I just returned from what can only be described as a near-perfect weekend in Miami. Leaving New York on a dreary rainy night and waking up to sunshine, turquoise water and 80 degree weather was exactly what I needed. In fact, there were more than a few moments over the course of the weekend where I let my thoughts drift off into the logistics of moving down there in the next few years. But thats a discussion for another time.
On to the food — I have never really though of Miami as a culinary destination, but over 60 hours I managed to have some truly delicious and unconventional food. There were some well balanced and savory Cuban sandwiches from a gas station, perfect house-made corned beef hash at a diner at midnight, revelatory peruvian ceviche bought on the side of the road and a creative tapas experience at José Andrés’ Miami outpost of Bazaar. But perhaps my favorite bite of the weekend was the tiny tasting of french toast that I snuck off of a friend’s plate when we went to brunch at OTC in Bricknell. It was honestly the best french toast I’ve ever had — light, subtly sweet, with a creamy texture and a slight crunch.
If you can’t make your way to OTC to try their delicious french toast sticks, then I humbly offer this recipe for a pretty great option to make at home. This french toast is made with french baguette, which give it a toothsome, hearty quality that is amplified by the warm, subtle hint of cardamom in the background. Cardamom is a surprisingly versatile spice that I suggest everyone have in their kitchen — you may recognize its flavor from savory Indian dishes, but it has a long tradition of being used in sweet preparations and pairs particularly well with vanilla. It is an intensely aromatic spice so a little bit definitely goes a long way.
This french toast is meant to have a caramelized crust and a rich, custard like interior. In order to do that I leave it to soak up the egg mixture for at least 4 hours (sometimes overnight). Then I quickly fry it for a few minutes to get a lovely crust and let it finish in the oven so that the custard in the middle is cooked all the way through. This is definitely a rich breakfast and perfect to make for weekend visitors and celebratory brunches.
- 1 french baguette, cut into 2-inch slices
- 8 eggs
- 1½ cups of half and half*
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1 heaping teaspoon of cardamom
- 4 tablespoons of agave syrup or honey
- 6 tablespoons of butter
- 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Note that the bread and egg mixture will sit for at least 4 hours, or overnight before cooking.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, agave, vanilla and cardamom.
- Lay the slices of bread in a single layer in a casserole dish or other pan deep enough to hold the bread. Pour the egg mixture over the bread. After 10 minutes, turn each slice of bread over and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Sit another, heavy pan on top to hold down the bread in the egg mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, turning the bread half way through.
- When you are ready to cook the french toast, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil together. Add 4-6 pieces of french toast to the pan in a single layer and cook for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to a clean baking pan. Repeat this step with more butter and oil with the rest of the bread.
- When all of the french toast has been fried, transfer the baking pan to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes.
- Serve with fresh fruit, powdered sugar and syrup.