French inspired breakfast recipes

Published 10:40 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Bless Your Spoon

All 100 miles of Highway 21, a North Carolina scenic byway, offer folks a treasure trove of cool stuff, plenty of delicious food, beautiful scenic views, and a final destination that made the trip worth taking.

From Harmony, NC to Wytheville, Va., the historic highway was part of an event known as the US-21 Road Market. Held the last weekend in July, the drive offered a unique opportunity to pull off-road to browse scads of yard sale tables in hopes of discovering a prized find. Being a road trip enthusiast as well as a die-hard yard sale fanatic, the excursion was road-worthy and hit on everything I love about both.

Picking up the highway in Harmony, my friend and I headed north. Getting in touch with my inner hillbilly, the car radio was set on an old-time music station – my hometown is Nashville, Tenn., so I don’t fall far from that tree. We listened to Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers and the song, “Cornbread and Butterbeans,” by current group, Carolina Chocolate Drops.

There were yards, backyards, parking lots, stores, fields, farms, and pastures with roadside vendors selling their wares. We made several stops where I scoped out tables piled high with junktique in search of kitchen doodads or a new gadget that could be used for cooking and entertaining.

Making our way through Jonesville, we pulled the car over off the road a few more times where we gave the phrase, “eat local,” a whole new meaning. While eating $2 hotdogs off someone’s backyard grill, we sipped on chilled cans of Pepsi that had been iced down in an old aluminum tub.

Following the bright, yellow road signs with the bold imprint of Route 21 that dotted the sides of the road all along the way, we meandered from Jonesville to Elkin and through Thurmond. We navigated our way slowly, enjoying the camaraderie of other roadsters while making friends of strangers.

When we arrived in the Stone Mountain area, we took a break at a local church where we stood in line waiting for their Port-A-Pit chicken – the kind that’s so tender it just falls off the bone. Southern sides of baked beans and mayo-based coleslaw and fresh roll always taste so good with that chicken.  We chose our dessert from a selection of homemade cakes but took it with us so we could get back on the road that beckoned our return.

We passed hand-squeezed lemonade stands, vendors offering a respite from the heat with Italian ice, and food trucks waggling their gourmet burgers out the windows. I didn’t partake of the barbecue offerings on the trip, but I surely was in hog heaven as we made our way through the small towns. Handsewn quilts, signed, handmade pottery, vintage goods, industrial metals, and collectibles beckoned motorists to stop. Serious negotiations went down as we bargained with vendors for the lowest price on our already-a-bargain finds – and that’s what was expected.

I bought a turquoise, recipe box graced by age with a few rust spots, a giant bunny chef that held a chalkboard, an Italian tomato pitcher for the Bloody Mary bar, and a package of doilies for my cakes – I have a thing for doilies. Also, I haggled for a china Christmas plate to put homemade cookies on to give as a gift at the holidays. All small find but fun and useful.

We cruised on curvy roads from Doughton to Stone Mountain, through Roaring Gap and Glade Valley where we took in beautiful vistas and Christmas tree-covered mountains before reaching downtown Sparta. Not missing a visit to Robin Mangum’s Studio and Gallery, we also checked out the new Muddy Creek Café and Music Hall, both on Main Street.

The day was getting late, and we were winding down. Satisfied with our loot, we chose Laurel Springs as our final destination, turning off the market road and onto Hwy. 18, making our way to historic Doughton Hall Bed and Breakfast Inn. As a guest, we felt like we had the entire house to ourselves. One can dial back from the world, unwind, listen to the gentle buzz of a hummingbird’s wings, and forget any troubles. Sitting on the wrap-around porch at night is sure to relax you while listening to the nightlife of croaking bullfrogs that competed with the babbling brook.

I’ve stayed at the B&B before, so I went to bed dreaming of the tastiest and most abundant home-cooked, country breakfast that’s second to none anywhere. Gracious hosts, Pam and Ed Hall, will feed you ‘till you’re about to pop – you won’t leave hungry. While dropping in and out, their delightful, extended family will be pleased to meet you – and before you go, you’ll feel just like part of the family.

The Highway 21 Road Market event highlighted the historic highway that was once the main route that folks up north took to travel south to the beaches of N.C.  A unique road traveled by many throughout history, it’s a destination unto itself with national forests,  state parks, wine country, rail trails, and vineyards that mark the landscape. Winding through seven counties in two states that include four NC counties, the yard sale started on Friday and continued through Sunday. Always taking place the last weekend in July, the event was organized as a cooperative initiative called, “Take a Break from the Interstate.”

Mark your calendars.  I promise you, the only thing you’ll regret is if you miss it next year.

I’m sharing some favorite French-inspired, big country breakfast recipes. Using fresh farm eggs, goat cheese, and lots of buttermilk, no one does breakfast like the French.

IRON SKILLET BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 stick cold, cubed, salted butter

1 ¼ cup buttermilk

In a mixer with wire attachment, whisk flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add cubed butter and mix until flour mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pinch any remaining so that crumbs are smaller than a pea. Gently fold in buttermilk just until a soft dough forms. Flour a work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured surface. Mold and flatten it into a round dough about ¾ inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch round biscuit cutter. Gather up remaining dough and repeat process. Arrange the dough circles into 12-inch cast iron skillet that’s been greased on bottom and sides with butter. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 14 minutes or less until golden.

APRICOT BUTTER

2 cups apricot juice or nectar

½ cup sugar

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Pinch of salt

3 ½ pounds halved, pitted fresh apricots

In a saucepan, combine the apricot juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and apricots, and bring to a boil. While partially covered, simmer at medium heat for 15 minutes or until apricots are tender. Uncover, and continue to simmer for 1 hour while stirring at intervals until it thickens.  Allow to cool. In a food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. Transfer butter to jars, and allow to cool without closing the tops. When cool, close jars and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

TOMATO MARMALADE

4 quarts peeled, seeded, red or yellow tomatoes

4 cups sugar

3 lemons

Cut tomatoes into small pieces, and drain in a colander. Measure 2 quarts tomato pulp, place in kettle with thinly sliced lemons. Cook uncovered on low for at least 40 minutes or until lemon skins are tender. Add sugar and continue to cook for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally. Turn into hot, sterilized jars at once and seal.

CRÈME BRULEE FRENCH TOAST

5 large eggs

1 ½ cups half and half

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. Grand Marnier

¼ tsp. salt

1 stick salted butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 Tbsp. corn syrup

Loaf of French bread or baguette

In a mixer, beat eggs. Add half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and salt, and mix well. Cut 6 slices of bread. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add brown sugar and corn syrup and cook until smooth. Pour in the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Arrange bread slices on top of the brown sugar.  Pour egg mixture over bread. Refrigerate covered overnight. Set out and bring the dish to room temperature. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes or until set and golden brown.

SKILLET HASH POTATO ROUND

2 ½ lbs. peeled, julienned, baking potatoes

2 tsp. Kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ cup canola oil

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

In a bowl, toss julienned potatoes with salt and pepper. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat the canola oil. Add half the potatoes and spread evenly in bottom of the skillet. Layer the scallions on top. Then add remaining potatoes on the top and spread evenly. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Using a large spatula, flip the potatoes and continue to cook for 5 minutes or until the bottom is browned. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 12 minutes. When done, drain potato round on a paper towel. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a fruit relish and sour cream.

LEMON BUTTERMILK SWEET BREAD

4 beaten eggs

2 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ stick softened, salted butter

¾ cup Crisco shortening

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

Glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 tsp melted, salted butter

2 ½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. grated lemon zest

This can be served as a cake or a sliced, sweet bread at breakfast.  In a mixer, beat eggs and then add sugar. Add butter and shortening, and mix well until combined. Add vanilla, and lemon juice, and mix. Beat in the flour, soda, and salt while alternating with the buttermilk. Pour into a butter greased, and floured Bundt pan or 2 loaf pans Bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Cool and turn out on cake plate. Drizzle with lemon glaze while warm. For the glaze, whisk the sugar, butter, lemon juice, and zest together until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the top and down the sides. Slice bread and serve topped with fresh fruit medley of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and top with freshly whipped cream. You can make a French trifle using this bread layered with whipped cream and fruit. Custard is an optional layer.

CROISSANT & FRUIT FRENCH TOAST

2 large beaten eggs

¼ cup sugar

1 cup half and half

¼ cup brandy

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. salt

8 Tbsp. blueberry preserves

4 croissants, cut lengthwise in half

1 stick salted butter

2 baskets fresh blueberries (½-pint)

pure maple syrup, warmed

In a mixer, beat eggs. Add sugar, half and half, brandy, cinnamon, and salt, mixing well. Pour into a butter greased 13×9 baking dish. Halve the croissants, and spread 2 Tbsp. preserves on 4 croissant halves. Top each with remaining half. Put croissants in the egg mixture and turn to coat several times until egg mixture is absorbed. In a large skillet, melt butter. Cook croissants for 5 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a plate. Add blueberries to the skillet, and cook 4 minutes or until heated. Serve with warmed berries and warmed maple syrup.

FRESH ASPARAGUS AND EGG GRATIN

6 large beaten eggs

2 cups cream

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

2 cups Swiss cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup chopped chives

1/3 cup chopped marjoram

1 lb. French bread, cubed ½-inch

1 lb. cooked asparagus, cut ½-inch

To dry out, let the bread sit out overnight while uncovered. In a mixer, beat eggs. Add cream, salt, and pepper. In another bowl, mix cheeses and herbs. Cook asparagus in boiling water about 3 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain. In a butter greased 13 x 9 baking dish, layer half of the bread, half of the asparagus, and half of the cheese mixture in that order.  Pour half of the egg mixture over. Repeat with another layer. Allow to stand 30 minutes, making sure all bread is covered with egg. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool a few minutes before cutting in squares. Serve topped with hollandaise sauce.

SMOKED SALMON CASSOULET

8 beaten eggs

2 cups whole milk

1 cup Bisquick or buttermilk bake mix

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups small broccoli florets

10 chopped green onions

½ pound smoked salmon, cut 1-inch pieces

8 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese

8 oz. cold cream cheese, cubed ½-inch pieces

In a mixer, beat the eggs. Add milk, baking mix, salt, and pepper, and mix well. In a 13 x 9 butter greased, baking dish, arrange broccoli and half of the green onions in the bottom. Then scatter with smoked salmon, Monterey Jack cheese, and cream cheese cubes, and remaining green onions. Pour egg mixture over the casserole. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, making sure the center is set and firm. Allow to cool some before serving. Cut in squares, and serve topped with hollandaise sauce.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. orange juice

2 tsp. grated orange peel

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 ½ tsp. salt

In a mixer, combine mayonnaise, mustard, orange juice, peel, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Serve over any breakfast casserole.

CLASSIC FRENCH CREPES

2 beaten eggs

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 ½ cups milk

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour

¼ tsp. salt

Salted butter

In a mixer, beat eggs. Add sugar. Then add milk and vanilla extract, and blend. Add flour and salt, and blend. In a 6-inch skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of butter. Pour 2 Tbsp. batter into skillet or just enough to thinly cover the bottom. Tilt skillet to spread evenly. Cook less than one 1 minute per side over medium heat until browned.

QUICHE LORRAINE

5 beaten eggs

2 ½ cups heavy cream

½ tsp. grated nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

Dash cayenne pepper

2 Tbsp. salted butter

½ cup chopped onion

1 pkg. cooked, crumbled bacon

1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

2-9-inch partially baked pie shells

In a mixer, beat eggs. Add cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until mixed. In a skillet, melt butter and saute onion until transparent. Cook bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. Spread the onion evenly, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses on the bottom of two pie shells.  Pour egg mixture into shells making sure not to overfill. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden and puffy and center is set. Serve hot. Makes 2 pies with 6 slices each.

COUNTRY GIRL BAKED GRITS

3 beaten eggs

1 stick melted, salted butter

¾ lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese

3 tsp. Lowery seasoning salt

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. paprika

1 ½ cups uncooked grits

6 cups water

In a mixer, beat eggs. Add butter, cheese, salts, paprika, grits, and water. Mix well. Bake in a greased casserole dish in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Serve topped with relish.

Cantaloupe-Corn Relish

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 seeded, diced red tomato

1 cup diced ripe cantaloupe

2/3 cup chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped red onion

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 ½ cups fresh corn

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine 3 Tbsp. olive oil, tomato, cantaloupe, onions, and cilantro.  In a skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add corn, and saute 5 minutes or until slightly browned. Transfer to a bowl. Cool. Add tomato mixture to the sautéed corn, tossing well. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate. Serve on top of hot cheese grits.

GOAT CHEESE POTATO CAKES

2 cups (2) peeled, julienned, russet potatoes

6 slices cooked, crumbled bacon

½ cup crumbled chevre (goat cheese)

¼ stick salted butter

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

To a bowl, add julienned potatoes. In a skillet, cook bacon 4 minutes on each side until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towel and drain. Cool and crumble. Add bacon and crumbled cheese to potatoes and toss to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In the same skillet with bacon drippings, melt butter. Form patties out of cheese and potato mixture. Cook in a skillet at medium heat for about 7 minutes per side or longer until golden and potatoes are thoroughly cooked. You can also cook this as one large potato pancake, turning when browned.