buttery yellow, with deeply caramelized spots from the pan sear, and just solid.

Biting into it was like magic. Soft bread, crispy crust, creme brulee custardy goodness… magic. Eye-opening. Rich, silky – food at it’s most beautiful. I had anticipated needing maple syrup, but after that first bite, I never even looked twice at the bottle. If you use it, more power to you. I couldn’t have handled the sweetness overload.

My advice? MAKE THIS RECIPE. That’s my first piece of advice. You will not regret it.

Otherwise, I would like to say that while the Italian soaked up the bread nicely and make for a nice custard, make sure that if you use a similar bread that you don’t make your slices too big, or it will be floppy and hard to handle (although nonetheless tasty). Brioche would work handily, I’m sure, as any other kind of ‘dessert’ bread. You could come up with a ganache of some type without a problem, if you cut back on the sugar just a little. I’m going to try out a white chocolate pain perdu (of a sort) and see how it works against my white creme brulee for taste. Would this work with light brown sugar (or natural cane sugar)? I’m sure it would. It seems like a reasonably forgiving recipe.

Even if it’s not, the original is still pretty darn tasty on its own.

Pain perdu

(And yes, that is my truck grill in the background of that picture. Oorah.)

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Fettucine alla carbonara.

Does anybody actually say it like that? I mean, besides chefs and Italians? ‘Cause to be honest, my carbonara is more like… carbonara e verdure. I say that because I recently decided I liked adding vegetables to my pastas, especially when it comes to cream sauces. Verily, since I don’t really eat tomato-based sauces in the first place, although there are exceptions (creamy tomato sauce? I’m looking for a good recipe candidate to fill the role).

I’ve discovered that peas tend to be my favorite veggie ‘additive,’ though you could throw almost anything in with carbonara. I would use corn (maybe roasted), grilled asparagus or roasted cauliflower. I really think that the flavor that roasting brings out in veggies would complement this recipe quite well (because of the bacon). I definitely want to try some roasted cauliflower next time, get a nice color scheme going on.

The only real problem I had with the recipe was user error. I think I heated the cream a little too long (and using single cream may have had its own effect) and subsequently came out with mildly clumpy sauce when it was all said and done. I’m honestly not sure if it was heating the cream too much, or if it was tempering the egg before adding it wholly to the cream that caused that. Nonetheless, I was highly pleased with it. I’ll be making it again, that’s for sure.

And just as a sidenote, probably an unnecessary one: if you’re going to roast your veggie, or grill it, whatever, you’ll probably want to cook it first so you can have it ready when you’re throwing it all together.

(Recipe under the cut.)

Fettucine alla Carbonara e Verdure

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

cooking time: 20-25 minutes

ingredients:

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces whole wheat fettuccine or linguine
1 egg, beaten
1 cup half-and-half (I used light cream and 1% milk)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 cup of your favorite vegetable (I used frozen peas)
Coarsely ground black pepper
Dried or fresh herbs

directions:

Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Cook vegetable and pasta according to package directions, drain and keep warm. Meanwhile, for sauce, in a saucepan combine egg, half-and-half, and butter. (NOTE: If you want, temper the egg and add it last!) Cook and stir over medium heat until egg mixture just coats a metal spoon. DO NOT BOIL. Pour sauce over pasta; stir gently to coat and add Parmesan, pepper to taste and add herbs if you wish.

Serves 4-6.

I also have this posted on SparkRecipes, here, which includes the nutritional info (roundabout) for the recipe with peas.

Granola – Uno.

Most people that I grew up with would never have imagined that I would be eating granola for breakfast, much less searching for a better version. In fact, they would probably laugh.

I grew up on real breakfast – sausage patties cooked up crispy, toast with tablespoons of Country Crock, scrambled eggs with Country Crock and heaps of salt and pepper, black scalded coffee, slabs of country ham… ah, childhood. (No grits, thanks.) And that’s not to say that I don’t still love all that artery-clogging, heart attack-inducing food; I do, wholeheartedly and without reservation. It’s just not feasible to cook any or all of that on most mornings. I savor every moment of sleep I can get, and sleep > hearty breakfast. Breakfast nowadays has to be something I can pack up in a bag and take with me to eat in the early confines of work. That limits my choices. So, granola.

I have spent time searching and searching throughout for a basic, decent granola recipe. I’m picky about it, too – I don’t want something full of too many nuts, or fruits, or wheat germ, or flaxseed, or any of that hoodie-hoo complicated expensive ‘whole foods’ movement stuff. The latter is generally what nixes the recipe of the moment – yes, I know I can leave it all out if I want, but I don’t. Those flaxseed wheat germ recipes usually call for ‘orange blossom honey’ or ‘kosher salt,’ and I just can’t abide by that. Too much free love for me.

So I made my first granola experiment last night before karate. And it was an experiment, indeed. I need to find the recipe I printed to use – it’s somewhere on the Internet. It read simply, with all the basic needs I thought one would want for an interminably modifiable granola recipe. I expected it to be life-changing, magic from the pan.

It wasn’t. Not really.

Some things didn’t work right. I worked with what I had – pecans, some sliced almonds, some sunflower seeds, and rolled oats I’d bought specifically for the purpose of making granola. (It’s too hot to eat oatmeal right now anyway.) I mixed the dry up together, then the wet (honey and canola). Maybe I should’ve used vegetable; who knows. I thought initially on mixing it that the ‘syrup’ didn’t look right. Too liquid. Not proper. Would it cover the dry mix properly? I shook these thoughts out of my head and forged ahead, mixing wet and dry until incorporated. Now, the recipe called for 30 minutes of baking at ~350°F (it listed the temp in °C, so I had to convert), but it only took about 14 minutes in my oven, which is not proper in any way and does whatever the hell it damn well pleases. The granola came out a deep, lovely brown, but it was still soft and in no way crunchy enough to suit me. But I had to go to karate, so I stuck the pan back in the still-warm oven to dry while I was being taught hip- and shoulder throws by example.

When I came home, it was dry, crunchy – I was excited. I tasted a bit and was disappointed. It was bland – toasty, but without good flavor. I’d expected a hint of sweetness, but the roasted quality overwhelmed anything the honey might have delivered. (Should’ve added more honey, I thought to myself.) I put it back in the oven for the night and decided that maybe it would be better in the morning with added craisins and some brown sugar.

I had it for breakfast this morning, and to be honest, my first bite was not encouraging. It tasted dark. It turned my milk brown. My second bite was better, with craisins in that spoonful, and I managed to become accustomed to the taste by the end of the bowl. However, it still needs salvaging in a bad way. I’m thinking that I may sprinkle it with brown sugar and a squeeze more honey, stick it back in the oven and let it warm a little more. Hopefully that will save it, and I’ll eat it with yogurt instead of milk. But to be honest, I’m not sure that I want to make the recipe again, not after I get done with this batch.

I’m going to move on to another recipe and see what happens next time. We’ll see – I’ll only be making a half-batch anyway. No use in wasting all my oats at once.

Hello world!

Hello… everyone. I’m sure you’re all out there, somewhere.

I decided that having a livejournal just wasn’t cutting it anymore. So I’m still getting used to WordPress (everything’s still so shiny and new!), and when I finally get used to it, I’ll post some more things. I might even import my old lj stuff… but we’ll see.

In the meantime… hi again!

Kate