Vanilla Orange Pain Perdu with Balsamic Strawberries and Cream

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices day old French bread, sliced 1 inch thick
1 vanilla bean, split
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 eggs
1 cup cream (or half and half)
Butter, for cooking
2 cups strawberries, sliced or halved
2-4 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
2-4 tablespoons high quality Balsamic ninegar
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn
1 cup whipped cream

METHOD:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the eggs and cream together and add the orange zest. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the cream and add the whole bean too.

Soak the bread in the egg mixture for 5-20 minutes depending on how hard it is – you don’t want it soggy, but you want the custard to sink in.

Heat the sugar or honey in a bit of water and add the strawberries, vinegar, lemon juice and boil quickly, then remove from heat.

In a non-stick pan, heat a bit of butter over medium heat and add the soaked bread slices and cook until browned. Flip slices and cook until golden brown. Place French toast on a baking sheet and put in the oven to finish, about 5-7 minutes, or until the custard cooks (not runny inside the bread).

Spoon some strawberries on the plate, place the toast on top and spoon more strawberries on top. Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with mint leaves.

CHEF NOTES: You could easily make this more elegant by turning it into bread pudding–dice the bread and mix with the custard and put into greased ramekins and bake at 300 degrees until the tops are golden brown and the custard is set.

YIELD: 2 servings

SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef James P. Smith, III

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