I have a new favorite cookbook--the new edition of Beat This! Cookbook by Ann Hodgman. The book is also beloved by local author Elizabeth Berg, who wrote a blurb and the foreword to the book. Berg's praise for the cookbook was definitely part of the reason I picked it up in the first place. And, as it turns out, Berg even mentions "Beat This!" in her novel, "The Year of Pleasures."
With a list price of $14.95 (I found it for even less on Amazon!), the cookbook makes a fantastic holiday gift. I already bought three books, one of which I squirreled away for myself.
Hodgman's cookbook is fun to read and has the kind of recipes you pray for when you're throwing a party--the kind in which everyone can't stop raving about the food you're serving.
Like, Ina Garten, otherwise known as the Barefoot Confessa, Hodgeman's recipes are also the kind you want when you throw caution-- and your diet-- to the wind. She doesn't spare the rich stuff--the butter, sugar and cream. But, really, when it comes down to it, most great cooks don't either.
Here's Hodgman's recipe for a new twist on French toast. By the way, I made a healthier version of the recipe, and it came out pretty darn good. See the note below Hodgman's recipe for my adjustments.
English Muffin French Toast*
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar, preferably super fine
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. grated orange zest
1/4 t. vanilla
4 English muffins
1 stick unsalted butter (you may not need it all)
Beat eggs well. Add milk and cream. Beat well again and add sugar. Beat until sugar is dissolved. Then add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, orange zest and vanilla.
Pour mixture into a 9"-by-13"- inch pan.
Split the muffins in half using two forks or your fingers ( (Hodgman says the rough surface of the English muffin is part of the reason it tastes so good.) . Prick each muffin in half with a fork in a few places. Place them rough side down in the mixture for 10 minutes. With a spatula, turn them over carefully and let them soak for another 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200.
Over medium- low heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy skillet. When the butter is bubbling, carefully transfer four of the muffin halves to the skillet.
Cook them gently until golden brown. Then turn and fry on the other side until that side is golden brown.
Keep the first four muffin halves warm in the oven while you cook the other four.
* While my healthier version of the recipe was delicious, I imagine it's not nearly as mouth-watering as Hodgman's. I didn't add salt, and I used whole wheat English muffins (purchased at Trader Joes), fat-free milk instead of the milk and cream, and a tablespoon of butter in the pan for each batch of four English muffins I fried up in the pan.