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Fat Guy

French toast for the novice

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I think today was possibly the first time I've ever made French toast. I don't think it came out all that well. Eggy, soggy, not flavorful.

Can I get a quick tutorial on the basic method? I've searched older topics that cover French toast but they're generally a lot more ambitious than what I'm looking to learn right now. I just want the basics on how to make French toast that isn't lousy.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some idea of what you did might help. What type of bread did you use, how did you soak it and what was the composition of your custard?

I make a custard that is scaled so that the weight of egg is 40% of the weight of the milk (you can see my whole process here). I dip and soak a rich buttery brioche (1.25cm/0.5inch thick slices) for thirty seconds per side, then fry in butter and if necessary finish in the oven.

If possible, you can use a chamber vacuum sealer to increase the thickness of the bread without getting a soggy crust and to infuse even more custard into the bread making for a richer, creamer center. I prefer doing this, but it isn't always possible.

Below is a 6.4cm/2.5inches round that is 3.8cm/1.5inches tall. I wouldn't suggest such a tall piece without a chamber vacuum sealer because the custard won't make it to the center.

IMG_0945+edit+2.jpg


Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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There are a lot of different ways to make it and a lot of different aesthetics for the end product. By far the best FT I've ever had is at Landmarc. They take very thick (like 4 inches thick) slices of the ubiquitous NYC restaurant pane pugliese, soak in cream and eggs (most likely with some flavorings and some sugar added), and then cook. I have to imagine that their version spends some amount of time in the oven rather than spending all of its time on the stove. It turns out like bread pudding surrounded by a crust. The egg custard part of their FT is fairly loose, but the overall impression isn't soggy due to the inherent firmness of the bread they use.

The basic technique is pretty easy. Make the (uncooked) custard base of eggs and dairy. Add sugar (or maple syrup or whatever) if you want a sweeter result. Add other flavorings if you like (a touch of vanilla, or a grating of nutmeg or a pinch of cinnamon wouldn't go amiss). Saturate some slices of bread in the custard base and fry in plenty of butter to your desired level of doneness. For very thick slices and a larger crowd, some time in a low oven after the outer crusts have been established may be a good idea.

I personally prefer to use a very sturdy, peasant-y bread in thick slices because I'd like for the custard to have some moistness without having the FT seem soggy. But other people like to use very tender bread like challah. If you use a soft, tender bread you either had better like a wet result ("soggy" in my estimation) or you will have to cook the FT enough to cook out most of that moisture, which I think makes the FT a bit tough. Others may prefer sourdough, which I think is nice when you can get a sturdy one. Classically, this would be made with stale or day-old bread (hence "pain perdu" -- making something from the "lost bread"). Most important, if you want it to be flavorful above and beyond "eggy," is for the bread to be flavorful. Otherwise, you'll need to add flavorings to your custard base.


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Some idea of what you did might help. What type of bread did you use, how did you soak it and what was the composition of your custard?

I used brioche, about 3/4" thick slices. I soaked in a shallow pool of equal parts egg and milk for about 30 seconds per side. I cooked in a pan in butter at approximately pancake temperature.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Basic homemade pain perdu starts with stale french bread---I'm talking about the airy south Louisiana version that's like a bahn mi roll--sliced thickly and dipped into a milky egg wash, then quickly cooked in a little butter. I like it fairly dry on the inside, so I don't soak, I just give it a quick dip. Fresh nutmeg grated into the egg wash is good, as is a little vanilla extract. I serve it sprinkled with chopped pecans and drizzled with Steen's cane syrup.

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Best French Toast I've had in NYC is either at Five Points or City Bakery.

I've made the Five Points one (bourbon and vanilla bean) at home using Balthazar brioche, sliced thickly.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/06/sunday_brunch_bourbon_vanilla_french_toast.html

Note that it calls for both whole milk AND heavy cream, as well as scraping a fresh vanilla bean, and adding 1/4 c. bourbon.

What kind of milk were you using? French Toast with skim or 2% milk never seems to turn out as well.


Edited by kathryn (log)

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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If you found your FT to be soggy, the first thing to do is to reduce the soaking time - try 15 seconds each side for starters. That way you'll get absorption of the custard mix but not so much that when you cook the toasts it will remain blah and gooey in the middle.

I normally use about 1/2 to 3/4" slices and give them 10-15 seconds each side (not that I count anymore; FT is one of my very fave breakfasts and I've been making it for ages) in a custard bath that's more heavily weighted towards heavy cream than egg (the 40% mentioned above sounds about right) with fresh-grated nutmeg and ishpingo (cinnamon flowers) in the bath.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Some idea of what you did might help. What type of bread did you use, how did you soak it and what was the composition of your custard?

I used brioche, about 3/4" thick slices. I soaked in a shallow pool of equal parts egg and milk for about 30 seconds per side. I cooked in a pan in butter at approximately pancake temperature.

I like to fry my toast at a higher temperature - pancakes around 350F or so, french toast closer to 400-450F. I like a very crispy crust and custardy center. I would also reduce soak time some as it sounds like you might not like the custard center as much as me.


Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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My grandmother was married to a conductor on the Kansas &Topeka railroad and, years ago, she taught me how to make it the way they did in the KT railroad dining car.

I wouldn't say it's the be-all and end-all of French toast, but this is what I do.

Buy a loaf of some sort of rustic white bread - French or Italian or whatever, but with a good crumb. Slice it into rounds about 1" thick. Leave them out overnight to get stale (if you don't have time, then just use whatever you've got; this morning, I just made some with a new loaf of Roman Meal sandwich bread. There's the "best choice," and then there's "what I have" - both work fine). Beat about 1 egg per slice of bread (if you don't want the center custardy, and don't plan a long soak, then use about 1 egg per two slices of bread). Add about 1 or 2 Tbls cream, 1 tsp or so sugar per egg, a healthy shake or two of cinnamon, a dash of salt, and a few drops of vanilla, and beat this up pretty well, to be sure the sugar and cinnamon are incorporated. As it sits, the cinnamon will float to the top, the sugar to the bottom, so be sure it's well-stirred before you drop in your bread. Let your bread soak as long as you have the patience to wait (we like it crispy on the outside; custardy on the inside; if you don't, then just do a quick dip). Get a skillet or grill hot and add a nice pat of butter. Put the French toast onto the skillet, and add pats of butter as required to keep things bubbling nicely. You can sprinkle an extra dash of cinnamon onto the top (the wet part) of the toast as it cooks, and even a pinch of additional sugar if you'd like. Adding sugar to the custard helps make the outside of the French toast crispy.

Especially if you're serving French toast to a housefull, which I do about once a week, you can then put your toast into a warm (about 250 oven). That way, you can serve everybody hot French toast at the same time, and the oven helps to crisp it up.

I do add extra sugar to the custard when I'm serving small children because the rest of the family likes to add powdered sugar or maple syrup or cajeta or a sprinkle of chocolate chips to the French toast as they're eating it, and that's pretty messy for little kids. If I add extra sugar to their custard, they'll eat it without wanting the additional sweetener on top.

We serve this with some sort of fresh fruit and bacon or sausage. It's probably our number-one favorite breakfast and I cannot even begin to count how many times I've made this through the years.

At Christmastime, my father (and now I) make it with eggnog or rompope. The rum/bourbon/brandy in eggnog makes the French toast particularly festive. You can also add a dash of an orange or cherry flavor liqueur, or Calvados or anything, really. My father also would occasionally plump raisins in sherry or brandy or something, and add them to the custard (although my children are not fans of this). And I've also many times made it with melted vanilla ice cream, or dulce de leche.

I'm sure there are fancier versions, but if you want a good, serviceable, all-purpose recipe you can make week after week after week until death, I'd suggest you try this one.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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a Tbs of dark rum in any mixture improves it immensely as does a dusting of powdered sugar.

warm true maple syrup cant hurt either. grade D if you can find it. winning the lottery will help you with the D.

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Personally I like a mix of approx 2 eggs to 3/4c milk, with a dash of vanilla or other extract. My experience is that the type of bread you use has a major impact on soaking time, so that is one of the variables that matters. I like to cut my bread about 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick. My current favorite bread to use is a sweet rustic batard-like bread. For some reason I find it crisps up on the exterior more readily than challah. The more you soak the bread, and the higher the heat, the more chance of sogginess I think. I saute my slices over a medium to medium-low flame in a modest amount of butter. For some reason I find that challah is prone to curling, thus creating areas that don't brown well. I don't seem to have that problem with a sweet batard, but I have no idea what really causes some breads to stay flat and get evenly crispy and other breads not.

Using this type of bread I would say I get about 6 slices of french toast from the amount of custard above. Perhaps the sweet batards I buy don't require as much liquid for absorption as some other breads might.

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Regarding bread...

Just want to add that one of my granddaughters is gluten-intolerant. Her favorite breakfast is Hootie's (my grandma name) French toast. If you can make that awful gluten-free "bread" taste good, you're really doing something.

So I'll recommend that to anyone else out there dealing with the same issue.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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50/50 egg, milk.

A grating of orange peel & 1-2 T orange juice, and possibly some vanilla.

This is the Emeril for Kids and the Cooking for Dummies approach

Or - simpler, and better, a 'glug' of Grand Marnier.

my approach. My mom uses brandy instead.

Soak bread. I use some cheap costco brand of whole wheat, but it works with any kind of bread.

Its like cooking steak, you can adapt by learning how the bread feels when you poke it. If there's a fountain, its going to be custardy when its done. That's how we like it. If you dont, then reduce soaking time. Experiment. You can try a bunch of different soak/cook times in one breakfast, since each piece cooked can be cut into strips for serving, allowing the chef to sample.

Move soaked bread to warm pan with melted butter in it. Cook slowly ("med" to "med low" on my stove), til brown, flip & cook til done. Keep warm in pile on warm plate in low oven, ala pancakes. Best to use more than one pan and get it done fast, once you have a method you like, because it doesnt hold all the well, especially if you like the bread a bit dry in the middle.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I haven't made regular French Toast for many years. I much prefer my "mock" French Toast which turns out lovely every time and there is much less mess.

You can tweak the recipe to suit your own taste. It can be savory instead of sweet and it is a cinch that even the most inept cook can produce a lovely result.

The surface is just crusty enough and the interior is like custard.

For this batch I baked brioche rolls, cut the tops off, cubed the bottoms and soaked in the milk/egg mix and then added the tops and pressed them down so they would soak up the eggy mix.

Mock French toast 1.jpg Mock French toast 2.jpg

Mock French toast sliced.jpg

Top sprinkled with granulated maple sugar which will caramelize after it's turned.

Topped with granulated maple sugar.jpg

Mock French toast done.jpg


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Andie, that sounds fantastic. The one part I don't follow is how this method reduces the mess of French Toast: it seems like it would be about the same, no?


Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I typically wizz 2 tbsp of milk per egg in a blender. Bourbon is optional, but typically skipped due to the toddler. For bread, I use stale challah sliced 3/4" to 1" thick. I give it 20-30" perside. I sprinkle of cake spice mix or nutmeg goes on after the soaking. The eggy bread is fried in a fair amount of butter.


"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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I haven't made regular French Toast for many years. I much prefer my "mock" French Toast which turns out lovely every time and there is much less mess.

You can tweak the recipe to suit your own taste. It can be savory instead of sweet and it is a cinch that even the most inept cook can produce a lovely result.

The surface is just crusty enough and the interior is like custard.

For this batch I baked brioche rolls, cut the tops off, cubed the bottoms and soaked in the milk/egg mix and then added the tops and pressed them down so they would soak up the eggy mix.

Mock French toast 1.jpg Mock French toast 2.jpg

Mock French toast sliced.jpg

Top sprinkled with granulated maple sugar which will caramelize after it's turned.

Topped with granulated maple sugar.jpg

Mock French toast done.jpg

Wow. I really admire you for starting off by baking your own bread. Impressive.

But I'll second the addition of a sprinkle of maple sugar. I do that sometimes as well. Or piloncillo, or other rough, raw sugars.

But I, too, am unsure as to how it "reduces the mess."


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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fg-

it is like toast dope. everyone has their own favorite recipe.

for my friend joyce she dips the stale bread in a batter then shallow fries it.

i made french toast for john this morning before he left for business travel. it was nothing more than beaten egg that had potato bread quickly soaked then fried in a pan that is only used to make french toast and pancakes that had been heated over medium high heat and coated with light olive oil. it browns up beautifully and he likes it with real maple syrup.

alton brown has a great recipe, too.

figure out what you want then go for it


Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Andie, that sounds fantastic. The one part I don't follow is how this method reduces the mess of French Toast: it seems like it would be about the same, no?

There is NO dipping of bread into the eggy mixture. The egg and milk is already in the bread pudding.

The sliced pudding is grilled or fried in butter (browned butter is a lovely option).

You can use any bread pudding recipe and bake it in a loaf pan, you don't have to use my recipe.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Half milk/half egg sounds like too much milk, especially with a soft bread like brioche loaf, though it might work for something drier and heavier. That would explain the sogginess. I don't measure it, but I'm probably using more like 1 part milk to 4 parts egg. The bread should be a bit dry.

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When I don't have brioche and don't plan on baking, I buy a package of King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, cut them into pieces and bake them in a very low oven until just beginning to crisp then soak in the egg/milk mixture.

I make the bread pudding using about 1/3 less sugar because of the sweetness of the Hawaiian bread.

If I am making a savory "toast," I buy the large onion rolls, cut them up and etc., etc., etc.

After cooking on the griddle, these savory, eggy slabs are perfect for topping with various sauces, cheesy, dill, avocado, creamed asparagus and make a great starter.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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That looks great andie! :) I love French Toast and I haven't eaten any for years. That one you posted seems like a pretty good way to start it. :) Hoping to try it out soon.

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When I don't have brioche and don't plan on baking, I buy a package of King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, cut them into pieces and bake them in a very low oven until just beginning to crisp then soak in the egg/milk mixture.

I make the bread pudding using about 1/3 less sugar because of the sweetness of the Hawaiian bread.

If I am making a savory "toast," I buy the large onion rolls, cut them up and etc., etc., etc.

After cooking on the griddle, these savory, eggy slabs are perfect for topping with various sauces, cheesy, dill, avocado, creamed asparagus and make a great starter.

Wonderful ideas. You're a treasure, Andie.

I don't really have the time or energy for baking anymore. But even I can pick up a package of King's Hawaiian Rolls. And I plan to do just that this very afternoon.

Thanks.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes, I have been posting about this for several years.

  andiesenji

Posted 08 January 2005 - 10:45 PM

First of all I would invite you for brunch. In preparation I would make some fresh duck sausage which is excellent for breakfast or brunch.

I would have prepared ahead of time one of my special bread puddings in a large, deep loaf pan.

This would be sliced in 3/4 inch thick slices and placed on a griddle on top of browned butter.

Prior to turning it to cook the top side, I would brush it with cream and sprinkle with granulated maple sugar which, after turning it over, would form a carmelized crispy crust on top of the "mock" French toast. This way it needs no syrup to make it soggy. The center is like custard under the carmelized maple sugar crust.

Since this is something I originated I do consider it a "signature" dish.

With fresh fruits in season, this is a simple, yet satisfying morning meal.

And again in other topics.

I used to make a bunch of these "pudding loaves" when I was still volunteering at fund raisers. Some of the local organizations have "pancake breakfasts" and at one event they wanted something a bit more upscale because some celebrities were going to attend.

Regular French toast is much too messy to prepare for loads of people standing in line to be served so I suggested we add this to the menu, which I originally developed when I was catering, back in the late '80s, so I had plenty of experience in cooking it for crowds.

I baked 20 pudding loaves in the extra-long disposable loaf pans (made it easier to slice as I could slice right through the pan sides (used an electric knife) and the resulting "French toast" was a big hit. We sold out and made a lot of money for charity.

It's been so long since I first developed this that I am not sure what exactly prompted me but I think I got the idea when I was preparing grits for a similar process.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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      Photos taken through a filter of steam.
       

       

    • By Lisa Shock
      I developed this recipe for a friend who wound up with many cans of Solo brand apricot filling and was wondering what to make with them. I adapted this recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Sour Cream Coffee Cake, found on page 90 of the Cake Bible. The apricot filling works it way down through the cake and winds up near the bottom of the pan, making an attractive top later when the cake is inverted. Please use some sort of ring pan that holds at least 9 cups. You may substitute butter for the toasted almond oil, but remember that the oil adds flavor. I specifically developed this recipe with the home cook in mind, regular salted butter, and AP flour work well here. To reduce the sodium, use unsalted butter.  
       
      Ingredients
      113 grams (1 stick) salted butter
      26 grams toasted almond oil
      200 grams sugar
      6 grams vanilla extract
      4 egg yolks
      160 grams regular sour cream (do not use low fat or fat free)
      50 grams almond meal
      175 grams all-purpose flour
      2 1/2 grams baking powder
      2 1/2 grams baking soda
      12 ounces (1 can) Solo Apricot Filling
       
      12 Servings
      Preheat the oven to 350°
      Spray a 9+ cup tube or Bundt pan with non-stick spray or grease with an oil & soy lecithin blend.
       
      Lightly toast the almond meal in a frying pan on the stove top until it has a light beige color and has a mild fragrance. Allow to cool.
       
      Cream together the butter, oil, and sugar. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, mix until the mixture is even and creamy. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the cooled almond flour and mix well.
       
      Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture and mix until it everything is evenly incorporated. Do not overmix the batter.
       
      Place 2/3 of the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Place the apricot filling in an even layer on top, keeping a small space between the filling and the pan's edges. Place the remaining batter on top and smooth to create a relatively even surface.
       
      Bake for approximately 50 minutes at 350° or until the top is dark brown and springs back to a light touch.
       
      Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Invert the pan onto a serving plate. Cool and serve. Be cautious about serving this hot, as the apricot filling can cause serious burns. When fully cooled, cover or wrap in plastic wrap to store. Will keep for several days in a cool, dry place.
       
      Nutrition (thanks MasterCook!) 
      324 calories, 15g fat, (7g sat fat, 6g mono-unsat fat, 1g ploy-unsat fat), 5g protein, 43g carbohydrates, 175mg sodium, 101mg potassium,  58g calcium
      42% calories from fat, 52% calories from carbohydrates, 6% calories from protein
    • By Daily Gullet Staff
      by David Ross

      "Your crab was dry," Mike says as I walk into his shop, Williams Seafood Market and Wines in the Spokane Valley. He tells me the crab cakes I made on TV back in December looked delicious . . . but the giant Dungeness Crab that he donated for the on-camera display "looked dry and the shell wasn’t shiny enough."

      Mike’s brutal critique doesn’t shake my resolve to do another seafood dish. I tell him I’m at the store to purchase the shellfish that I need for the dish I’ll be doing on Sunday: "Grilled Shrimp Stuffed with Crab."

      But thanks for the constructive criticism, anyway. I guess I should count myself lucky. My small fan base includes a wisecracking fishmonger. Such is the life of a cook on local television.

      + + +

      Today I’m preparing for my 34th show on "Sunday Morning Northwest" on KXLY-ABC 4.

      During the week, the program is called "Good Morning Northwest." The show focuses on news and weather, and serves as the lead-in to "Good Morning America," on ABC.

      On Sunday, the show takes a different turn-much like the local programs that first aired on television back in the early days. The laid-back, carefree attitude and spontaneity of live, local television, lives on at "Sunday Morning Northwest."

      The first half-hour of the show always includes a reading of the newspaper headlines from the small, rural, farming towns that surround Spokane. If a moose decided to take a dip in the community pool in Omak, you can be sure it will make the headlines of the Okanagan County Chronicle -- and it will certainly by noted live on "Sunday Morning Northwest." The weather is usually done from a live remote at a local community event.

      Of course, the Sunday show is never complete without a cooking segment featuring a local Chef or nervous home cook.

      We’ve seen everything from "Roasted Loin of Elk with Huckleberry Demi-Glace" presented by the Chef of a fancy resort in Northern Idaho to the Woman who won the Spam cook-off at the Interstate Fair.

      It’s all done in the spirit of promoting local Chefs and restaurants while having fun with food and cooking. (And as fate often demonstrates on live TV -- the viewers have a few laughs at wacky cooks who muster-up enough courage to come on live television and make some sort of horrendous tuna casserole).

      We try to make the recipe simple enough that it can be done in a reasonable amount of time, but we don’t restrict ourselves to doing recipes in 30 minutes or less.

      If you have to chill the custard base of the ice cream overnight, that’s what we tell the viewers. While we may use short-cuts on-camera to demonstrate the steps of the recipe, short cuts in the actual recipe aren’t allowed for the sake of convenience.

      If crab cakes taste better when they’re sautéed in clarified butter, so be it. We don’t forsake flavor at the cost of cutting fat and calories. We present the most flavorful dish possible.

      I e-mail the producer about three weeks before the show with a general idea of the dish I’m planning. Then about three or four days before the show, I send the recipe of the final dish. This allows KXLY to do promos up to two days in advance of the show: "Coming up on KXLY Sunday Morning Northwest, our favorite local chef, David Ross, will be preparing a delicious dish using fresh Dungeness Crab and Shrimp from Williams Seafood in the Valley."

      The recipe we post on the station’s website is usually written to serve 6-8 people. But, when you cook on local television, there is a very, very important consideration that you must factor into your shopping list-enough food to feed the crew.

      That means a recipe written for the public to serve precisely one "Shrimp Stuffed with Crab" to each of 8 guests, is a much different, and much larger recipe, behind the scenes. It’s more than just a matter of prepping 8 stuffed shrimp. It’s a matter of stuffing 30, maybe even 40 shrimp.

      I triple or quadruple the quantities called for in a recipe so that I can feed the cameramen, the floor director, the producer, the hosts, the sports guy, the weather lady, the DJ’s in the adjacent AM radio station booth-every person working in the studio on Sunday morning will have at least one of these delectable stuffed shrimp. (It’s vital to send the crew home sated; they are the ultimate taste-test panel. If they like your food, the viewers will like it too.)

      After the recipe for the dish I put together an "Invoice," a shopping list of ingredients that lists the cost of the products I’ll be buying for the recipe. This serves as my contract, if you will, for KXLY.

      The final piece of the written paperwork for each show is the "script" that I write for myself.

      This isn’t the same type of "script" that might be rehearsed by the actors on "The Bold and The Beautiful." The only person that reads this script is me. (And maybe the co-host who glances at the script tucked under the plate displayed on the set). When you cook on local television you don’t rehearse with other actors. If you choose to rehearse you do it at home ahead of time.

      Remember, this is live TV. We don’t have room for errors. We don’t do re-takes or re-shoot scenes. We’re LIVE! For my own piece of mind, I need a script as a sort of crutch to lean on. (Hey, Martha always has a cheat sheet on the counter).

      The script is my guide to all the points of the dish that I want to convey. This Sunday, I want to mention Williams Seafood and the array of products that Mike offers. I’ll talk about using wild American shrimp because they have a sweeter taste than farm-raised, and I’ll demonstrate how the prosciutto serves as a natural wrapper to hold the crab stuffing in the shrimp.

      The script helps me with my timing when I’m on-camera -- and timing is critical when you cook on television. I rehearse the script over and over and over in my living room, while a little white kitchen timer ticks away.

      I can’t tell you how many professional chefs and amateur cooks I’ve seen on television who didn’t rehearse their bit-and the results on live television were disastrous.

      (Like the chef who -- at the moment of presenting his dessert -- realized that he left the ice cream in his car. In the sun. He literally ran out of the studio, on live TV, to go get the ice cream.)

      The only small measure of direction I get from the Floor Director on the set is when I’m told to "look into the camera" seconds before the red light comes on.

      + + +

      I’ll need two of Mike’s best crabs for Sunday’s show -- one for the meat in the crab stuffing, and another one for the display of ingredients on the set.

      This morning Mike takes literally 20 minutes to scrub and wash the shell of the prized "display crab." As he toils away, I vow to honor his crab by insuring that the shell will be kept wet and shiny during its appearance -- or I won’t be able to show my face in Mike’s shop again.

      I’ll be making a crab cake mixture to stuff the shrimp. I’m wondering if Mike can top himself after the wondrous crabs he’s already given me, but he doesn’t disappoint today -- his fresh Wild American Shrimp fished out of the Gulf of Florida are just the right size to hold my savory crab cake stuffing.

      In the case of Sunday’s dish of Stuffed Shrimp, the recipe calls for grilling the shrimp on the outdoor barbecue. But we won’t be barbecuing the shrimp on camera this Sunday. I’ll grill the shrimp at home and then we’ll go through the motions of the cooking process during our live segment.

      I try to have all of my prep work done by late Saturday afternoon so I all I have to do on Sunday morning is pack the coolers and drive to the studio. There won’t be a Hummer limousine at my doorstep on Sunday morning waiting to whisk me in comfort to KXLY. I’ll be driving myself to the studio in a Dodge pickup.

      My home office serves as the "staging" area for packing the coolers. Make note of the supplies on the floor next to the cooler-dishes, toothpicks, silverware, tongs, spatulas and kitchen towels.

      And yes, I am following the direct instructions of Mike the fish guy -- I bought a spray bottle at the "Dollar Store" so that I can keep our precious "display crab" wet on camera.

      + + +

      I’ve never cooked on the "Today Show" on NBC in New York. I’ve heard that cooks who appear on "Today" are escorted into what is called a "Green Room," catered with lush displays of fresh fruit, vegetable and cheese trays, pastries and a never-ending assortment of beverages to await their few moments of fame. We don’t have a "Green Room" at KXLY. What we have is a room used by the weekday news staff to script out the flow of the news programs.

      Not having a Green Room is a blessing in disguise. The atmosphere in the studio is very casual and I don’t have to sit in a cold, lonely room waiting for a perky intern to escort me to the studio. I wait in the studio.

      You learn to be patient and immodest around the crew -- these are the people who watch you unzip your pants in the studio. You pull out your shirt so they can thread a small microphone from your waist, underneath your shirt, up to your neck and then clip the little mouthpiece to your collar.

      The only style advice I ever got was from my co-host, Teresa Lukens, who cautioned me not to wear a striped or checked shirt on-camera-something about the pattern of my shirt being a distraction to the viewers. (And I thought the girth of my waist was more of a distraction to the viewers than the pattern of my shirt).

      I don’t wear a Chef’s coat, because I don’t consider myself a Chef. I’m a cook and I want the viewers to relate to my story and my personality with ease and comfort. I want them to feel comfortable going into their kitchens at home and creating the types of dishes they might have at a restaurant. I don’t want to scare them by thinking only a guy in a chef’s coat can cook good food.

      Our kitchen at KXLY comprises an electric, flat-top stove inserted into a formica cabinet on wheels, held in place with sandbags. We don’t have an oven, refrigerator, freezer or running water. We make do with what we have-and that’s why I bring my own spatulas, spoons and water bottle to spray the crab.

      After the "Pet for Adoption" segment, I’m allowed on the set to get ready. I usually have about 15 minutes to unpack the coolers, put the ingredients on display and get the stove-top heated.

      We begin our cooking segment with a 30-second lead-in, usually after the local sports report. Teresa introduces the dish we’ll be doing and then we break to another commercial. I don’t have a lot of time to grill shrimp when we go live on KLXY -- only four minutes total for cooking time and discussion of the dish with my co-host. I’m lucky to have Teresa as my host. She knows food and cooking. She knows that prosciutto is cured Italian ham and she knows it’s thin and slightly salty. She knows to ask if smaller prawns will work for the recipe. And without prompting, she’ll ask why I’m using fresh Dungeness crab instead of canned lump crab meat. At the end of the segment we cut to one last commercial.

      As we come back live, Rick and Teresa are their normally gracious selves, tasting the stuffed shrimp and declaring it delicious. The show is a wrap.

      One more taste-test lies ahead before we can bring this journey to an end. What will the crew say about my "Shrimp Stuffed with Crab?"

      They tell me the stuffed shrimp were delicious. But you know what they really liked? What impressed them the most? The radishes.

      About a week after Sunday’s show, I went back to Williams Seafood to get some photos of the shop for this story.

      I find Mike behind the counter cutting fresh tuna steaks.

      "At least it looked fresh this time," he says.

      + + +

      Epilogue

      Shortly after I finished this piece, I began working with KXLY on our next cooking segment, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 16.

      The plan was to cook some unique side dishes that the home cook could easily do to accompany the holiday turkey or prime rib. At least that was the plan until I picked up the local newspaper on November 2.

      When I turned to the business section, I saw the ominous news: "KXLY cancels weekend news program." I immediately contacted the producer.

      I had been cancelled -- a victim of the horrible state of the economy. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Cancelled after seven years and dozens of live cooking segments. Cancelled.

      Because "Sunday Morning Northwest" wasn’t the lead-in program to "Good Morning America," on the weekdays, it relied heavily on local advertising for its survival. ABC wouldn’t (and KXLY couldn’t) carry the burden of producing a local show that didn’t feed into network programming.

      With so many local businesses filing for bankruptcy and others literally closing the doors, one of the first budget items to go was television advertising -- advertising revenue that paid to produce "Sunday Morning Northwest."

      I wasn’t the only on-air "personality" to get the pink slip. The weekend weather "person" also got her walking papers. Rick and Teresa Lukens returned to the security of the KXLY-AM 920 radio booth and continue with their weekday morning drive-time show.

      And I have taken an unwanted leave of absence from local television. At least for a few months.

      Loyalty is not a word that is highly regarded in the television business. If ABC cancels you, you talk to NBC and so I’ve shifted my ambitions to KHQ -- the local NBC affiliate.

      KHQ airs a local morning program seven days a week. So if the culinary Gods are praying for me, someday soon I’ll begin doing a live cooking segment on the "KHQ Morning News."

      * * *

      David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food, reviews restaurants and -- obviously -- does food presentation. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team for the Culinary Culture and Kitchen forums.
    • By Smokeydoke
      After a delightful brunch at Koslow's Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles, I've decided to attempt to cook through her cookbook. I'll post my results here.
       
      Please follow along and join in, if you're so inclined. Her food is wonderful, but I will surmise that her true deliciousness comes from using the best and freshest ingredients. I'll do my best to recreate the magic I felt at Sqirl.
       
      Here's the link to her book at Eat Your Books.
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