Creme Brulee French Toast: A Kiss from My Kitchen
My mother was kicked out of college after having an affair with a married professor and sent to the Stodgy U of higher learning for women only. Where she studied creative writing with William Inge who taught her to make French 75’s and Arroz con Pollo. In turn, she entertained him with Rachmaninoff preludes and strip poker. Of course.
Mom was so easy. Fun, I mean. Once she became a mother, she wore matching skirts and sweaters, poached eggs for breakfast, starched my father’s handkerchiefs, and practiced the “times step” on our linoleum floor. You really didn’t think she did everything normally, did you?
Flirting with her racy past, she proudly displayed the chastity belt she received for 40th birthday gift. Every man at the party had a key.
When my daughter reached age 16 and her hormones were raging like the Mississippi after a spring thaw, I saw my mother’s rowdy spirit emerging. Only this time, the joke was on me. Like my wild and crazy mammacita, Brooke (my daughter) was the antithesis of ordinary. A stunning creature, she was full of hell with a coterie of male creatures eager to make her acquaintance. I felt like the proprietor at the Korean DMZ, surrounded by heat seeking missiles with bad attitudes and no sense of direction.
My only weapon was the whisk and the oven. Brownies, pizza, lasagna, chili gop, frittatas, quesadillas...I made everything that made their heads turn as long as they kept their eyes off my daughter and on the mozzarella. Extra saltpeter, anyone? I figured if the kids were eating in the kitchen, they weren’t doing other things that I really didn’t want them…doing. Oh sure, it sounds funny now. At the time it wasn’t. It was terrifying.
Because I couldn’t reach my daughter. No logic, no discipline, no common sense could penetrate her petticoat. All my efforts seemed to land outside her bubble. Still, I kept throwing but no one was catching - I guess I needed a better arm or she needed a bigger mitt. She was catching, alright, and his name was Joe.
But I could cook for her. And I did, baby, I served it up big time. It was the only way I could tell her I loved her. I’d be stirring the sauce and she’d be climbing out the front window. Soon, she’d return.
“Are you hungry, honey?” I’d ask. “Sure!” she’d answer, followed by, “Can my friends come?” Oh yeh. Sure, bring the gnomes, misanthropes, and trolls. Bring all the artillery including the missiles. Dinner’s on the table, sportsfans. Batter up. Who’s on first?
18 years later, some things have changed and others…remain the same. Becoming a mother and wife brought the girl down to earth who thankfully, lived to see the day. And so did I without imprisonment or deportation.
Today, she’s no longer sneaking out the window unless she needs to hang her Christmas lights. She’s still being chased by boys, but they are all under age 7 and call her “mom.” She goes to parties but the only commodity she promotes is her flourishing business.
And what hasn’t changed? I’m still cooking for her. Yup. You see, her chef is named Trader Joe. Not that I haven’t purchased a few pre-prepared things in my time, but I still prefer the way food appears from the toil of my own hands. Seems she didn’t get the “cooking gene.”
For holidays and family celebrations, it all still happens at my house, “suckers” in red lights should be hanging on our Christmas tree as the big Christmas Eve fête erupts at Camino de Chaos. Now that Santa delivers goods to hers on Christmas morning and because I’m in the dead bug position by midnight on Christmas Eve, I dispatch Crème Brûlée French Toast to her abode.
Hey…I can’t be there but. Here’s breakfast. Creme Brulee French Toast. And by the way….Mom learned how to make Arroz con Pollo. Get with the program.
I love you, Crazy Girl.
Crème Brulee French Toast
This recipe has been adapted from one of Paula Deen’s with a few changes which, of course, I think have improved it greatly if I do say so myself. It’s a “strata”… great for family celebrations because if you are the cheerleader for yours – like I am – you can make this in advance, even a couple of days, and just pop it in the oven. Don’t forget the Grand Marnier.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 (8 to 9) inch loaf unsliced Challah bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons or MORE Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg
Maple syrup, if desire.
In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth.
Whisk mixture until all ingredients are incorporated and pour into a 13 by 9 by 2 - inch baking dish.
Trim all crusts off Challah bread.
Cut (1-inch) thick slices from bread.
Arrange bread slices, tightly, in one layer in baking dish (right into the butter/brown sugar/corn syrup mixture), squeezing them slightly to fit.
In a bowl whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon until combined well and pour evenly over bread.
Chill bread mixture overnight.
When ready to serve, take Crème Brulee French Toast out of refrigerator and let come to room temperature for 1 hour, if possible. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve with warm maple syrup, if desired.
And....tell 'em you love 'em.