Pao Doce com Quiejo (French Toast and Cheese)

There are many variations on Brazilian French Toast, many of them are fried in butter and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, like the Rabandas a version of Brazilian/Portuguese Toast that is served around the Christmas Holidays. Rabanadas are so popular in Brazil, and so traditional for Christmas, that during the holidays you can buy special bread – pan de rabanada – just for making them.

But for the record, Rabanadas are delicious any time of year. The recipe for Rabanadas migrated to Brazil from Portugal. Rabanadas are very similar to Spanish torrijas, which are typically eaten during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain. These same pastries are known as torrejas in Argentina and Mexico.

Rabanadas differ from American French toast in several ways (though both are a great way to use up stale bread). Rabanadas are commonly enjoyed as a dessert or afternoon treat, rather than as a breakfast food. The bread is soaked in milk and/or wine, dipped in egg, and then deep-fried  in oil. In Spain they use olive oil for this, which is especially good. The resulting “toasts” have crispy exteriors and are soft and custard-like on the inside.

And then there are the ones filled with cheese, like this recipe found in Bahi, Brazil.

The cuisine of Bahia is diversified but for for the most part, Bahian cuisine is of African origin with some European and Native influences. The food of Bahia is one of simple pleasure and  completely unadorned. Such is the case with Pão Doce com Quiejo, which is basically a grilled cheese sandwich served with a sweet lime flavored syrup, eaten for breakfast and is simply delicious with coffee or orange juice and served for breakfast  of  brunch.

In the photograph, you can see that I topped my version of the recipe with apricots, just one little twist that made the dish extra delicious.

 Pão Doce com Queijo
(French Toast and Cheese)

Recipe Adapted from Brazil: A Cook’s Tour
by Christopher Idone, 1995.
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Ingredients:
Egg Batter
3 cups milk
1 3 inch cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup raw sugar
12  3/4 inch thick slices good quality day old white bread
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butters
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
12 thin slices of Havarti cheese

Syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 2 inch cinnamon stick
1 strip of lime zest

Confectioner’s  sugar, for garnish

Preparation:
In a medium sauce pan, add the milk, cinnamon stick and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Set aside.

To make the lime syrup, add the sugar, water, cinnamon stick and lime zest to a medium saucepan and bring to boil,stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Continue to simmer until the syrup thickens and appears to be medium amber in color. Set aside and keep warm.

Take two slices of cheese and place them between each 2 slices of bread. Trim away the crusts.

Stir the cooled milk mixture into the beaten eggs and add the milk and egg mixture to a shallow baking dish. Dip the ‘sandwiches’  into the egg mixture, thoroughly drenching the bread. place the dipped sandwiches on a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat half  the butter and vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the ‘sandwiches’ in batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Add the butter to the skillet as needed to complete the batches. Place the toasts on warm plates and dust with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon and serve immediately with the lime syrup.

Serves 4 to 6


Pork Belly Baos

Did you know that Pork belly is the source of the much-loved bacon most people love to eat in Western countries, but it has been a staple in Asian countries for centuries?

This is my version of the most delicious Pork Belly Baos you will ever experience. It is sweet, savory, and spicy and is a fusion of cultures: starting with the pork belly, a Vietnamese caramel braising sauce, Chinese steamed buns,  Korean pickled bamboo shoots, and Japanese pickles. This common street food is elevated by the combination of flavors or textures.Exceptional food takes time to prepare, especially certain cuts of eat and this recipe is no exception. There are no short cuts in producing slow-cooked pork belly, which is sliced and simmered in a sweet-savory caramel sauce and sandwiched between soft, pillowy steamed buns. But it doesn’t stop there – a hit of spice comes from fresh chilies, green onions, pickled bamboo shoots and Japanese pickles, that tops off this amazing sandwich.A perfect pick me up snack that reminds me of sliders, and they will definitely please a crowd every time you serve them.

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Makes 20 Baos

FOR THE PORK BELLY
1 slab pork belly (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano chili pepper, minced
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 275F. Wrap the pork belly in heavy tin foil. Place on baking sheet and roast for 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool before refrigerating at least 2 hour or up to 2 days.

2. Unwrap the pork belly, and slice into 1/2″ pieces.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and water.

4. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in cooking oil and add several slices to the wok, but do not overlap. Fry each side until browned. Remove to plate. Repeat with remaining pork belly slices.

5. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add in the garlic, ginger, chiles and green onion. Saute for 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the remaining caramel sauce into the pan.Return the pork belly slices back into the wok and let simmer for 10 minutes.

 FOR THE CHILI SAUCE
1 stalk green onion, minced
1 fresh serrano chili, minced or sliced very thinly
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 jar Pickled bamboo shoots
1 jarJapanese  pickles (Kyuri asazuke)
hoisin sauce

Place the green onion, chili, vinegar and salt in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cooking oil until smoking, remove from heat and immediately pour on top of the green onion mixture. Cook with caution: the oil will bubble and crackle while adding the chili sauce mixture.

FOR THE BUNS:
Makes 20 Buns

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour for dusting work surface
2 cans Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit dough
1/4 cup canola oil
20 parchment squares (about 4×4-inch)

1. Dust work surface with the flour. Open the can of dough. There are 10 biscuits in each can. Separate out the biscuits. Keep the dough covered loosely with plastic wrap or towel. Roll each biscuit into an oval and fold in half.Lightly brush some cooking oil on the bottom of the buns Place on parchment square. Keep covered until ready to steam. Repeat the process with the second can of dough.

2. Prepare steamer. Place five to six buns on a heat proof plate.You will need to steam the buns in batches, to avoid overcrowding the plate while steaming and preventing the buns from sticking to each other.Steam the buns for 12 minutes.

To serve, carefully open each bun, spread a bit of hoisin sauce in the bun. Add a slice of pork belly and top with the chili sauce,a bit of the bamboo shoots and three Japanese pickles.