It was inevitable. I finally contracted the winter cold/flu that’s been going around. I forgot how much an illness can really put you out of commission. I might actually make it out of my pajamas today, but don’t hold me to it. Besides the usual muscle aches, chills, and runny nose, I’ve also had a nice low-grade headache for the past few days. It’s all very manageable as long as I allow myself to lay down every few hours and regroup. The one plus side to all this is that I’ve noticed my brain has cut me some slack. Things appear to have slowed down the last few days. My anxiety has quietly tiptoed out the door for the time being, and I don’t feel nearly as distracted as I usually do. Have you ever juiced or fasted for several days? If I remember correctly, the same feeling envelops you when you partake in a multi-day cleanse; it’s almost trance-like. Of course, I’m also very low energy, so there’s that. But this illness-induced-Zen-state feels kind of refreshing (if you don’t count the constant nose-blowing). Being as that January is my least favorite month, this isn’t a bad way to go out. But let’s not kid ourselves, I eagerly await February’s arrival.
I’m not nearly as obsessed with French toast as I am with pancakes. However, I do still enjoy French toast, albeit usually stuffed or topped with something. In other words, it needs a lot of bells and whistles in order for me to enjoy it. I once made a cranberry cream cheese-stuffed French toast on Christmas morning. It was rich and decadent, and received my stamp of approval. I dug around for a recipe that was similar to the phenomenal banana-stuffed French toast I used to always order at Zoë in SoHo. The restaurant is long gone, but that French toast would cause me to roll my eyes and moan with every bite.
Of course, you can swap out the bananas for your favorite fruit, but I think bananas pair really well with French toast. And the caramelization that you get on the bananas is key. If you’re feeling festive, add a splash of rum to the bananas when you caramelize them. This will enhance the flavor. Likewise, if you don’t have almonds on hand, you can always use pecans, hazelnuts, etc. In fact, I think pecans might be a better pairing with this dish. Let me know if you try it!
Banana French Toast With Streusel Topping
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 large ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 1-pound unsliced loaf egg bread, ends trimmed, bread cut into 6 slices (each about 1-1/2 inches thick)
2 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
6 large eggs
2-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water and stir until sugar dissolves. Continue stirring until mixture is foamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add bananas; cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl; cool. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk milk, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to blend.
4. Pour into large glass baking dish. Place bread in egg mixture; let soak 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
5. Place almonds in shallow bowl. Carefully remove bread from egg mixture and coat both sides with almonds. Place bread on heavy large baking sheet.
6. Place cooled, sliced bananas on top of bread slices.
7. Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon in medium bowl. Add remaining 1/4 cup butter and rub in, using fingertips, until moist clumps form. Sprinkle topping over bread.
8. Bake French toast until topping is golden brown and filling is hot, about 25 minutes. Transfer toast to plates. Serve hot with maple syrup.