Monday, September 11, 2006

Combinations Part III

Summer’s gone. That’s for sure.

This morning (Sunday), it was decidedly not hot. As it has been for the last few months. Instead of being in a sweat at 8am, we were sort of huddled in now unfamiliar sweatshirts.

So breakfast would be hot.

But we hadn’t really prepared for this. Still being mentally in hot summer mode. So we had few things to base a hot breakfast on.

An abundance of whole wheat bread. Some eggs. And lots of figs.

The answer, as everyone has probably already figured out, was to make whole wheat French toast (Pain Perdu) with caramelized figs in orange sauce on top.

I was still feeling good about the orange / fennel combination from the previous evening. So I had oranges on my mind, and a few left. Actually, the ones left were more yellows than oranges, but the flavor of the juice was good.

I had made some caramelized figs in an orange sauce to put over a goat cheese some weeks ago. The sauce has a wonderful flavor. Not too sweet, but still thick and syrupy. Maybe too elegant for pancakes. But perfect for blini or French toast.

I mentioned yesterday how I love the combination of oranges and fennel.

Another combination that works very well is oranges and figs. Like the anise flavored fennel, figs also have a nice natural sweetness, and a fairly strong unique flavor. The orange again plays the role of adding a bit of acidity for balance, as well as some sweetness of its own.

On rare occasions, when I am thinking so far ahead that its is still Saturday evening, I have made recipes for French toast where you soak the bread in the custard mixture overnight. These are usually baked the next day. Making for a low-effort meal.

The vast majority of the time, however, it is already Sunday morning when we come to the consensus that French toast will be on the menu.

So I go with the quick version.

The overnight version, because of the long soaking and the baking procedure, results in a much puffier toast in a custard-like coating. Maybe this is the official version. I’m not really sure.

But the quick version can be just as tasty, and has the advantage (or disadvantage, depends what you’re looking for) of being a bit more robust, as in heavier. More stick to the ribs filling. Holds you over longer.

The toast and fig with orange sauce combination was fantastic, just as anticipated. Fresh figs are to die for. Figs roasted in butter (or our case, olive oil) are even better. The orange sauce provided the necessary ‘moisture’ to tie all the individually tasty components together into a deliciously unified perfection.

Since the figs roast while the toast is cooking, the whole thing takes less time than you might think.

Outstanding way to start a Sunday. A sprinkle of powdered sugar, and you have a really beautiful presentation as well. With a glass of champagne, it’s a celebration!

French Toast with Caramelized Figs in Orange Sauce
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

4 oranges, juiced (I used 2 oranges, plus a little orange juice)
1/3 cup honey
several sprigs of mint
Add a tbsp or two of triple sec and Curacao liqueurs, if desired

2 pints small ripe figs, tips removed, and cut in half
2-3 tbsp olive oil (or melted butter, if you are not serving to teenage girls!)
2 tbsp honey, warmed
Juice from 1 orange

16 slices whole wheat bread
6 large eggs
2-3 tbsp honey, warmed
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
butter, for skillet

Powdered sugar for garnish, if desired
Orange slices for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

In a small, heavy sauce pan, bring the orange juice and honey (and liqueurs, if using) to a boil, and reduce over medium heat until about 1/3 of original volume and thickened. Remove from heat. Crush some of the mint between your fingers, and stir into the syrup. Let steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then strain out mint, and reserve syrup.

Toss the fig halves with the olive oil, honey and orange juice in a bowl. Place the fig halves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast the figs for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are bubbly and just turning brown. Remove from oven and reserve.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey and salt. Ladle some of the mixture into a flat soup bowl large enough for a piece of the bread to lay flat.

Heat some butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Place one piece of bread in the egg mixture for 30 seconds. Turn bread over and place in egg mixture for another 30 seconds. Remove to a plate with a pancake turner (it will be very soft), letting excess egg mixture drip off. Repeat with a second piece of bread. When the second piece of bread is done soaking, place both pieces of bread in the hot skillet. Add some additional egg mixture to the soup plate and soak two more pieces of bread in the same manner while the bread is cooking. When the bread it browned on one side, turn, and brown on the other side. When the toast is cooked on both sides, remove the toast to an oven proof plate, and keep warm in the oven.

Continue soaking and cooking bread pieces, buttering the skillet lightly each time, until either the bread or the egg mixture is gone, keeping finished pieces warm in the oven.

Place two or three pieces of toast on each of four plates. Spoon some of the figs on top of the toast. Spoon some of the syrup onto the figs. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and garnish with orange slices, if desired. Serve with additional syrup on the side. Enjoy!

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