Want to stay in, but eat like you’re out? Here, chef and writer Heather Platt shares recipes inspired by L.A.’s hottest restaurant dishes. We say “inspired by,” as these creations are Platt’s own and have been adapted for the home cook, using easy-to-access ingredients and techniques you can pull off in just about any kitchen—yes, even yours.
The Real Thing: When it comes to the brunch menu at Canelé, you can’t go wrong. Deciding between items like a fried chicken sandwich with pickled green tomatoes or a baked pancake with meyer lemon custard isn’t easy, and you’ll likely end up ordering everything and running out of room on your table for all the dishes. But if there is one item to not go without, it’s the “Thick French Toast.” The three towering pieces of crusty, custardy toast are decidedly, consistently, officially and inarguably the best in town. If there were Academy Awards for French toast, Canelé’s would be Meryl Streep. Chef Corina Weibel and the cooks at her cozy Atwater Village restaurant achieve this perfection by soaking thick pieces of bread overnight in custard, then pan searing them before finishing them in the oven. The result: a super crispy crust and a soft custard center. Red wine-poached prunes with mascarpone are an optional side, but consider them a mandatory one.
The Hack: Yes, Canelé’s toast is the best in town. So why mess with perfection? Because sometimes perfection is eating French toast in your pajamas, at home with no busy brunch lines and that delicious buttery vanilla smell wafting through your home. And quite frankly, we’re not messing with it. We’re just making it and it’s not that difficult. For this version, don’t worry about soaking your toast overnight. (Unless you’re a planner and enjoy that sort of thing.) Just let it soak while you make the poached prunes. Beholding this epic crusty toast as you remove it from the oven is a self-esteem building experience. Yes, YOU made that glorious thing. And the best part is, now you get to eat it.
Dish Hack: Canelé’s Thick French Toast with Red Wine Poached Prunes and Mascarpone
-Inspired by the irresistible original at Atwater Village’s favorite brunch spot.
Total Time: 1 hour
For French Toast:
2 2-inch thick slices Challah or brioche bread
3 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup mascarpone (for serving)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar (for dusting)
Vermont maple syrup (optional, for serving)
For Poached Prunes:
1/2 lb pitted prunes
2 cups boiling water
2 1/2 cups red wine
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 thick strips lemon zest
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla until completely combined. Place the bread in a shallow baking dish and pour the egg mixture over all of the bread, making sure it is completely soaked through. Cover and place in the refrigerator while you make the poached prunes. (Can be made one day ahead and soaked overnight).
Place the prunes in a medium bowl. Add the boiling water so the prunes are submerged. Let the prunes soak for 5 minutes, then drain.
While the prunes are soaking, whisk together the wine and honey in a 2 quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Once combined, add the vanilla extract, ground cinnamon and prunes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the lemon zest strips and let simmer for 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a syrup. Remove from heat.
When the bread is ready to be cooked, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Remove the egg-soaked bread slices from the egg mixture, shaking off excess egg before placing it in the hot skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side until dark brown and crusty. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake for 10 more minutes. The toast will be dark brown and crusty.
Serve with warm poached prunes and large dollop of mascarpone. Add Vermont maple syrup on the side for added sweetness, if desired.