Cooking with Jonathan By Jonathan Jolicoeur

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In this weekly culinary column, I will be focusing on one dish – giving the reader a quick history of the dish, the classical preparation of it, and of course, my own spin on the classic.

This week I am switching it up altogether. Everyone is familiar with how to make French Toast
– which I will go over in its simplest configuration – then you will have my spin on it.

Seems like I might be jumping the gun a little bit, but, Valentine’s Day sneaks up on everyone, myself included, which is why I am bringing you this twist on a simple breakfast dish that is sure to please on very short notice. Valentine’s Day is all about the time you spend with your significant other and since I spend my day and night cooking for others, I like to start the day by preparing something personal for that special someone in my life.

The background of French Toast is pretty simple – in French, it is called “pain perdu” or “lost bread” – it is called this because preparing it is a way to reclaim stale (or “lost”) bread. Simply put, the bread is softened by dipping in a mixture of eggs and milk and then fried. Sometimes the simplest of dishes means the most. Hence the connection to Valentine’s Day for me.

Classic French Toast

3 large​Large eggs
3 tbsp​Butter, for cooking
1 tsp​Vanilla extract
6 pieces​Bread, any kind – depending on availability
6 tbsp​Milk (Whole, 2% or 1%) – depending on availability
to taste​Ground cinnamon
to taste​Syrup, jam, etc – to top the french toast

In a medium-sized pan, over medium heat, add the butter and heat it so the bread will not stick to the pan. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon – then beat together with a fork or a whisk. Coat a slice of the bread with the mixture on both sides and then add the slice to the pan. After about 45 seconds, flip onto the other side and wait about 45 seconds for that side to become a golden brown. Remove from the heated pan and serve with syrup, jam or your own favorite topping.

Jonathan’s French Toast

8 large​Large eggs, beaten
1/8 cup​Flour
1 cup​Heavy cream
1 tsp​Salt
1 tbsp​Ground cinnamon
2 tbsp​Granulated sugar
3 tbsp​Butter, for cooking
1 tsp​Almond extract
1 loaf​Bread (challah, brioche, etc.) sliced

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, slowly whisk the flour and milk – when thoroughly mixed, whisk in the remaining ingredients. Soak the bread in the mixture until saturated. Then, in a medium-sized pan, add the butter and allow to melt and turn slightly brown, then add the saturated bread, searing one side quickly, then the other side of each slice – then pop into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and then top with the following recipes, then serve.

Whipped Mascarpone

½ cup​Mascarpone cheese
½ cup​Heavy Cream
½ tsp​Vanilla bean seeds
½ tsp​Sea Salt

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream and the vanilla bean seeds and whip until it forms a soft peak. In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, whip the mascarpone cheese, the heavy cream/vanilla mixture and the sea salt until all ingredients are incorporated. Once done, place the bowl in the fridge until ready to serve. Hint: if you don’t use a powered mixer for this, I find that it’s easier to whip the heavy cream if you put the medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 5 minutes or so prior to whipping the cream and vanilla bean mixture.

Macerated Cherries

12 oz​Fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 ½ tbsp​Sugar in the Raw
½ tbsp​Honey, wildflower
½ oz ​DiSaronno liquor
pinch​Salt

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and allow the sugar to dissolve and the juices to form. Mix occasionally for roughly ten minutes – then once done, place the bowl in the fridge until ready to serve.

As I mentioned earlier, it might seem odd to have something ready now for Valentine’s Day, but, I know from personal experience that this holiday has snuck up on me more than once. Of course, the beauty of this breakfast dish is that it doesn’t need to held off for the holiday – it’s good any morning. As I have said before, as long as your heart is in the dish you prepare, the people you are cooking for will appreciate it (and you).

If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover a particular dish in this column, feel free to write to me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it is my pleasure to give you a peek into the mind of a chef. Thank you.

Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – which focuses on “farm to table” style cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

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