May, 2011 Archive

Friday, May 6, 2011

crème brûlée french toasts

creme brulee french toast

Filed under the very large category of Things Pretty Much Every New Yorker Already Knew About But Was News To Me (don’t bother trying to hail a cab after noon on a Friday, filthy stoops are irresistible for the chill-minded set, etc.), the City Bakery on 18th Street has some astoundingly good French toast on Sunday mornings. It’s also astoundingly expensive, as things will go at a bakery with sweets like you can’t find anywhere else and an iron grip on its original recipes. Their version is a ridiculously thick wedge of battered bread with a caramelized lid that requires no syrup or other accompaniment — well, except maybe some crispy salty strips of bacon — to make it sing.

thick slices
milk, cream, eggs

Of course, I’m not trying to make their French toast, I would leave that to their expertise. I instead set out to make the French toast I began fantasizing about the second I had my first bite, a crème brûlée set within a thick slice of bread, one that would keep the burnt sugar lid but gild the caramel lilly even further and set it on a base that was more bread pudding-like than, well, honestly, imperfectly soaked/dry-centered French toast. (The sole City Bakery French toast flaw, in my opinion. Blasphemy, I know!) And I knew exactly how I’d do it. One thing I’ve learned when making French toast over the years is that as tempting as really, crazy thick French toast is, no matter how low you keep the pan temperature and how long you keep it on the stove, it’s very hard to cook it until it is set in the middle before burning the tops and bottoms. The solution is baking, which is brilliant in that the center is guaranteed to set and you’re guaranteed to enjoy cooking it more because it doesn’t require you to stand over a griddle dipping and flipping slice after slice for surely long than an entire tray of the same needs to bake. I could add “no butter” as a benefit but, come on, we’re making crème brûlée French toast here; this is no time to feign an interest in our arteries.

battering up

Continued after the jump »

Monday, May 2, 2011

ribboned asparagus salad with lemon

a nest of tangled asparagus

Spring arrived while I totally wasn’t paying attention. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days. Over the winter, this was hardly a discomfort but now that we’re getting glimpses of the warm weather to come, I’m finding it harder to look out my kitchen window at these people walking down the sidewalk with their sandals and short sleeves and a pep in their step and an air of freedom around them I can sense even from four flights up and not feel consumed with envy. The other day, as I wearily approached round five of something I was stupidly convinced I’d nail on round one, I saw one of these not-sweating-it-out-in-a-shoebox-kitchen types carrying a bundle of tulips and I had to close my eyes for a minute and imagine myself somewhere I’d rather be. And then I walked out of the kitchen and went there.

it's back!

You see, I’ve been avoiding the Greenmarket as well. It’s been a Brownmarket for over half a year and there are only so many cold storage apples and yams one can stomach before they fall for the ever-freakishly-ripe berries the street carts are selling. But it was nearly May and sticky as July outside and I had a hunch that things had improved while I was buried under pots and pans. And lo and behold, stands were bursting with things that had been recently plucked from the ground: spinach! ramps! bright pink orbs of radishes too! asparagus for miles! And as I brought home my first haul of the season — and a little package waiting downstairs — I knew exactly what every single one of us must do this very second with the asparagus.

ribbon-ing the asparagus

Continued after the jump »


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