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Warm up your fall with a simple yet flavorful tom yum. By Anna Spiegel

When Mango Tree debuts in CityCenterDC in December, the two-story Thai eatery will be the first in the US for the Bangkok brand. Restaurateur Richard Sandoval of El Centro D.F., Masa 14, Toro Toro, and many more has teamed up with founder Pitaya Phanphensophon for the project. On the menu: classic and reinvented dishes found throughout Thailand, such as chicken satay and red curry duck with apricots.

One of the more traditoinal items is lightly spicy, aromatic tom yum soup with shrimp. This home-cook-friendly version is simple and relatively quick to prepare. Look for specialty ingredients like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves at Asian markets, or a well-stocked Whole Foods, which often carries them.

Tom yum soup from Mango Tree. Photograph courtesy of Mango Tree.

Tom Yum Soup

Serves 2

17 ounces water

10 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 sticks lemongrass

1 4-inch piece galangal

6 kaffir lime leaves (available at Whole Foods)

4 bird’s eye chilies

4 tablespoons fish sauce

Juice of 2 limes

4 tablespoons sugar

6 button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

2 teaspoons Thai chili paste

4 teaspoons coconut milk

4 cilantro leaves, thinly sliced

Thai parsley for garnish

Make the soup:

Place water in a pot over high heat.

Roughly chop galangal and add it to the water.

Crush the lemongrass with a rolling pin, meat tenderizer, or heavy spoon to release the oil and flavor, and add it to water.

Tear kaffir lime leaves and add them to the water along with the lime juice.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and let stand for another 10 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse.

Using a strainer, strain the soup into a separate pot and place over medium-low heat so it's simmering but not boiling.

Serve the soup:

Add mushrooms and shrimp to the soup, and poach them for 4 to 5 minutes.

Once cooked, remove shrimp from the soup and place into two bowls.

Season the soup, stirring in the fish sauce and sugar.

Add coconut milk, Thai parsley, and Thai chili paste. Mix well.

Pour into the bowls over the shrimp and serve.

Posted at 01:40 PM/ET, 10/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A fresh take on caprese from Duke’s Grocery. By Anna Spiegel
Duke's Grocery serves a vibrant riff on tomato-mozzarella salad. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

It’s rare that I eat in a restaurant and e-mail the chef immediately after for a recipe, but that’s exactly what happened after feasting on the marinated buffalo mozzarella and local tomato salad at Duke’s Grocery.

You’ll find variations on this caprese-like salad throughout the city, all summer long. Too often they’re bland, made with lackluster tomatoes, stiff mozzarella, watery balsamic, or all of the above. Chef Alex McCoy’s version is the opposite. You’ll only see it on the daily changing chalkboard menu if sweet local tomatoes are available; McCoy gets his from Potomac Farm Market. The creamy mozzarella di bufala is top-quality, and burrata makes a nice substitute if you’re really feeling decadent.

What makes the dish, besides the essential ingredients, is the toasted fennel, spicy chili, and fresh herb vinaigrette. The mixture acts both as a marinade for the cheese and the salad dressing.

The result: a vibrant take on the summertime staple.

Marinated Mozzarella and Local Tomato Salad From Duke’s Grocery
Serves 4 to 5

1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
½ cup coarsely chopped herbs, such as chives, cilantro, Italian parsley, spring onion, and/or oregano
1½ tablespoons chopped birds eye chili, Thai chili, or serrano chili
8 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
¾ cup really nice, fruity olive oil
Zest and juice of three lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
4 balls of burrata or mozzarella di buffalo (try to find mozzarella from Campania)
4 or 5 local tomatoes
Optional: chervil, to garnish


Set a dry pan on medium high heat. Add the whole fennel seeds, tossing them and constantly moving the pan while they toast. You’ll know they’re ready when you smell the wonderful anise fragrance the seeds start to release. Remove them from the pan, let cool, and then crush them coarsely with the bottom of a heavy pan or a bowl.

In a glass bowl, mix together the chopped herbs, fennel seeds, chili, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, tear the cheese balls in half with your hands and toss them in the bowl with the herb vinaigrette. Let sit for another 20 to 30 minutes to absorb all of the delicious flavors and spices.

Slice your tomato. Don’t be modest. We want big, thick, juicy slices of tomato. Do this a few minutes before plating, so the tomato won’t dry out. Fan your tomatoes out on a plate or serving piece, and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Remove the cheese balls from the vinaigrette and lay them over your tomato, ripping the cheese apart a bit more as you spread it out.

Spoon some of the delicious herb vinaigrette over the cheese and tomato, making sure not to inundate the fruit with too much oil.

Garnish with chervil, a touch more salt and pepper (or more hot chili), and chow down!

Posted at 02:51 PM/ET, 07/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Get ready for tiki time. By Anna Spiegel

Nick Nazdin’s Molokai Mule blends fresh juice, rum, and orgeat syrup for a refreshing tiki cocktail. Photograph courtesy of Bar Charley.

Summer drinking weather is upon us, and we’re always looking for new recipes when it’s time to whip up a refreshing beverage. We asked Bar Charley cocktail master Nick Nazdin to share one of his favorite tiki cocktails: the Molokai Mule, which originated at the Kon-Tiki restaurant in Hawaii in the 1960s.

“It’s a much more citrus-heavy drink than most other tiki cocktails, which I really enjoy,” says Nazdin. “Most tiki drinks have people well on their way to the end of their night after one or two.”

The party-friendly formula is a tasty balance of fresh orange and lime juice, brandy, and plenty of rum. The only exotic ingredient you’ll see is orgeat, an almond-flavored syrup you can buy at specialty liquor stores such as Ace Beverage or online (Nazdin likes Fee Brothers). If you’d rather leave mixing to the experts, head to Bar Charley for Trader Nick’s Tiki Sundays, where you’ll find Nazdin concocting five different tiki cocktails. 

Molokai Mule

Makes 1 drink 

2 ounces orange juice
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce orgeat syrup
1 ounce brandy
1 ounce silver rum
1 ounce dark rum
A heavy dash of Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake, and strain over ice. 

Posted at 11:19 AM/ET, 05/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
One of the top 25 best burgers from our upcoming Cheap Eats issue. By Anna Spiegel
Le Diplomate’s delicious burger Américain is one of our top 25 favorites in Washington, a roundup featured in the June issue. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Subscribers, read our Cheap Eats issue now (iPad/Desktop).

Washingtonians love their burgers. Our upcoming Cheap Eats issue, which hits stands this week, features the area’s very best in a roundup of the top 25 most delicious patties in town. We sampled three times as many, from burgers at casual chains to swanky restaurants.

The Américain at Le Diplomate bridges the gap between our favorite fast food and fine-dining versions. It tastes a little like le Big Mac with its two thin patties, “special” Thousand Island-esque sauce, pickles, and onions on a sesame-seed bun. What elevates it: quality Pat LaFrieda blend beef, fresh mayonnaise for the sauce, and house-baked brioche. Beyond that, chef Michael Abt* doesn’t get too fancy, keeping the cheese classic American. We could (and have) stopped in for this double-decker on a weekly basis.

If this juicy, messy-in-the-best-way burger has you craving more, pick up a copy of the Cheap Eats issue to find our other 24 favorites, or sign up for digital access.

Le Diplomate’s Burger Américain

Serves 4


2 pounds Pat LaFrieda special blend ground beef, or any blend of 80-percent lean to 20-percent fat
8 slices yellow Land O’Lakes American cheese
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
20 dill pickle chips, preferably B&G
⅓ cup special burger sauce (see recipe below)
4 brioche burger buns, ideally with sesame seeds, halved
5 teaspoons salted butter, at room temperature
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper


Form eight four-ounce burger patties, roughly the shape of a hockey puck. Heavily season the burgers with salt and pepper.

Heat a large, heavy-bottom cast iron pan over high heat. When the pan just starts to smoke, add the burger patties, working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Sear one side of the patty for two minutes, flip, and “smash” it flat with an offset spatula and sear the other side. Add one slice of cheese to each burger, let it melt slightly, then remove the patty. Place the patties on top of each other while resting.

Spread the butter equally on the cut side of the buns. Toast lightly in the same pan as the burger.

Place the bottom bun on the plate. Place two patties on top of each other on the bun. Lay red onions on each burger, followed by pickle chips and 5 teaspoons of special sauce. Place the other half of the bun on top and serve.

For the special burger sauce

⅓ cup mayonnaise (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons dill pickles, chopped
2 teaspoons Heinz chili sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder

Combine all of the ingredients and set aside. The sauce can be stored, covered, in the fridge.

For the mayonnaise

4 egg yolks
4 teaspoons Champagne vinegar
4 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
1⅓ tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1⅓ tablespoons water
2½ cups canola oil

Combine all of the ingredients except the oil in a medium bowl. Pour the blended oil in a slow, steady stream into the egg mixture, while whisking vigorously. Continue until all of the oil has been emulsified into the yolk mixture. If the mayonnaise becomes too thick, thin with the water. Set aside.

*This post has been updated from a previous version. 

Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 05/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Try this mashup of two comfort-food favorites for Cinco de Mayo. By Anna Spiegel
Fried chicken and tacos, finally joined as one by chef Michael Schlow. Photograph courtesy of Tico.

We wouldn’t recommend attempting the all-pork taco at home, but a fried-chicken taco? We can handle that. Boston-based chef/restaurateur Michael Schlow of the upcoming Tico on 14th Street shares his recipe prior to the Latin-influenced American eatery’s June opening.

“The inspiration came from a late-night craving,” says Schlow. “I came home hungry from work and saw tortillas and leftover pieces of fried chicken in the rather barren fridge. I also had a bulb of fennel, a red onion, a jalapeño, and some buttermilk. Ten minutes later: fried chicken tacos with fennel, red onion, and jalapeño slaw and spicy buttermilk dressing!”

As you can imagine, these crispy bird tacos taste even better made fresh. The various components take a little work but can be done ahead for a party, minus the actual frying. Don’t feel like cooking? Schlow joins other guest chefs at Graffiato’s May industry night on Monday, May 5, and will serve the fried-chicken tacos alongside shrimp ceviche for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Fried Chicken Tacos With Fennel Slaw and Spicy Buttermilk

Makes 4 tacos

For the chicken:


½ pound (approximately) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup buttermilk
1 pinch cayenne 
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper 
1 cup flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup finely ground panko bread crumbs
Special equipment: A heavy pot, canola oil, and a thermometer for frying


Cut the chicken into thin strips.

Combine buttermilk, cayenne, salt, pepper in a bowl, place chicken in the mixture, and soak for 2 to 12 hours, depending on how much time you have. The longer it soaks, the more tender and flavorful it will be. 

When you’re ready to fry, set a heavy pot on the stove and heat oil until a thermometer registers 375 degrees. 

Combine flour, cornstarch, and panko in another bowl. 

Remove chicken from buttermilk and place in flour mix; coat evenly. 

Place chicken strips in fryer and cook until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.

For the fennel slaw:


½ head of fresh fennel, thinly sliced
½ red or green jalapeño, thinly sliced
¼ red onion, thinly sliced 
¼ cup thinly sliced carrot
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and marinate for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. 

For the buttermilk dressing:


½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
Large pinch of cayenne or dried chile de arbol powder


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.

To assemble the tacos:

4 six-inch corn tortillas 
Fried chicken
Fennel slaw
Cilantro and lime wedges to garnish

Char tortillas lightly on an open grill or griddle over high heat.

Cut the crispy fried chicken into small pieces and divide evenly on the tortillas.

Top with the fennel slaw, and spoon the buttermilk dressing on top.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges (optional).

Posted at 02:42 PM/ET, 05/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The classic marshmallow treat gets a kick from limoncello. By Anna Spiegel

Cork Market’s drunken Peeps are the perfect boozy spring treat. Photograph courtesy of Cork.

Move over, chocolate bunnies: We have a new favorite springtime treat. Cork chef Kristin Hutter debuted “drunken Peeps” last year, a house-made version of the classic marshmallow bird spiked with liqueur. Needless to say, the small dose of booze made these little chicks even more irresistible. We asked her for the current recipe, which adds limoncello to the mix.

Don’t be too intimidated by making homemade marshmallow—you just have to have a little patience for stickiness (and a candy thermometer). If playing mother hen to a gaggle of liquored-up Peeps sounds too difficult, Cork Market plans to sell the lemony confections and a Chambord-raspberry version through the weekend.

Drunken Peeps With Limoncello

Makes 20 Peeps


5 teaspoons powdered gelatin (usually 2 envelopes)
¼ cup limoncello
¼ cup water 
5 ounces light corn syrup
1½ cups sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
Colored sugar to coat each Peep 

Special equipment

A stand or hand mixer
Candy thermometer


4 to 5 ounces cornstarch
4 to 5 ounces powdered sugar 
Dark frosting for making the Peeps’ eyes

Make the marshmallow: 

Add gelatin and limoncello to a standing mixer, or if using a hand mixer, a large bowl. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir to blend.

In small pot, add the water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until a thermometer registers 240 degrees.

Slowly pour the sugar mixture into the standing mixer or bowl with the gelatin. Whip with the whisk attachment on medium/high until the mixture is thick and stiff peaks form. Cool to room temperature.

Shape the Peeps (two methods)

Piping bag: 

Add the marshmallow mixture to a pastry bag fitted with large round tip.

Pipe peep figure onto lightly greased aluminum foil. Sprinkle immediately with your choice of colored sugar and let dry, about 2 to 3 hours. Dot each with frosting eyes if desired.

Cookie cutter: 

Pour marshmallow from mixer onto a half-sheet cookie tray that’s dusted with a mixture of half cornstarch and half powdered sugar. 

Smooth the marshmallow with a spatula and dust the top with same cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. Allow to rest 10 to 12 hours, covered at room temperature.

Cut into desired shapes. Dip them quickly in water or wipe them with a damp cloth in water, then dust them with colored sugar.

Posted at 02:04 PM/ET, 04/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef Vikram Sunderam shares a perfect end-of-winter dish. By Anna Spiegel
Kerala fish curry, similar to the one from chef Vikram Sunderam, makes for a lighter winter comfort dish. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

The tail end of winter is tough for cooking. Lingering cold demands comfort food, but we’re feeling bogged down after all those bowls of chili and mac and cheese. A perfect compromise: this spicy fish curry from Rasika toque Vikram Sunderam. The robust flavors prove filling, but fresh fish makes for a lighter meal. The reader who requested the recipe referred to it as “transcendent.”

“The curry, oh goodness, the curry,” writes the reader after sampling it as a Restaurant Week special. “I wanted to drink it, I wanted to bathe in it, I wanted to be it. Such amazing depth and strength—the bright acid of tomatoes, a hint of chili and cumin—while managing to not overwhelm the fish. . . . If you could see about getting a recipe, I would be forever in your debt.”

Hard to argue with that! Note that you’ll need fresh or previously frozen curry leaves for the recipe, which can be found at Indian grocery stores, such as Ginger & Spice Market in Alexandria.

Kerala Fish Curry

Serves four


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped Spanish onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 cup water
1½ cups chopped plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, available at Indian groceries
30 ounces coconut milk
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
4 skinless filets of grouper or halibut, about two pounds
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


Cut the grouper filets into smaller pieces (about 2 ounces each) and set aside.

Set a small pan over medium heat and dry-roast the spices for about 2 to 3 minutes, until aromatic. Grind the toasted spices in a coffee grinder. (Powdered spices may be substituted, but don’t roast them.)

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown.

Blend the ginger and garlic with the cup of water, and add the paste to the onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, until the raw flavor is gone.

Add the chopped tomatoes along with the turmeric powder and cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the curry leaves along with the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the curry to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the roasted or powdered spices, and then the fish. Cook until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 03/07/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Recreate the warming winter dish from G. By Anna Spiegel
Mike Isabella’s lamb chili, served at G, is an addictive winter comfort dish, spiced up with harissa and Sriracha chickpeas.

If there’s one upside to this never-ending winter, it’s digging into warming comfort dishes such as Mike Isabella’s lamb chili. We’ve been addicted since Isabella concocted the recipe for G at the beginning of the season. The restaurant version draws from the whole-animal approach at the adjoining Kapnos, incorporating lamb offal. This home-cook-friendly version simply uses ground lamb but is no less unusual, with the addition of wild rice, chickpeas, and a spicy yogurt-harissa garnish.

G by Mike Isabella’s Lamb Chili

Serves 4 to 6

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes

Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes

For the chili:

4 slices thick-cut bacon, ¼-inch dice
1 cup Anaheim or poblano peppers, small dice, seeds and stems removed
1 cup celery, small dice
1 cup yellow onion, small dice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound ground lamb
½ cup beer, preferably DC Brau pale ale
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon cracked white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground aleppo pepper, or if you can’t find it, an extra ½ teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon ground mace or allspice
¾ cup wild rice (uncooked)
¾ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed under hot running water

To garnish:

1 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons harissa paste (available at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons crushed Sriracha chickpeas (found in Asian markets)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 chunk of Kefalograviera or pecorino Romano cheese


In a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat, sauté bacon. After about 4 minutes, when it’s halfway cooked, add peppers, celery, onion, and garlic. Stir to coat with bacon fat. Sauté for an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until bacon is fully cooked and onions are translucent.

Add ground lamb to pot and stir to combine. Once meat is browned, add the beer. Scrape to deglaze the bottom of pot to release any brown bits. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and all the spices. Stir to combine.

Bring the chili to a slight boil, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

While the chili is simmering, cook rice according to package directions. Also combine yogurt and harissa paste; cover and refrigerate until later use.

Once chili is finished simmering, add cooked rice and chickpeas. Stir to combine, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until thick.

Serve in individual bowls and garnish with crushed Sriracha chickpeas, scallions, freshly grated Kefalograviera cheese, and harrissa yogurt.

Posted at 11:17 AM/ET, 02/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef John Mooney shares a decadent homemade version of the party staple. By Anna Spiegel

Homemade bean dip: so much better than the jarred stuff. Photograph courtesy of John Mooney.

Bean dip is one of those party staples that’s often purchased premade but is so much better when you start from scratch. Bidwell chef/owner John Mooney started making his version more than ten years ago, inspired by Mexican frijoles borrachos, or drunken beans. Dried pintos are stewed with beer, tomatoes, and chipotle and made into a creamy purée, which he tops with quick-marinated tomatoes and goat cheese.

The dip and chopping can be done in advance; just add the oil and vinegar to the tomatoes right before serving. Meat fans can sauté fresh chorizo and crumble it on top along with the goat cheese for a version like the one you’ll find at Mooney’s Union Market restaurant. Either way, this formula will get you to swear off the jarred stuff for good.

Drunken Bean Dip

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer


Bean dip

½ medium white onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup dried pinto beans
1 can ale, such as Pork Slap pale ale
1 pint vegetable stock (or substitute water)
1 teaspoon canned chipotle in adobo pepper
2 whole canned tomatoes
¼ bunch cilantro

Marinated tomato topping

1 whole shallot, thinly sliced
20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
10 cilantro sprigs
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To finish

4 ounces goat cheese
2 flatbreads, warm flour tortillas, or corn chips
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the bean dip:

1) Set a large sauce pot over low heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and garlic and sweat them until translucent.

2) Add beans, beer, stock, chipotle, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer for 1½ hours, or until beans are soft enough to purée.

3) Remove pot from heat. Add ¼ bunch of cilantro and purée in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and reserve. The bean mixture can be made up to three days in advance.

Make the tomato topping:

In a small mixing bowl add shallots, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro leaves with sherry and extra-virgin olive oil. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

To finish:

Place bean dip in a warm cast-iron skillet and sprinkle with dollops of goat cheese. Top with marinated tomatoes. Serve with points of flatbread, warm flour tortillas, or corn chips.

Posted at 11:24 AM/ET, 01/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Need a decadent brunch dish for a crowd? Try this make-ahead pastry. By Anna Spiegel
This make-ahead French toast is a decadent crowd-pleaser. Photograph courtesy of Blue Duck Tavern.

One of the rules to making any festive gathering less stressful is preparing a dish in advance. Brunch is trickier; many egg dishes and morning sweets tend to be a la minute operations. Thankfully chef Sebastien Archambault was willing to share his popular twist on French toast from Blue Duck Tavern’s menu, no last-minute frying involved.

You’ll need to start two days in advance so that the bread and croissants can sit overnight in crème anglaise (a light vanilla custard), and then chill overnight after baking to fully set. The fruit compote can be made up to a week before. Once your guests arrive, all the legwork is done: just rewarm the French toast and sweet pear-apple mixture, and pour yourself the first mimosa.

Pear and Apple French Toast
Serves 12

Ingredients for the French toast
14 egg yolks
¼ lb sugar
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (use seeds only)
½ lb country bread
3 oz plain croissants

Ingredients for the pear and apple garnish
½ lb pears, diced
½ lb apples, diced
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Salt, to taste

Assemble the French toast
Whisk the first six ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Cut the country bread into 1-inch slices. Leave the croissants whole. Place both the bread and croissants into a large plastic container with a lid. Pour cream mixture over the baked items and stir to coat. Make sure all bread is submerged. Cover and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Bake the toast
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Cook in a greased 9-by-13-inch cake pan for two hours. Make sure the center of the bread pudding is set before removing from the oven. There should be no liquid flow when pressed lightly near the center.

Place the cake pan on the counter. Top with a sheet pan or cookie tray and press the toast for one hour. Remove the tray, and let the toast it chill in the fridge overnight.

Make the pear and apple garnish
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the sugar to dark caramel over a medium flame. When the sugar is completely melted, add all remaining ingredients. Do not stir.

When the sugar loosens up, stir and cook until the apples start to look glassy, about eight minutes (the sugar will seize up because you are adding cold ingredients, but it will loosen and melt).

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool down to room temperature. Place the mixture (including the juices) in a quart container and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. This can be made up to a week in advance.

To serve
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

Cut the toast in the middle lengthwise, and then slice into 1-inch pieces. Warm in the oven until heated through.

Meanwhile, re-warm the compote in a sauce pan over medium heat (if the fruit has absorbed all the liquid, add a little apple sauce or apple juice). Top the French toast with the fruit garnish, plus whipped cream and maple syrup if desired.

Posted at 09:04 AM/ET, 12/27/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()