Friday, August 24, 2012

Bon A Petit

Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ― Julia Child

August is winding down...the nights are crisp, the days are (mostly) mild. And I don't get hot flashes anymore just thinking about turning on my oven.

Yes, it is time again for Mac and Cheese and marinara and chili and fresh baked bread and cookies. Beef stew and chicken soup. All our favorite comfort food.

With the advent of school looming, there are only 2 breakfasts with the BFF left before we switch back to dinners. That means it is time to pull out all the stops, and haul out any favorite recipes that may have gotten overlooked so far this summer.

That would include Stuffed French Toast Strata. This is a french toast casserole that gets made ahead. You can make it anywhere from 2 (if you forgot) to 24 hours (if you are really on top of things) before hand.

Where a stale, crunchy bread might seem unappetizing, using the bread in cooking solves the problem without waste. One way is to soak the bread in milk and eggs and fry it. Or bake it.

The origins of the first recipe are unknown, although a version appears in the fourth century Roman cookbook often attributed to Apicius ("Break grated Sigilines (a kind of wheat bread), and make larger bites. Soak in milk, fry in oil, douse in honey and serve.").  

Similar dishes have existed in many countries and under many names, since the 4th or 5th century.

I like this french toast casserole because it is the Cadillac version of french toast casseroles. It's extra special ingredient is cream cheese. The cubes of cream cheese are layered with the bread making for a nice surprise. It is not sweet. You need the syrup for sweetness.

This casserole gets served with a Apple Cider Syrup. I love fruit syrups. I also have a blueberry recipe that I have substituted strawberries or peaches in. Fruit syrups are very versatile. They can be used for casseroles, pancakes, waffles or even ice-cream. They add a nice pop of flavor and color. And they are super easy to make.

Stuffed French Toast Strata
1 (1 lb) loaf of French bread, cubed, (12 cups)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cubed
8 eggs
2-1/2 cups milk, light cream or half and half
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup

-In a greased 9x13 pan, layer half the bread, all the cream cheese, then other half of bread.
-In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, butter and syrup. Pour evenly over bread and cheese.
-Cover with plastic and refrigerate 2-24 hours.
-Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until center is set and edges are golden.
-Let set 10 minutes before serving.

Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp butter or margarine

-In a small saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Stir in cider and lemon juice and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Makes 1-1/3 cups.

Blueberry Sauce
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon juice

-Cook and stir everything but lemon juice until thick and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

Stuffed French Toast Strata pairs well with a strong cup of coffee, bacon or sausage, and fresh fruit. Almost as well as Frank Sinatra's Love and Marriage.

A Perfect Pairing

And, always remember a tip from the French cooking pro...

“If you're afraid of butter, use cream.” ― Julia Child