Wednesday, March 7, 2012

French Toast with Meyer Lemon Curd and Berries

In the past year or so I've discovered that I love brunch. I know that shouldn't take much discovery, but I'm not a big breakfast person (read: I prefer to sleep in than make breakfast) so I never used to think much about brunch. But that has all changed. Last weekend I had two wonderful brunches. The first was leftover herbed goat cheese tart with a light salad, but that's not what this post is about (I'll post about that in the next couple days). This is about the heavenly combination of French Toast with Meyer Lemon Curd and blueberries. Yes, blueberries aren't exactly in season... But sometimes when it's 70 degrees outside it's hard to remember that it's March and I crave blueberries.

This post owes much to Mitch, my wonderful boyfriend. I had Meyer lemons and wanted to make all this for brunch, but there were a few key issues. No butter, no eggs, no bread, and no blueberries. Before I even rolled my lazy self out of bed on Sunday, Mitch went to the grocery store to pick up my missing ingredients. I'm a lucky girl.

The meal turned out great. Meyer lemons make a wonderful lemon curd, since they're a little less tart and therefore require less sugar. I like to avoid that sour mix feeling where you have the right amount of flavor, but you need so much sugar to counteract the sourness that it makes your mouth pucker. (I also avoid drinks with sour mix - mix simple syrup and lemon or lime juice and it's so much better! )

Another fun addition to the lemon curd is orange flower water. A teaspoon of it adds a subtle floral aroma to the curd. It doesn't stand out - you'd never notice unless you knew - but it rounds out the floral nature of Meyer lemons beautifully. If you have extra lemon curd, and you don't just eat it with a spoon, make some meringues and serve with whipped cream and lemon curd and maybe some berries for an extremely elegant desert.

As for French Toast itself, I like to keep it simple. No sugar, since the topping is sweet, and not too heavy. I can never decide whether I like thinly sliced bread or thick slices better, but thin is certainly easier to cook correctly. With big thick slices, I bake them to finish them off. There's nothing worse than undercooked French toast with that gooey, slimy interior. Yuck. I always cook my French Toast all the way, so it has a custardy feel without any slime.

The blueberries are optional. Substitute blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries and it would be just as good. Warmed up frozen blueberries would be good too.

French Toast with Meyer Lemon Curd and Berries
Serves 4

4 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk (or half and half if you want to be indulgent)
a pinch of salt
8 relatively thin slices of bread (choose good quality artisan bread - it really makes a difference)
1 teaspoon of butter
1 cup Meyer Lemon Curd (see recipe below)
1/2 cup blueberries (or other berries)
Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Beat together the eggs, milk, and salt in shallow bowl. Add the bread to the bowl and turn a few times to soak it fully. Let it sit for at least 5 and up to 20 minutes.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the saucepan. Add as many slices of bread as will fit without touching, and let them cook without moving for about 3 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side for 2 minutes or until fully cooked an brown. Keep warm in the a warm oven until the other pieces are finished. Repeat the process of cooking the French toast until all the bread is used up.

Serve the toasts with a large dollop of lemon curd and some berries. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.

Meyer Lemon Curd
Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (takes about 4 lemons)
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
scant 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
6 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon Orange Flower Water (optional, but delicious)

Beat the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs together with a whisk in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, and whisk the mixture until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Add the butter and Orange Flower Water and let rest for 30 seconds. Using a wooden spoon, stir quickly to incorporate the butter. When all the butter is melted and incorporated, remove the bowl from the heat. Allow to cool, covered with wax paper or plastic wrap.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Six Months of Food

You may have noticed a 6 month hiatus in my blogging. The blog-free period started around the time work got crazy late last summer. Blogging takes a lot of time and effort, and it can be hard to find the energy when you're working hard every day. I would come home and have just enough energy to cook and eat -- certainly none left over for writing. Either that, or I would finally have dinner on the table but it's already 9:00, so there was no way we were waiting to take pictures before eating.

But now I am more accustomed to my job, and it's time to get blogging again! It's a shame to have made so many great meals over the past months and not post anything about them, so I'll start with a recap of what I've been cooking.

I was still taking plenty of pictures, since I hadn't yet given up on starting to blog again. We have great farmers' markets here in St. Louis, so my summer was defined by trips to the market and meals made from those ingredients. Here are a couple fun examples of the food I made and ate last summer:

Vitello Tonato: Poached Veal with Homemade Tuna Mayonnaise, Perfectly Ripe Tomatoes, Arugula, and Basil Oil

Individual Raspberry and Apricot Sourdough Bread Puddings

Homegrown Sungold Cherry Tomatoes and Lemon Basil - best summer snack ever

Cocktail: Muddled Nectarine, Gin, Thyme Syrup, St. Germain, Lime, Lemon Verbena Garnish

Crawfish, Zucchini, and Lemon Thyme Risotto

 Zucchini and Basil Fritters

Summer Rolls with Vietnamese Style Grilled Pork, Herbs, and Grilled Summer Squash

The farmers' markets stay open well into the fall, so I made plenty of fun late summer/early fall dishes from the market. Some of my favorite ingredients are sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), sunflower sprouts, apples, figs, cucumbers, and corn.

Harissa Marinated Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Cucumber, and Paprika Sauce

 Baguette Slice with Fresh Chevre and a Blackberry

Fresh Figs and Goat Cheese - Ideal Picnic Lunch

Sunchoke Soup with Pecan and Radicchio Topping

Almond Gazpacho with Black Mission Figs

Tossed Greens and Herb Salad

 Sweet Corn Bread Pudding with Leeks and Bacon

No more farmers' market, none of that awesome summer fruit... Winter is never the best season for cooking, but there are still plenty of wonderful things to make with winter ingredients. I didn't take as many pictures over the winter, so this will be a smaller sampling. But by now you're probably losing interest in all these pictures of food, so it should be ok.

 Gnocchi Romana and Sauteed Spinach with Preserved Meyer Lemon

Grilled Lamb with Mint Almond Pesto; Haricot Verts; Jasmine Rice

Spanish Tortilla with Bell Peppers

"Lord Chutney": Tomato and Chili Jam with Ginger, Mustard, and Garlic  (served with above Tortilla)

Butter Lettuce, Cilantro, Beet, and Apple Salad with Sriracha Vinaigrette

Watercress and Arugula Salad with Diced Roasted Beets, Soft Boiled Egg, and Orange Vinaigrette

It's still winter, so check back for a few more winter recipes before we transition into springtime (I can't wait - I love spring!). From now on I'll be trying to write on my blog at least once a week. After all, I make way too much good food not to write about it here every once in a while!