Friday, September 27, 2013

A Real Winner of a Chicken Dinner: Roasted Chicken With Bacon and Forty Cloves of Garlic

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a producer of a national daytime cooking/talk show inviting me to participate in a segment about making delicious dishes from leftovers.  She asked that I make two dishes. The first dish was to be a nice meal in its own right, then a new, fresh meal was to be made from the leftovers.  Her only other requests were that it be something fun and fabulous and I take lots and lots of photos.

Now I'm not claiming to be a TV veteran by any means, but I've done enough stuff like this to know that only a small percentage of the footage that these producers accumulate makes it on the air.  I still readily agreed because it's pretty exciting to do something like this and I always enjoy having a little good excitement in my life.

I got the call at about noon on a Friday and immediately I became a zombie, totally preoccupied by the task at hand, not able to think of anything else. Finally after seeing me fret and torture myself for hours, Mr. H had a brilliant suggestion. He suggested that I quit over thinking it and just do what I would normally do on any Friday night, so I took his advice and baked a chicken.

The thing I love about a big old fat baked chicken is that they are so easy to cook and even easier to dress up. All you really have to do is slather one down with herbs and spices, slap it in the oven, slow cooker or on the barbecue grill and Bob's your uncle! You have a delicious dinner that you could serve to anyone.

So I got on with it.  I decided on an old favorite and went with chicken roasted with forty cloves of garlic.  I mean how can you go wrong with a nice chicken spiced up and dotted with tons of garlic? Oh yeah, and since you are at Karen's Savoury Table after all, I draped my chicken with lots of bacon, just because.

I assembled my ingredients and found my favorite baking dish that I had been saving for just the right photo opportunity.  It is beautiful, don't you think?  I snapped lots and lots of photos like I was asked to before popping it in the oven and roasting it to a perfect golden brown.

One hour later my beautiful baking dish exploded in the oven as my unsuspecting husband napped on the sofa not eight feet away.  He best described it as a scene from The Hurt Locker. Not only was he awakened by a loud explosion and billowing smoke, but he simultaneously had to come to terms with the fact that he was going to have to mop up the mess and was most likely having hot dogs for supper. Poor guy, he and the dog had to clean it up since I was gone to the store at the time (thank goodness). I felt terrible for him, but I still drove very slowly on the way back home.

The next morning I pulled it all together again, reassembled the ingredients, stuck them in a new dish to roast while my husband and dog took a very long walk. The results were beautiful.  My chicken was a deep golden brown with a crackling skin and 40 plus cloves of sweet, buttery roasted garlic.

I learned this bacon trick from Delia Smith long ago. Not only does it keep the chicken hydrated without basting, but the smoky flavor from the bacon gives the chicken a delightful flavor.

I always like to tuck a little garlic in the cracks and crevasses in my chicken for a little extra flavor. It doesn't stay in there long, because as the chicken cooks it swells and pushes it out, but it still transfers a nice subtle garlic flavor to the meat.

After two days cooking and one spectacular event, we finally got to enjoy this beautiful chicken dinner. It was succulent and flavorful without too strong of an identifying flavor so it lent itself very well for the leftover dish.

For my second meal I decided to make one of my family's favorites and one of my most popular recipes to date, Chicken Enchilada Mac and Cheese.  Because I had plenty of shredded chicken and added some of the leftover roasted garlic, this dish came out especially hearty. Since posting this about a year ago, it has been favorited, pinned and liked more times than I can count. It really is a great recipe.

Well after all of this, neither of my recipes made it on the air. I kind of knew it was a toss up, so I wasn't surprised or disappointed, in fact I kind of like to look on the bright side and count my blessings. My husband got to act out an exciting scene from one of his favorite movies, my dog got to lick up lots of chicken juice and I got a clean oven and some beautiful photos to share with you here.  I would call that a win, win all around.

Roasted Chicken with Bacon and Forty Cloves of Garlic

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to roasting a chicken. One side cooks their chickens at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time. The other side, to which I am a member, prefers to lower the temperature and slow roast their chicken. I especially like the slower method here so my garlic gets nice and soft and caramelized.  Either way you prefer, make sure your chicken is thoroughly cooked and the juices run clear before serving.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
40+ cloves of garlic (approximately 2 – ½ to 3 bulbs) with all skins or at least the papery outer skins removed
1 small onion, skin removed and sliced into eights from pole to pole
6 small sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 – 4 to 5 pound chicken (whole or cut up), thoroughly washed and dried
4 slices of hickory smoked bacon
1 healthy glug of white wine (approximately ½ cup), plus more if needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drizzle two tablespoons of the olive oil onto the bottom of a medium to large size baking dish.  Scatter half of the garlic cloves into the pan, followed by the onion and half of the thyme sprigs.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on top of the garlic, onion and thyme in the pan.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top of the chicken then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Tuck the remaining garlic in the folds and on top of the chicken.  Lay the bacon slices lengthwise from end to end across the top of the breasts and legs.  For this recipe I leave the drumsticks untied so the garlic in the folds bakes evenly. 

Pour the wine into the base of the baking dish.  Place into the preheated oven to bake for approximately 1 - 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat begins to pull away from the bone and an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh.  If bacon begins to burn during baking, carefully remove it from the breasts and drop it into the drippings in the baking dish.

Remove from the oven and tent with foil; rest for 10 -15 minutes before carving and serving with the pan juices.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finally Some Salmon I Really Like: Brown Sugar Brined Smoked Salmon

I make no secret that even though I am quite an adventurous eater, there are certain foods that I just don't like. Oysters, raisins and caviar are at the top of my list of things I'd rather not be served ever again, in this lifetime or the next.

Keeping these foods company on this list is salmon. It seems like everyone in this world loves salmon but me. I can't tell you how many times I've choked down an acceptable amount at a dinner party just not to offend my host.  I guess I could start telling everyone at the time of invitation of my dislike for salmon, but I hate being a pain in the ass, and I must admit that I kind of like to live dangerously. Not knowing what is on the menu gives me some sort of thrill. It's a foodie thing I guess.

I have kind of hung in there with salmon because of its health benefits. As I understand it, salmon is packed full of good stuff that our bodies need, and as I start to get a bit older, I realize how important that is. Not to mention the health benefits are especially important to those of us who would like to lose a pound or twenty before the Pillsbury Bake-Off in a little over a month.

I was reminded of this yesterday while wearing my new, size "wishful thinking" boy short underwear that rolled down my hips and turned into bikinis under the stress of the ten pound spare tire that I just can't get rid of. Oh I have been really trying and walking my legs off every morning, but it just won't shift, and to add insult to injury, I have another birthday coming up in less than a week. Ugh. Is it just me, or does it seem like I've written a post like this before?

OK, after saying that I dislike salmon I am going to contradict myself and admit that there is one type that I have kind of grown to like.  It is a local product that is marinated in a sugary, salty brine and slowly smoked.  It is really good with a bagel that is slathered with cream cheese. I know, I know, that's not exactly low-cal, but I'm taking baby steps here.  Anyway, not only is it pretty expensive, it is also made with farm raised salmon that I personally am not really crazy about, so I don't buy much of it.

A few days ago a very generous neighbor brought some of his own smoked salmon down for us to try. It was love at first bite I tell you.  Just as good as that farm raised high dollar stuff, his salmon was sweet, smoky, and just the right texture which is firm and flaky, but not dry. Perfect for my morning bagel or a nice low-cal salad.

After picking his brain and doing some internet surfing, Mr. H and I came up with just the right ratio of sugar to salt to garlic that produces a piece of salmon just as good as the store bought stuff. The only inexact part of this recipe is the cooking.

Our neighbor said that he cooked his in his propane smoker at 150 degrees for about an hour.  Our fillet was 1/2" at one end and almost 1-1/2" at the thickest. We set our electric smoker (loaded with apple wood) at 150 degrees and our fillet took almost 2 hours, so your cooking time will vary depending on the size of your fillet and your smoker's temperature setting and accuracy.

Knowing that not everyone has an outdoor smoker, I did a little research and found Saveur's instructions for a little makeshift indoor smoker that anyone can put together. Since this is very different from the one I used, you will have to watch your salmon carefully to get the desired doneness.  I do have to say that even though the folks at Saveur say they ordered their wood chips online, I buy mine at Lowe's and Home Depot. They are not as fine as the ones they use in the video but I would try them first before ordering any online.

Brown sugar, kosher salt, Gilroy garlic and $18.00 worth of wild king salmon. An unbeatable combination.

Brown Sugar Brined Smoked Salmon

1 pound wild king salmon fillet
1/2 cup slightly packed brown sugar
1 ounce kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, crushed

Rinse and dry salmon fillet.  Place in a flat, non-metallic dish with a lip (I like using my glass loaf pan); set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine sugar, salt and garlic.  Place salmon, skin side down in the dish. Pack the brine mixture on top of the salmon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours. You will notice as it sits, the brine will melt and produce a syrup that will run all over the fish.

Gently pack the sugar mixture on top of the salmon, cover it and place it in the refrigerator for 6 - 12 hours.  I prepped mine late one night and smoked it the next morning.

After marinating, my fillet had an almost candied appearance.

Remove the fish from the brine, dab with a paper towel to dry and place on a rack with a dish underneath to catch any liquid that seeps out of the salmon. Allow salmon to air dry for an hour.

Preheat an outdoor smoker to 150 - 170 degrees. Add wood chips (Mr. H highly endorses apple chips) as desired or recommended on your smoker's instructions. Smoke fish for approximately 1 - 2 hours, checking occasionally being careful not to over cook and dry out.

Remove salmon from the smoker and serve when desired.  Personally I prefer mine chilled or room temperature, but this is purely personal preference. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. I have no idea how long it will keep in the fridge because we ate ours within two days.

Proper smoking produces a fillet that is slightly sweet, smoky and flaky.

It has taken me years and a lot of tasting, but I can finally claim success. This is salmon that I really, really like.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cake Doughnut Muffins

I'm sure by now everyone has heard that it rained heavily here in Colorado for many days.  Our state sustained incredible damage from the torrential rains and rushing water. Thankfully my area remained high and dry and the closest we came to the flooding is the NBC news footage. We will definitely have one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. My heart goes out to those affected by this flood.

This past Sunday, I boarded my ark and floated over to Yvette of Muy Bueno's house for a small blogger get together.  It had been far too long since we had one of our blogger brunches and I am so glad that Yvette decided to host us all.

Due to the rainy weather, our numbers were small but we still had some unbelievable food as usual. As you can imagine this gives us all a chance to kind of show off any new recipes that we have come across since we last got together.

In addition to a delicious zucchini and green chile frittata and a big plate of candied bacon by Heather of Rocky Mountain Cooking, we also had some warm brie and fig jam, courtesy of Yvette.  Lea Ann of Cooking on the Ranch brought a beautiful home smoked salmon fillet with horseradish mayo. Holly of A Baker's House kept a level head and furnished a beautiful fresh fruit tray (my arteries thank you Holly). In addition to all of this great food, Godiva sent Yvette a selection of their chocolates for us to sample.  They were all delicious of course, but they have a Aztec inspired chocolate truffle that was my favorite.

For my contribution to our brunch, I brought a basket of cake doughnut muffins.  I usually make these because they are so simple, always underestimating how delicious they are.  These innocent looking little muffins are light and fluffy bites of subtly sweet bakery goodness that you can easily make in your own kitchen.

Usually I just make them in a regular old non-stick muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Since I stumbled upon a clearance Wilton doughnut hole pan at Jo Ann Fabrics the other day, this gave me the perfect excuse to prove Mr. Naysayer wrong and actually find a use for it. This recipe makes enough batter for 12 muffins or to fill this 20 doughnut hole pan three times, so this gave me plenty to take to our event and have enough left over for Mr. Naysayer to almost make himself sick on during the Bronco's game. In his defense, you can't eat just one.

So if you are in need of a quick little stunner to make for a back to school coffee morning or need an excuse to use that crazy pan you just bought on clearance, here ya go!

Cake Doughnut Muffins

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 - 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 to 1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 - 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray a twelve cup non-stick muffin tin, or in my case a 20 cup doughnut hole pan, with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, granulated and brown sugars until they are completely combined.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.

Add the flour 1/4 at a time, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour even amounts of batter into the prepared pan.  Place in the preheated oven. Bake muffins for approximately 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  My little doughnut holes (about the size of mini muffins) took right at 6 minutes to cook.

For the topping, combine sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl; set aside.

While muffins are still warm, brush the tops with melted butter.  Roll muffins in the cinnamon sugar and set aside. Serve while warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 regular size muffins or 60 doughnut holes.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Something From Nothing #16: Creamy Potato Soup

The first little sign of fall arrived on our doorstep a couple of days ago.  The temperature dropped 30 degrees overnight, and at first a soft rain moved in soaking our yard, and now three days later it is still raining.

My poor dog is totally depressed by this weather.  Unable to take our morning walks, we have been virtually housebound.  I feel so sorry for him as I watch the wheels turn in his furry little head as to how he's going to get his business done outside without getting drenched. I don't know what he dislikes more, rain soaked fur or the vigorous towel rubdown he gets before he can come back in the house.

Oftentimes when we have a sudden change of weather like this, or on those days when I lose my steam late in the day, I will abort more involved dinner plans and go to our favorite default recipe, potato soup.  I guess I inherited this from my mom who loved nothing better than cooking up a big pot and throwing in a pint of raw oysters after dipping out a bowl for me and my sister.

In its most basic form, potato soup is a super simple tummy warmer.  Throw in a few extra ingredients and you can easily make clam chowder, a spicy roasted poblano soup or like my mom, a briny oyster stew.  Oh yeah, and don't forget about the version where you chill it and blend it for a cool vichyssoise.

So next time you are starving and the cupboard is bare, or if your bag of potatoes is starting to sprout and you don't want them to go to waste, a simple, wholesome and filling supper is closer than you think.

Creamy Potato Soup

1 - 1/2 pounds peeled potatoes (about 4 medium), cubed
1 medium size onion, peeled and cubed
Enough water or chicken broth to cover potatoes in a medium to large size sauce pan
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 - 2 cups milk or half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes, onion and bay leaf in a medium to large size saucepan.  Pour enough water or chicken broth over them to cover by about 1 - 2".  Bring to boil over medium high heat.  Once they boil reduce heat to medium making sure they maintain a slow boil.  Cook until potatoes and onions are very soft and break apart easily when pierced with a fork.

Remove from the heat and discard bay leaf.  If needed pour off a bit of the water or broth so that the vegetables are not quite covered.  Mash the potatoes and onion with a potato masher, immersion blender or the back of a fork until they are mostly mashed.  Stir in milk until desired consistency is reached.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Return to a medium heat and cook until it is heated through.

Serve immediately just like this or with your favorite garnishes.  Some of my favorites are grated cheese, sour cream, bacon bits and green onion.  I also like chopped ripe tomatoes and basil or roasted green chiles and cheese.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Getting Out of the Kitchen for a Day: Denver International Wine Competition 2013

I don't really like admitting that I don't know much about things that pertain to food and drink, but sometimes I need to swallow my pride and be honest.  Wine is just one of those things that I have a very limited knowledge of. Basically all I know about wine is that I like what I like and don't like what I don't.

I must admit that I don't really know what people are looking for when they talk about the sight, nose or flavors "in the mouth" or "the finish". Usually I smile and nod when someone talks about their favorite type of wine in technical terms.  I'll even go so far as to admit (and this hurts) that when I order a bottle of wine at a restaurant and the waiter wants me to taste it before it is poured, I would put my stamp of approval on anything, even bottled kerosene just to get out of the situation. I just don't feel like I know enough to even turn down a bad wine. That is pitiful.

Deciding to face my fear of wine and its devotees, I trekked out to the Denver International Wine Competition last Saturday. This competition which was hosted by festival founders Christopher and Darcy Davies and held at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, is a precursor to the 9th Denver International Wine Festival that will take place November 6th - 10th. During this two day wine competition, a room full of volunteer wine enthusiasts and professionals tasted and judged approximately 800 wines from all over the world in an effort to pick the best of the best.

Photo courtesy of Christoper Davies

In late October, the gold medal winning wines from this competition will then be passed on to ten talented chefs including nine of Denver's best, and former White House chef, John Moeller, so they can pair them with their own innovative culinary creations. This event, The Pairsine Chef's Food and Wine Pairing Competition, is the signature culinary event of the International Wine Festival which takes place Thursday, November 7th at 6 pm.

Even though The Pairsine is the signature culinary event, it is only one of many to take place at the festival. The festival's first event, The Grand Vinters Dinner which is scheduled for Wednesday, November 6th at 6 pm, is a multi course dinner featuring wines from a particular region or wine maker.

The Grand Tasting of International Wines and Food will take place Friday, November 8th at 6 pm. This is the region's largest wine tasting event for consumers, media and trade with more than 60 wineries, breweries and distilleries pouring, including premium spirits, sake and craft beer.  Tastings of food and wine, and food products, as well as wine accessories and fine art will also be available.

On Saturday, November 9th, Christopher Davies will lead a full day VIP Tour of the Front Range Wineries.  This tour will take wine lovers behind the scenes of three of his favorite Colorado wineries and a local micro-distillery.

On Sunday, November 10th from 12 to 2 pm, is the event I would love to attend if I weren't going to be at the Pillsbury Bake-Off, the Julia Child Tribute Luncheon.  Former Chateau Mumm brand ambassador and personal friend of Julia Child, Madeleine de Jean will be leading an intimate champagne luncheon and sabering demonstration.

Whether you are a seasoned wine enthusiast or a novice like me, there is probably an event for you at this festival. For more information about the wine competition and the results, a full schedule of events, ticket prices and more information about festival organizers Chris and Darcy Davies, and their Wine Country International Magazine, please click on the links.

So, even though I didn't leave the competition a pro, I did learn that liking what you like is OK and nothing to be ashamed of, because taste is a personal thing.  I also discovered that not all Rieslings are sickly sweet as demonstrated in my new favorite wine that I discovered there.  Thanks so much Chris and Darcy for your hospitality and including me in this event.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Recipe From a Friend: Squash Rockefeller

Probably like most of you out there, I get many of my best recipes from friends. Some friend recipes are better than others, but a few of them are so good that I never forget them.

My friend Leslie is a world class self taught cook.  She and her husband Randy have been friends of ours for forever and a day. I actually went to high school with Randy.  His younger sister Sandy was a very good friend of mine and I was even in her wedding.  Yep, I was there standing on the end of the reception line in a peach dress with a sheer floppy hat and dyed to match shoes.  Gotta love those bridesmaid outfits.

I met Leslie for the first time on the same weekend that my friend Sandy got married.  Randy had come home from college for the wedding with his new super cute girlfriend in attendance.  All of the girls in our group were a little bit protective of Randy so I have to admit that I was all set not to like her, but she was one of those girls that you just couldn't dislike.  Calm, relaxed and quick with a clever comeback, she was a girl's girl and an instant hit with us all.

We all soon married and my husband and I somehow landed up living in the same city as they and our friendship was cemented forever.  I had the first baby and even though we had moved away by then, they were a natural choice for godparents for our daughter. For eighteen years Leslie made sure that a Hallmark ornament was in the mail for our daughter every Christmas.  If I would have known she was that loyal I would had made it a stipulation that godparents pay for college.  Well, that might be pushing it.

Anyway, like I said, Les is one of those naturally great cooks.  She is world renowned (well, in my world at least) for her Potatoes O'Brien.  Her succulent mustard encrusted barbecued turkey breast still lingers in my memory, but my all time favorite recipe discovery from dinner at her house has to be her Squash Rockefeller.

This dish, comprised of simple ingredients is one of my absolute favorite side dishes.  I mean, it really goes with anything and I haven't met anyone yet that doesn't like it.  Best of all?  You can make it ahead of time and pop it in the oven after the guests arrive.

I've been making this for years now and must admit that I lost her original recipe long ago.  Probably by now only the main ingredients are the same as her original recipe, but I think she'd still love this rendition. So here's to good friends . . . and the recipes we steal from them.  Thanks for the inspiration Les!

Squash Rockefeller

4 small to medium size yellow squash
4 slices bacon, finely diced
1/2 medium size yellow onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 - 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed until it is well drained
1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 big ol' heaping tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place whole squash in a large stock pot.  Cover with lightly salted water and place over medium high heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until there is just a little bit of resistance when poked with a fork, approximately 10 minutes. Remove squash from the water and place on a plate to cool.

While squash is cooling, place a frying pan over medium heat.   Add bacon to the pan and cook until it is almost crisp.  Add the onion and saute until tender and transparent.  To this mixture add the crushed garlic and saute for 1 minute longer.

Add the drained spinach to the pan and stir until it is mixed well with the vegetables and heated through.  To this mixture add the cream cheese, butter, Swiss, Parmesan, salt and pepper.  Mix well to combine thoroughly; set aside.

Once the squash has cooled, cut in half lengthwise.  Carefully scoop out the seeds in the center of the squash.  Fill the cavity with a heaping tablespoon of the spinach filling.  Cover with bread crumbs (recipe follows) and place in a preheated 325 degree oven until heated through, 20 - 30 minutes.

Breadcrumb Topping

1 large slice bread
1 tablespoon butter

Place bread in a mini food processor and process or rub between your hands until you have medium fine crumbs.

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat.  Stir in the breadcrumbs and stirring frequently, pan toast until crumbs are a golden brown.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Short Staycation and My Version of The Original Pancake House's Cinnamon Almond French Toast

I've been a bit lax about posting this past week due to a mini staycation that I've been enjoying.   You see about every year at this time my step-mom stops in for her yearly visit.  I love every minute of the time we get to spend together and wouldn't dream of interrupting it by doing anything that remotely resembles work of any kind.

I'd like to at least be able to post about the wonderful meals I cooked for her, but unfortunately that's just not going to happen.  When she first arrived I cooked a couple of simple meals, welcoming her into our home, but as the days rolled by and I thought her sufficiently impressed, we started eating out more and more. Nothing fancy mind you, just whatever we felt like and happened to be close by as we shopped and hung out.

The week flew by and it was over before we knew it, but we saved her last day to do a serious TJ Maxx roundup.  We have some pretty great stores in my part of Denver and I'm a bit more than sure that in addition to seeing me and the grand kids, they are a big reason that she flies up here.  She just might be the original "Maxxinista".

Just so we wouldn't be distracted by hunger pangs, we stopped by my favorite breakfast place, The Original Pancake House, for a bite before we hit the sale racks.  All I can say about our meal was that it was a testament to the old saying that it is the simple things in life that count. Thank goodness after building up their French toast to her, we were not disappointed.  It was so hot, crispy and delicious that I knew I'd have to head home and figure out the recipe so I could share it here with you.

So now that the party is over, rested and refreshed, I got back in the kitchen and started creating once again.  Thank goodness my maiden voyage back into the kitchen was a complete success and I was able to get pretty darn close to the taste of that original dish.  So if like my mom, you don't have one of these restaurants anywhere near you, you can still share this really special meal with those you love too.

Cinnamon Almond French Toast

3 tablespoons powdered (or superfine) sugar
About 1/4  - 1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil
2 - 3 tablespoons butter
8 slices bread (thick sandwich sliced or French Bread)

Combine the powdered sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside until ready to use.

In a medium size shallow bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, vanilla extract and almond extract. Pour the almonds into a plate, spreading out to a thin layer that is big enough to cover the surface of the bread.

Prepare a medium size frying pan by pouring in a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of butter and preheating it over a medium high heat.  You will need to add the remaining oil and butter a bit at a time as you fry batches of the remaining bread.

Taking one slice of bread at a time, quickly dip each side of each slice of bread into the egg mixture. Then coat one side of the bread in the sliced almonds by gently setting it on top of the almonds on the plate and lightly pressing it.

Immediately place prepared bread into the preheated frying pan (bread should sizzle as you place it into the pan). Cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side or until it is golden brown, carefully turning it so that you don't knock off the almond coating.  Remove from the pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Serve immediately with warm maple syrup.

Serves 4 - 8