Happy Memorial Day
...and a special thank-you to those who have served to protect our freedom.
Image of Buffalo Tavern in Ashe County, North Carolina.
We opted for a new take on the traditional Memorial Day Cookout and had our neighbors over for Brunch. I don't mean for this to sound trite, but I was pleased to celebrate the day with a veteran- one of our guests served in the military for years and was an assistant to General Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War. But this is about entertaining, not politics.
Speaking of entertaining, I'm adding my grocery-store bouquet, cut short and placed in a glass bowl, for a different look.
I wanted to do a sweet, savory, and fruit dish... but as is often the case, not all went according to plan. The cantaloupe, while sweet, was very ripe- to the point of having an odd texture.
When something goes wrong in the kitchen, bring out the blender. No, not margaritas (later this afternoon!) but Cantaloupe Soup.
Using a recipe inspired from Epicurious...
Mix together peel of 1 lime, 1 1/4 cups water, 1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, and 1/4 cup white sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Let mixture cool (if you're running late and in a panic, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes). Pour liquid through strainer into a bowl; mash the mint leaves with the back of a large spoon to get all the good "juice" out.
Combine liquid and cantaloupe (pulp, sans seeds, scooped from cantaloupe) in blender and puree. This will probably take 2 passes. Pour into large bowl and refrigerate for preferably 2 hours or longer. Again, sticking in the freezer will speed up the process but you may need to blend-stick quickly before serving. Add a sprig of mint and voila.
Overnight French Toast
Look like you slaved all morning when really you whipped it up the night before.
Melt 1 stick butter, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons corn syrup in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until smooth- about 4-5 minutes. You don't have to stir constantly, but watch it to avoid burning. Note: I ran out of butter and used about 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Surprisingly, it worked.
Spray a 13x9 glass dish with non-stick spray. Pour syrup into prepared dish. Slice whole bread and lay in pan, overlapping pieces slightly. I used whole wheat this time in an attempt to be healthier and it worked fine.
In another bowl, whisk together 5 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups half-n-half, 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour over bread mixture. Cover with saran wrap and keep in fridge overnight.
In the morning, preheat oven to 350 and allow bread mixture to come to room temperature. Bake toast uncovered for about 40 minutes. The bread will puff slightly and egg mixture will firm. Serve almost immediately. You can sprinkle with confectioners sugar or add syrup, but I usually serve as is.
For some reason, I believe the bread looks a little dried out in this photo. It really isn't!
Salmon-Wrapped Poached Eggs (aka Healthier Eggs Benedict)
Inspired by Gourmet Magazine
First, whip up the sauce. Combine 1/2 cup sour cream (light works fine) and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Slowly pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives, 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and place in fridge until time to serve.
Prepare asparagus spears by trimming ends and removing the spears along the side of the asparagus. Put in glass dish with a little water; cover with saran wrap. Microwave for 4 minutes (seriously, a no-fail way to prepare asparagus. I would have preferred to use our asparagus steamer, but with Mr. Southern at the stovetop poaching the eggs... I didn't want to get in the way).
Poach the eggs in an Egg Poaching dish-- if you make breakfast, it is totally worth buying. Ours, shown below, is from Sur la Table but they have several options. We found 5 minutes was the perfect egg poaching time- whites were cooked thoroughly but the yolk was pleasantly runny.
Set egg on plate, drape egg with one thin slice of smoked salmon. Place asparagus at a diagonal along side egg and top with a dollop of the sour cream sauce. Unfortunately, our guests had arrived at this point and I felt a little odd whipping out the camera to photograph Mr. Southern and I plating up the eggs. So, I'll have to re-create the setting and post photos later.
Hope you enjoy your holiday! We're off for more work in the yard... which is a must given the calories consumed at the brunch!