Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lauren's getting hitched.

My lovely friend Lauren's is getting hitched in a few short weeks, so we had to have a bridal shower of course. Sunday I co-hosted an intimate champagne brunch with our friend Melissa in honor of Lauren. Friends dropped by for games, food, and of course gifts. On the menu, we served:

Blueberry Muffins
Ham and Gruyere Quiche
Individual French Toast Casseroles
Prosciutto-wrapped Grilled Asparagus
Fresh Berries with Lemon Curd
Frosted Brownies
Cigar Cookies
Mimosas
Cafe au Laits

The menu was lovely, and just perfect for a brunch like this. The quiche can be made a few hours before the party and served room temperature. The muffins can bake a day ahead. The brownies were baked and frosted the night before and cut and displayed just before guests arrived. Also, the french toast casserole is prepared and chilled overnight, so it can be popped in the oven as guests arrive and effortlessly served warm straight from the oven. And finally, the lemon curd is made the day before to chill and set.

I had never made a lemon curd before, but I think it is the perfect accent for a spring brunch. I am now on the quest for the perfect lemon curd. It is such a delicious and beautiful food with such an abysmal name. It is a shame really. I mean, by definition curd is the thick remains from coagulated milk, and I am sure you agree that anything coagulated is pretty gross. But Lemon Curd is utterly delicious, and far from gross. With its sunny yellow color, silky rich texture, and tart and sweet flavor, it embodies the essence of spring. When I served it up on Sunday I almost felt like tulips and iris and daffodils and small fuzzy bunnies and little downy chicks should spring from the bowl of curd. That is how much it reminds me of spring.

The food was delicious and I am proud it was all homemade (except the cigar cookies!). But the best part was champagne in the morning. I probably drank 5 mimosa throughout the party. That would explain why I broke my hubby's favorite mug as I did the dishes later that afternoon, and why I had a headache at 5:30. Drinking early in the day is a once in a while treat that always reminds me why I am not a day drinker. There is a reason most people like to binge and then sleep it off. Coming down from a buzz is just not that comfortable.

A pretty engagement ring on a pretty bride-to-be.

A slightly dirty, very funny wedding mad lib over mimosas.

French Toast Casserole

This is close adaptation to a Paula Dean recipe from the Food Network website, with some slight modifications. The recipe is incredibly rich, and I think it would be entirely feasible to cut back on quite a bit of the fat. First, swap the half-and-half and milk portions and use more milk. The real kicker is the two sticks of butter in the topping. I think you could cut that in half and only serve each person a tablespoon of butter rather than a whole quarter stick. I mean, I know butter is delicious, but that is just gluttonous.

I have left the recipe in its original form intended for a full casserole dish, but for my individual casseroles I cubed the bread and constructed each serving it its own ramekin. I ladled the liquid eveninly amond the dishes and refriderated covered individually. I baked them together on a baking sheet for 20 minutes until they were puffy as the recipe describes. They were perfect! It yields one casserole dish or eight individual servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • Praline Topping, recipe follows
  • Maple syrup

Directions

Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Post party, my pumps on the floor.

3 comments:

jkubenka said...

Your menu sounds marvelous, and it looks (from the photos) that everyone enjoyed themselves.

I am not a day drinker either, for precisely the reasons you mention in your post.

Lauren T. said...

Kate, you are so sweet! Many thanks to you and Melissa for the lovely shower - I am still enjoying the fruits of it (literally, and also brownies and champagne). You have been such a great friend to me through the years!

Bliss said...

I love how much Paula Dean uses butter. It's simply appalling sometimes!

What a sweet gesture for your friend. The menu looks delicious and beautiful!