I love getting together to share food with fellow food bloggers. There’s a kind of shared understanding that immediately puts me at ease, which as a girl who’s found herself always feeling a bit shy, anxious and overwhelmed in social situations, is something I appreciate dearly. And yet, on the flip side of the coin, it can also be immensely intimidating. I mean what do you make for such an audience. Cooking for foodie friends is one thing, but cooking for food bloggers ups the ante. It’s not that they’re any less gracious or accepting, but at least for me, when I’m faced with someone whose cooking talent equals or surpasses my own I want badly to create something they’ll find satisfying.
Such was the case last weekend when I had the fantastic Bethany of Bridezilla Bakes over to brunch. I was incredibly indecisive about what to make. Frittata or quiche? Pancakes or crepes? Just deciding to go savory or sweet was a challenge. And then finally I decided to stop over thinking it and go for something classic and simple – french toast and home fries. It was one of those menus I knew would be an easy favorite and could easily accommodate some tweaks to make it my own. For the french toast, I went with a simplified version of my Chai French Toast. But beware of thinking that simplified = bland, because that is certainly not the case here. The great thing about cooking with Chai concentrate (I usually use Tazo because I find it to be the most widely available, but Oregon Chai has a Slightly Sweet version with less sugar than the original that I really enjoy when I can find it.) is that it’s already a blend of so many strong flavors like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise, and honey so as a single ingredient, it goes a long way. The same goes for the rosemary in the Rosemary Home Fries. Assertive and earthy, it only takes a little rosemary to make these special. And as if Chai French Toast with Rosemary Home Fries wasn’t a good enough meal already, I also serve it with a generous dollop of Grand Marnier-Spiked Whipped Cream. If you have a stand or electric mixer (or even some strong biceps) it’s deceptively simple to make and my experience is that almost everyone appreciates homemade whipped cream, especially if there is alcohol involved.
All in all, this is a sumptuous meal. The orange flavor of the whip cream pairs perfectly with the cardamom, cinnamon, tea and honey of the chai and the potatoes provide the perfect savory counterpoint to the otherwise sweet meal. This would be perfect for a low key Easter brunch or any given Saturday.
-2/3 cup chai concentrate
-1/4 cup whole milk
-5 thick slices white bread such as brioche or sourdough
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pour the chai concentrate in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced by slightly more than half, about 5 minutes. (Ideally, you want to reduce it down to 1/4 cup.) Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and eggs. Once the chai concentrate has reduced, slowly stream it into the milk and eggs while whisking. (You’ll want to do this slowly since the concentrate will be hot and doing it slowly will keep it from scrambling the eggs.)
Pour the mixture into a shallow pan like a pie plate or a baking dish and dip the bread slices into the mixture, allowing each side of the bread to soak up some of the mixture.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add as many slices of bread into the skillet as will fit at one time without crowding. Fry until brown on both sides, flipping as necessary.
-3 medium russet potatoes, thoroughly scrubbed and cubed
-1/2 medium onion, chopped
-3 tablespoons butter
-1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
-Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the potatoes and onions to the skillet and stir well to coat with the butter. Cover with the lid, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and add the chopped rosemary and flip the potatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until brown and crisp on all sides. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-1 cup chilled whipping cream
-1 tablespoon powdered sugar
-1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
Beat chilled whipping cream, sugar, and Grand Marnier until peaks form.