Sunday, May 12, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner: Apple-Plum French Toast, Goat Cheese Quiche with Fresh Herbs, and Potato Pancakes

I never thought I was a fan of breakfast food for dinner. At brunch events, I used to always go with less br- and more -unch. I've always known that if I have already eaten a breakfasty food, no matter how small a portion, I won't want more until the next morning. That is, however, until this week. I realized that many of my Walking Cookbook goals were breakfast foods: muffins, pancakes, French toast, etc, etc. I had to check them off somehow, so the breakfast-for-dinner idea was born. And boy, have I been wrong about it this whole time! Read on to see how breakfast can easily be made into a lovely dinner, savory enough to feel like an evening meal and sweet enough to not need dessert. I made French toast with apple-plum compote, a goat cheese quiche with fresh herbs, and some potato pancakes with chive sour cream. And of course, a B4D event would not be complete without mimosas... they provide much needed Vitamin C.

About Breakfast Foods
I recently read the book The Fault in our Stars by John Green, in which intellectually and comprehensibly cynical 16-year-old Hazel thinks deeply about small aspects of life as she lives expecting to die from cancer. One of these things is the classification of "breakfast food." She gets admirably annoyed by the fact that certain foods are considered breakfast foods and that the world just signs onto the idea without question. This (and the entire book) made me think a lot. Why are breakfast foods called breakfast foods? I did a little investigation, and although I still don't have a great answer I have some ideas.

In America's early years, corn-based breakfast porridge or cakes were common because of the pioneers' access to Native American corn crops. Cook's Illustrated editor Christopher Kimball mentioned in a CBS Early Show segment that baked corn "dodgers" would last almost indefinitely, making them perfect for travel and storage in pre-refrigeration days. As is true now, the wealthier classes had a larger and more varied breakfast, including meats, fish, eggs, and fruit. Eggs are commonly considered part of a morning meal because when people had their own chickens there was easy access to eggs, and the eggs laid overnight were the freshest in the early part of the day.

Brunch was fun to read about as well. It was first referenced in print (to food historians' knowledge) in a Hunter's Weekly article, but since nobody can seem to find that article, the Food Timeline cites an amusing quote from Punch Magazine (UK-- errors copied from source). Apparently brunch is a very specific term:

"Brunch v. Blunch! According to the Lady, to be fashionable nowadays we must 'brunch.' Truly an excellelnt portmanteuar word, introduced; by the way, last year, by Mr. Guy Beringer, in the now defunct Hunters Weekly, and indicatying a combined breakfast and lunch. At Oxford, however, two years ago, an important distinction was drawn. The combination-meal whn nearer the usual breakfast hour, is 'brunch' and, when nearer to luncheon, is 'blunch.' Please don't forget this." 
---"Fashionable and Seasonable," Punch, August 1, 1896 (p. 58)

As we still see today, breakfast traditions depend on culture and region but equally on privilege and wealth. After all this research, I considered myself very fortunate to have had breakfast twice in one day.


Choosing the Recipes
Going into this week's meal I knew I wanted something sweet and something savory. I also knew that I wanted to use apples (since my roommate, who is allergic to apples, was out of town). French toast and quiche were both on my Master Plan list, so I figured I'd give them a shot.

The French toast recipe was easy once I searched for an apple French toast-- I was tempted by a few fancy overnight French toasts or stuffed French toasts, but my goal has never been to memorize "special" recipes. I want the best of the basics. So I chose a nice Martha Stewart one with a basic French toast egg soak and a yummy apple topping. For the quiche I was torn between the beautifully photographed and well written recipe from The Kitchn and the less stimulating but nicely flavored herbal recipe from the NY Times. So I combined them! Potato pancakes were my own creation after poking around at about 10 different potato pancake recipes online.


Memorizing the Recipes
It turns out quiche is one of the easiest recipes I have ever made. I bought the crust, of course, but I used to think that even the inside would be difficult. It turns out you just need to know the right egg-to-half&half ratio and everything else is optional. Here is the golden ratio for two quiches: 6 eggs to 2 1/2 cups half & half.

The golden ratio for a loaf of french bread sliced into French toast is 1 cup milk, 3 eggs, 1 splash of vanilla extract (1/2 tsp), and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Then it's all about soaking and cooking in butter.

So there you have it-- two ridiculously easy recipes that satisfy the hungriest of diners.


The Verdict
I always love when I cook a meal and I get to sit down while it is cooking. It was pretty awesome. I started the apple-plum compote early and let it sit, mostly cooked, until we were ready to eat. The bread sat out as I prepped everything else, and I mixed all of the quiche filling and refrigerated it until about an hour before our guests arrived. The potatoes went into the food processor and sat for quite a while in their cheesecloth, and I sat down and watched an episode of New Girl. It was awesome. When it was time to cook everything, time went by super quickly, then we got to eat!

The food was excellent. While I would like to find something to bind the potato pancakes together a little better, using a biscuit cutter to keep them in a dense circle helped a lot. They were not too salty and went well with the chive sour cream. The French toast was the first dish to go-- it was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and the apple-plum compote was just delicious. In my opinion the star of the show was the quiche. I just love how it looks so complex and yet is a simple mix, pour, and bake process. I imagine that a quiche is a great opportunity to use leftovers in a fancy way. The herbs and goat cheese gave zest and tang, and the Whole Foods crust, while a little bit sweet, was buttery and crumbly around the filling. I took it for lunch the next day and it was the one time that reheated eggs actually sounded appealing to me. I was right.


The Recipes


While you are preparing the apples and plums, be sure your bread is drying out a bit on the counter. It helps the bread soak up the egg mixture.

Fry in butter for a golden exterior and wonderful taste. Oil just doesn't cut it.

 
Top these golden, sweet, eggy pieces of toast with the apple-plum compote for a sweet touch

French Toast with Apple-Plum Compote
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Yield: 10 pieces with topping

Ingredients:
  • 1 loaf of French country bread, day old and sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 10 pieces)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon
  • 3 granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
  • 3 plums, sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Maple syrup for serving
Preparation:
  • Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together and pour into a baking pan.
  • Add the bread in a single layer and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn once and let sit until it soaks up the egg mixture, another 5 minutes.
  • Place a large skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tbsp butter and toss in the apples and plums. Stir until the fruit begins to caramelize, then add the water, a dash of cinnamon, and the brown sugar. Lower the heat and cook for about 8 minutes.
  • In a large, heated nonstick skillet, melt the other tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Place the soaked bread until the crust is crispy, about 4 minutes on each side. You can place multiple pieces of bread in the same skillet as long as they have some space between them.
  • Serve the French toast with the apple/plum mixture on top and maple syrup on the side.
If you set up your ingredients ahead of time, the process is as simple as mixing and pouring.

Sprinkle the goat cheese into the pie crust before adding the filling.

The finished product in the oven. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Goat Cheese Quiche with Fresh Herbs

Adapted from NY Times and The Kitchn
Yield: Two 9"quiches (12 pieces)

Ingredients:
  • 2 9" frozen pie shells
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • large pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp basil chiffonade
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 oz. goat cheese, cut into 6 thin rounds and the rest crumbled
Preparation:
  • Heat the oven to 375°F. 
  • Whisk eggs, half-and-half, and salt in a large bowl until frothy.
  • Mix in parmesan cheese, herbs, lemon zest, and black pepper.
  • Scatter the crumbled goat cheese along the bottom of the pie crusts. Pour the custard (egg mixture) on top (divide evenly between the two shells) and gently place the goat cheese slices in a circle near the edge of each pie.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes and let rest 15 minutes before serving.


Peel, process, and drain the potatoes.


Allow all the starchy liquid to drain out by weighing the potatoes down with something heavy (I used my CuisinArt)


Form pancakes with a biscuit cutter

Fry until golden and crispy

Potato Pancakes with Chive Sour Cream

From The Walking Cookbook
Yield: 16 pancakes

Ingredients:
  • 5 Russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • lemon wedges (optional, for serving)
Preparation:
  • Peel the potatoes. Shred in a food processor using the shredder blade (the most amazing invention).
  • Place a colander over a large bowl or in the sink. Place the potato in a piece of cheesecloth, wrap tightly, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the bag of shredded potato in the colander and weigh it down with a heavy object (I used the base of the food processor). Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
  • Remove the potato from the cheesecloth and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and mix. Add the flour, salt, and pepper, and mix until the potato is covered in egg and flour.
  • On a cutting board or other large, clean, flat surface, place a biscuit cutter or 3" round cookie cutter flat. Fill with some of the potato mixture and pack down to just under 1/2 inch thick. Remove the cutter and repeat the process with the remaining potato mixture.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a 10-12" skillet until shimmering. Using a spatula, place four of the pancakes in the oil. Try to avoid them touching. Let cook for about 4 minutes. Try not to mess with them as they cook.
  • After 4 minutes check the bottom. If it comes up easily from the pan and is brown and crispy, carefully flip the pancake (I recommend using an additional spatula or fork for stability). If it is not done, give it about two more minutes.
  • Cover and cook for 4 minutes on the other side.
  • Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Continue the process until all potato pancakes are finished.
  • To make the chive sour cream, simply add the chives to the sour cream and stir.
  • Serve the pancakes hot with a lemon wedge (optional) and a dollop of chive sour cream.

2 comments:

  1. Great tip on leaving the bread on the counter to dry a bit! The meal looks divine - I'll be making breakfast for dinner soon!

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  2. So glad you enjoyed! In case you don't have time to set the bread out, a 15 minute run in a low-temperature oven should do the trick. It really helps the bread slurp up all the delicious batter. Let me know how your B4D goes!

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