Yesterday it happened: I discovered *the* recipe that will become my signature brunch dish.
To be honest, I thought the chances were slim that this would ever happen. Mostly because I rarely cook brunch, and how is one to discover their signature dish if they never experiment, let alone even try? My reluctance to cook brunch I blame on my father, the brunch master, the man who never lifts a finger in the kitchen past noon, and yet makes the most amazing brunches. His half-moon omelettes are light, airy, and rich in flavor; his pancakes tall and fluffy like cumulus clouds; and his waffles cooked to golden perfection. Each visit I make home he specially prepares these for me, and I can't help but think there's no topping this. I make sure to get my fix for the remainder of the year before heading back home.
About a month ago, I alighted on a recipe for "Banana-Bacon-Stuffed French Toast with Hazelnut-Chocolate." Even the name hinted at its amazingness. I squirreled it away in my recipe box *just* in case inspiration might sufficiently overtake me to attempt this dish.
That inspiration came in the form of New Year's Eve day, when Greg and I would exchange gifts. We were each back from our respective visits with family, and I wanted to make something extra special for us. So I dug out the recipe, re-read the instructions to make sure they weren't overly complicated to be a recipe for disaster, and went shopping for the ingredients.
While not overly complicated, the recipe is pretty involved. So Greg served as my sous chef. I live in a typical Manhattan apartment (read: small) but with generous counter space and enough room in the kitchen where two cooks can comfortably work side-by-side. We make a great team. And it was such fun making the dish. The smells were incredible: the fragrance of the hazelnuts toasting in the oven, the aroma of the bacon sizzling stove-top, the sweetness of ripe bananas being sliced. And the anticipation of the outcome got us through our hunger pangs.
The hazelnut-chocolate spread is a surprisingly simple concoction (and in my opinion far better in both texture and taste than Nutella) requiring four main ingredients: hazelnuts, milk chocolate, light brown sugar, and vegetable oil. It can even be made up to a few days beforehand. We used day-old sourdough bread and Berkshire bacon. After pan-frying the bacon we removed the fat before chopping it up. We wanted the contrast of the crispy bacon against the creaminess of the hazelnut and banana spread; the fat -- while tasty -- would have distracted from it.
Surprisingly, everything went smoothly! The results: pure, unadulterated decadence. My taste buds have not stopped thanking me. In fact, I'm inspired to try my hand at more brunch items in 2013. And with hopes of sharing the inspiration, below is the recipe for this yummy goodness.
|The French toast will not last on any plate for very long.|
Banana-Bacon-Stuffed French Toast with Hazelnut-Chocolate
Recipe adapted from Brad Farmerie, The Thomas, Napa, CA. Serves 4.
For the Hazelnut-chocolate spread
1 cup hazelnuts
1⁄2 pound milk chocolate, roughly chopped
1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
For the French toast
8 bacon strips
8 thick slices of sourdough bread
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and thinly sliced, divided
4 large eggs
1⁄4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Make the hazelnut-chocolate spread: Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until the nuts are fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove as much of the skins as possible. Add the warm nuts, chocolate, sugar and salt to a food processor and purée until smooth, adding the oil in a slow and steady stream until well combined.
Make the French toast: In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until the strips are browned and crisp on both sides, about 8 minutes total. Use a pair of tongs to remove the slices from the pan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Lay the sourdough bread on a cutting board. Evenly coat each bread slice with the hazelnut-chocolate spread (reserve extra hazelnut-chocolate spread for serving).
In a medium bowl, use a fork to smash together about half of the bananas slices until a chunky mash forms. Spread the mashed bananas over 4 of the hazelnut-chocolate spread bread slices. Coarsely chop the bacon, removing any fatty pieces, and sprinkle over the banana mash. Place the sliced bananas on top of the bacon and cover with the remaining 4 hazelnut-chocolate spread slices, pressing down lightly so they stick together. Place the sandwiches in a single layer in a large, ovenproof baking dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs until frothy. Whisk in the milk. Pour the egg-milk mixture over the sandwiches and carefully turn them over to coat evenly with the egg-milk mixture.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Once the butter is melted, add two of the sandwiches and cook until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board and repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sandwiches. Halve the stuffed French toast on a bias, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with maple syrup and additional hazelnut-chocolate spread on the side.