From the chef's table


POSTED: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

French toast, Beverly Gannon says, should be well-soaked in a cream mixture so that it gets all custardy on the inside. The problem is, then it can be mushy.

Her solution is to make a bread pudding first — complete with water bath — then slice up and fry the pudding the next day. The Grand Marnier in the sauce doesn't hurt, either.

This obviously isn't a quick morning dish. The bread has to soak in the cream mixture for several hours or overnight, then comes an hour of baking time and another several hours of refrigeration. It could be a three-day project.

On the other hand, on the day you serve the French toast, it's just a matter of slicing and frying.


The Ultimate French Toast

“;Family-Style Meals at the Hali'imaile General Store”; by Beverly Gannon with Joan Namkoong (Ten Speed Press, $35)

1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split
3/4 cup
8 egg yolks
1 2-pound loaf egg bread, sliced in 1-inch cubes
» Sauce:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2 cups fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Cut a piece of thick cardboard to fit the top of a 2-quart loaf pan, like a cover. Grease pan.

Heat cream, vanilla bean and sugar in saucepan over medium-high heat just to a boil. Remove from heat. Strain into a bowl and let cool.

Whisk egg yolks into cooled cream mixture.

Place layer of bread in bottom of loaf pan. Top with 4 tablespoons of cream mixture. Repeat until all bread is used. Cover pan with plastic wrap and top with cardboard cover, allowing it to rest on top of bread. Place a weight on top of cardboard — such as 2 soup cans — and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight, so bread soaks up cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove covering from pan. Place loaf pan into a larger pan filled with water 3/4 of way up sides of loaf pan. Bake 1 hour to 90 minutes, until custard is set. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unmold bread from pan and cut into 8 slices.

Melt a few tablespoons butter in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bread and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to baking pan. Place in oven to heat through, about 5 minutes.

To make topping: In a saute pan over medium heat, combine sugar and Grand Marnier. Light a match and touch it to liqueur to burn off alcohol. When flame subsides, whisk together sugar and Grand Marnier. Reduce heat to low and add blueberries. With a wooden spoon, blend berries and sugar. Cook until berries begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

To serve, place a piece of French toast on a plate and spoon compote over toast. Sprinkle powdered sugar through a fine-mesh sieve over the French toast and compote.

This meal-sized salad combines classic Thai flavorings with Pacific Rim flair. Chai Chaowasaree says the textures (soft beef, crunchy greens and peanuts), plus the mix of flavors (salty fish sauce, tart lime and lemongrass, sweet mango, spicy chilies) combine to make it one of his favorites.


Grilled New York Steak Salad

“;The Island Bistro Cookbook”; by Chai Chaowasaree (Watermark Publishing, $32.50)

8 ounces New York steak, grilled to medium-rare or medium
1 tablespoon EACH sliced onion, sliced carrot, chopped cilantro and shredded green mango
2 tablespoons EACH diced ripe mango and diced tomato
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/2 pound baby romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts
» Lemongrass-Garlic Dressing
1-1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1-1/2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tablespoon chopped lemongrass
1/2 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon chili pepper, or to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Slice steak. Toss with dressing, then add onion, carrot, cilantro, green and ripe mango, tomato and cucumber. Serve over bed of lettuce and top with peanuts. Serves 2.

Nutritional information unavailable.

D.K. Kodama counts this as his favorite recipe in his cookbook, a finger food that has won awards for Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar.

The key to the look of this dish is mamenori — a soybean wrapper that comes tinted in various colors. It can be found at Asian markets such as Marukai. Unlike nori, the usual sushi wrapper made of dried seaweed, mamenori is soft and pliable. Use regular nori in a pinch.


Mango and Crab Salad Hand Roll

“;D.K.'s Sushi Chronicles from Hawai'i”; by Dave “;D.K.”; Kodama with Bonnie Friedman (Ten Speed Press, $24.95)

3 cups chopped cooked blue crab meat
1 cup minced imitation crab meat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 sheets mamenori or nori
2 teaspoons cooked short-grain white rice
8 cups loosely packed mixed salad greens, extremely dry
2 cups peeled and diced mango
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
2 cups coarsely chopped cilantro
1 medium Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced
» Thai Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons sake
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sambal (Indonesian chili paste)

To make vinaigrette: Cook sake over high heat 1 to 2 minutes to burn off alcohol. Let cool. Mix in remaining ingredients. Chill.

Combine crab, imitation crab and mayonnaise. Mix well; set aside.

Lay 1 mamenori sheet on bamboo sushi mat. Spread with half-teaspoon rice in a thin line 1/4 inch from top of sheet. Lay a quarter of greens on the bottom two-thirds of sheet. Top with quarter of crab mixture and remaining ingredients. Roll firmly, using the line of rice to seal the roll. Repeat to make 4 rolls. Serve with vinaigrette as dipping sauce (extra vinaigrette may be stored in the refrigerator up to a month). Serves 4.