Vacay Vittles: Tropical French Toast

I’m going to be straight with you: While the rest of the country has been enduring a December deep freeze, I’ve been enjoying tropical trade winds and 80-degree temps on Vieques, Puerto Rico, my tropical home away from home. Sorry, but somebody has to do it.


Ripe papaya. (Kim O'Donnel)

In addition to replenishing my vitamin D supply, I’ve been having great fun cooking in the house we’ve rented up on a hill. The kitchen is well equipped and has a sunset view at dinnertime, with an occasional rainbow emerging after a late afternoon shower.

We’re here this week with two other couples, including fellow Post blogger Liz Kelly (Celebritology). Sarah (aka Mrs. Fonz) arrived with a loaf of challah bread from a Jewish bakery in New York. All three gals immediately shouted “French Toast!” and I began to think of the breakfast-y possibilities, what with papaya in the fridge, ripe limes on the tree in the yard and cinnamon and nutmeg in the cabinet.


KOD at the stove. (Liz Kelly)

The key to tasty French toast that doesn’t taste like scrambled-egg fried bread is a batter that includes a little sweet, a bunch of acid and fragrant spice. You also need sorta stale bread with a soft crust that will yield to batter and pan-frying. The rest is up to you. You can flavor and doctor up your French toast however you wish.

Early one morning this week, Liz and I had gone for a hilly walk through town to pick up provisions and then we three gals got to work. While Sarah sliced the stale bread, I peeled papaya and prepped batter. She dipped bread while I heated the skillet. And Liz shot photos, every step of the way.

It’s a stroke of luck to have backyard access to sweet limes and a whiff of ripe, antioxidant-rich tropical fruit in the middle of December. I do understand. But don’t let the wintry weather get in the way of a profoundly delicious breakfast this weekend or over the holidays. French toast inevitably feels special -- and if tropical jewels are out of reach or range, try a few apples, pears, persimmons, or clementine segments instead. Just follow the guidelines, below, and listen to your FT muse. There’s no way you can go wrong.


French Toast
For six servings:


Breakfast is ready. (Liz Kelly)

Fruit garnish
2 ripe bananas, sliced
½ ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and diced
Juice of 1 lime, preferably just off the tree
Sprinkling of brown sugar
Options, depending on season and time of year: sliced peaches, plums, pears, mixed berries, diced mango, pineapple

Batter
8 medium eggs (or 6 extra large)
2 tablespoons sugar (I prefer light brown)
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg, about ½ teaspoon
Juice of two oranges, and grated zest of one, if desired
Approximately ½ cup milk
Optional: 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract or equal amounts brown rum

Bread
Should be slightly stale
Ideal options include challah, cut on diagonal, brioche, pan de agua
Avoid bread with a thick, hard crust.
Estimate two pieces per person.

Fat
We used a mix of grapeseed oil and Smart Balance spread. I added a teaspoon of spread and a glug of oil for every batch (about four slices)

Method
Prep the fruit and place in a mixing bowl.

Combine the batter ingredients in a medium shallow mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Dip bread into batter in batches and allow to coat both sides.

In a cast-iron skillet or on a griddle, heat fat over medium-high heat. When fat bubbles, reduce heat to medium-low and add as many pieces of bread as possible without crowding the pan, which creates steaming.

Allow battered bread to cook for at least four minutes, or until golden brown, and then flip to second side. Cook for an additional three or four minutes.

To serve: Line French toast on a serving platter and garnish with fruit. In addition to maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit jam and powdered sugar work as sweeteners.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Breakfast , Travel , Tropical Fruit
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Comments

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So. Completely. Jealous!
(And, been meaning to ask if you have posted pics from the M Bar shin-dig..?)
Peace,
Centre

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | December 18, 2008 11:52 AM

Kim,

I recently returned from a visit to my favorite "House of the Mouse" in Orlando. While there we had breakfast at Wolfgang Puck's quick service cafe. One of the specialities is French Toast made using a bagel and crushed Corn Flakes and topped with great quantities of fresh fruit.

As I understand from the chef, it is pretty much the usual recipe of dipping in an egg batter then the corn flakes, but the flavor is wonderful.

If anyone wishes more information I will try to find my notes about the batter.

Happy Holidays to all!

Posted by: pyrmom | December 18, 2008 12:58 PM

Hi Kim,

Could you do a follow up about the campaign for "Eat the View" to put vegetable gardens on the White House lawn? I've tried talking to Roger Doiron about some flaws in his master plan.

My concern is this: Roger's ideas are fantastic, but not completely Green. You see, there is too much of a security risk in allowing volunteers to come and maintain the garden (which is cost effective and very Green). In order to insure the food is safe, paid staff/gardeners will have to take care of the 1 acre garden NOT volunteers who could potentially harm the food and soil to make anyone sick who eats the food.

And don't forget there will need to be some additional staff in the kitchen to preserve (can or freeze) the food for use later. It all adds up to $500,000++ to run a garden to feed the First Family. NOT cost effective when there are PLENTY of organic farms within 25 miles of the White House who can provide the food.

I totally support a small family garden that the Obamas can enjoy. It is a better idea, and would better reflect what ALL Americans can do in their own yard. Something Michele and the girls can HELP take care of. People don't have 1 acre to garden; and that is what Roger insists upon.

Roger means well but I don't think he understands the security risks involved in keeping our First Family and their guests from around the world safe or how much it will really cost to keep it safe.

Posted by: JeanaTP | December 18, 2008 3:15 PM

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