Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sautéed Bananas on Pain Perdu

One of the things I love teaching my kids about in Home Ec is that you can have delicious, decadent and even exotic food at home for less money and time than a restaurant. While the majority of their parents cook at least some meals at home, a lot of the time the food is your standard "in a rush, feed the kids what they like" fare. I like to take my hour of time each week to challenge them, even in a small way, to think of food outside the supermarket "box".

This week we made French toast - one of the simplest and cheapest things you can make for any meal of the day. It's also one of the fastest and most variable dishes I know of, and one I learned very early on at my mother's hop. Of course, over the years I've learned a few tricks and tips along the way to jazz up my version - thoroughly drying out the bread (to a "crouton" texture) so that it soaks up the maximum amount of custard possible is my standard practice now, because it makes even whole grain bread (like what I used today) a perfect base. By adding just a smidge of sugar along with vanilla and nutmeg to the eggs and whole milk, and whisking in my most recent "secret ingredient" - a scoop of custard powder - turns everything into a decadent, creamy sop for the bread and cooks to a crisp exterior while maintaining that "bread pudding" mouthfeel inside.

Finally, there's the topping. While maple syrup is perfectly acceptable (and wholly supported by me, especially when the dark, grade B version is available), I opted to take my French toast to New Orleans and go a Bananas Foster route. A whack of butter, brown sugar and bananas caramelized slowly before finishing with more vanilla and a touch of lemon juice, making a perfect topping for the Pain Perdu as well as a crepe filling and crown for an open-face peanut butter and banana sandwich. The dregs of banana that were left after 3 days of cooking (the photo showed the batch I made for 30 kids, with 12 bananas!), I pureed into luxurious banana "butter" and baked into some of the richest banana bread I've ever made - Heaven!

If you ever wondered what caramelized bananas for 30 looked like...

Sautéed Bananas on Pain Perdu
Makes 8 slices, 4 (generous) adult servings

Bananas:
2 tbsp salted butter
1 ½ tbsp dark brown sugar
3 large, “firmly ripe” bananas, sliced cross-wise into ¼" slices
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ tbsp lemon juice
*Adults - add a splash of bourbon or rum to the bananas when they finish cooking for extra decadence!

Pain Perdu:
3 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder or "cook & serve" vanilla pudding mix (note: eliminate the sugar if using pudding)
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
8 thick slices whole grain bread (I used this)
Non-stick cooking spray

Bananas:
  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. When butter begins to bubble, sprinkle in the sugar and cook 2 minutes, without stirring.
  3. Add the bananas and cook, stirring gently to avoid burning, for 2-3 minutes – until tender and caramelized but still holding their shape.
  4. Set aside.
Pain Perdu:
  1. Heat the oven to 275F.
  2. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes per side, until dry but not coloured. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, vanilla custard powder, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a large casserole dish. Set aside.
  4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  5. Place 2 slices of bread in the egg mixture and let soak in the egg mixture for 30 seconds - 1 minute per side. The bread should feel heavy but not fall apart.
  6. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and add the soaked bread.
  7. Cook until the outside is golden brown and crisp and the inside is cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  8. When the French toast in the pan is almost done cooking, soak the next two slices in the egg mixture.
  9. Move the cooked slices to a plate, slice in half on the diagonal and top with the bananas.
  10. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 486.8
Total Fat: 13.7 g
Cholesterol: 159.6 mg
Sodium: 525.9 mg
Total Carbs: 70.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.7 g
Protein: 16.3 g