For years, I was immune to waffles, pancakes and other sweet foods masquerading as breakfast. Give me eggs, toast a strong cup of coffee and I am happy.
Then I took a bite of Abacus Chef Ron Jacobson’s breakfast creation. As the warm flavours of banana-stuffed French toast filled my senses with walnuts and the cozy scent of apples, bananas and berries, I could feel my eyes rolling in the back of my head.
Visions of an old-fashioned carousel complete with handsome wooden horses spun around. I could almost hear carousel music in the background. This was absolutely the most gorgeous breakfast that I can recall putting into my mouth in years.
We were supposed to be talking about how to properly sear salmon this morning, but I was having a difficult time concentrating on the details because I just could not put my fork down.
I found myself asking about the French toast again. If I didn’t slow down on the French toast I wouldn’t have any room left for tasting the salmon dish.
Custom ordered from Icoa bakery, the apple walnut bread is made from an old European recipe using natural yeast, explains Chef Ron. The bread must be a week old before it is used or it will not properly absorb a mixture of egg and milk and the toast will turn soggy.
To create a nice crusty texture, the bread must be seared in a frying pan before putting it in the oven, says Chef Ron.
As he talks, I wonder how this quiet unassuming man who was raised in Alberta, Canada, went hunting with his father and uncle as a boy, grew up to become the creator of a dish worthy of Sex in the City?
He mentions that he used to cook for his three younger sisters when he was growing up, and it starts to make sense how he got his magical breakfast powers.
“Breakfast is comfort food,” explains Chef Ron. “This French toast is like a banana sandwich like you had when you were a kid.
“Bananas, French toast with apple walnut bread and fresh berries – these are familiar flavours, but in a different way so it is not a leap of faith to try it.”
He created this dish in 15 minutes. Sometimes, recipes are just that easy to put together he says.
He asks me if I am ready to see how the barbeque salmon is prepared?
Oh – right. That‘s why I am here, for the salmon, not the French toast.
So inside the Abacus kitchen, a showcase of thick granite counters and brushed chrome lights, Chef Ron sets about preparing barbeque salmon, a dish designed for the home chef.
Taking the salmon steak out of the marinade, he puts in a pan with the skin side down, bony side up and places it in the broiler grill.
He never seems to move quickly, but it must be a chef’s trick, because the dish seemed to be completed, start-to-finish, in five minutes and 30 seconds. He lays a thick slice of salmon steak on a bed of vegetables and drizzling mango-soy sauce on it. And I realise that my appetite can still exist after Sex in the City French toast.
Recommended wine for the salmon: The light fruitiness white Riesling wine complements the barbeque salmon and soba noodle salad.
Recommended drink for the French Toast: Coffee or Bellini.
Banana-stuffed French Toast
Recipe by Chef Ron Jacobson
1 1oaf apple walnut bread from Icoa
1 can whipped cream or homemade if you feel ambitious
2 tbsp butter
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Garnish with fresh mint
Frozen mixed berries
2 Tb sugar
1 Tb cornstarch
To make the fruit compote, place 1 cup frozen mixed berries into a small sauce pot. Add juice from lemon and sugar. Dissolve cornstarch in a small amount of water. Bring to a boil and stir dissolved cornstarch. Return to a boil very briefly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
For the French toast, remove the crust from the bread and cut into one inch thick slices. Try to get 8 nice slices to allow for two slices per person. Beat the eggs well and mix in milk and cinnamon. Pour this liquid into a baking pan so that you can lay all the bread slices in the liquid at the same time. Give the bread time to soak up the liquid, about 10 minutes or so, turning it over halfway.
In batches, fry the toast in butter on both sides until nicely browned. Place onto a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 8 minutes.
To serve, place one piece of French toast on each plate. Top with sliced bananas and drizzle with caramel. Layer another piece of French toast on top. Add a scoop of fruit compote on top. Decorate the plate with whipped cream and berries and mint sprigs if desired. Serve with maple syrup. Serves four.
BBQ salmon with mango, lime and sweet soy and vegetable slaw
Recipe by Chef Ron Jacobson at Abacus
4 Salmon steaks 7 ounces each, skin on, scales removed
1 ripe mango
4 oz sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis)
Spicy peppers (optional)
Peel and dice mango, juice lime and mix with the sweet soy sauce. To give the marinade a little kick, add spicy peppers to the mixture. Marinate salmon with the skin side up for a half hour in the sauce.
Pre-heat the oven on broil. You want to use indirect heat, with the lid closed to cook the salmon. Place skin side down on the pan, bone side facing the broiler. Put on top rack in broiler. Takes about five to seven minutes to cook the fish depending on thickness. Put on plate and spoon mango marinate on top. Serve with soba noodle salad and vegetable slaw. Serves four.
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot julienne
1 cup assorted sweet peppers, julienne
2 stalks green onion finely sliced
1 tb chopped fresh cilantro
1 ts chopped fresh mint
2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 tb salad oil
1 ts sesame oil
Mix all vegetables, cilantro and mint together and set aside in the fridge. Mix lemon juice, salad oil and sesame oil. Drizzle over the vegetable slaw mixture just before serving.
Soba Noodle Salad
8 oz soba noodles
1 cup snow peas, julienne
1 cups fresh Bean Sprouts
1 cup shiitake mushroom, julienne
1 cup cucumber, sliced, peeled and seeded
Noodle salad dressing
4 oz sweet chilli sauce
1 oz lime juice
1 ts soy sauce
Blanche soba noodles until soft. Drain, rinse and refrigerate. When chilled, add vegetables and add noodle salad dressing.
Every chance she gets, reporter Shurna Robbins goes behind the steaming kitchen doors to get the story on hardcore cooking. Along the way, each chef shares a favourite recipe that everyday people can cook at home. Next time, Shurna talks to Ritz-Carlton Executive Chef Frederic Morineau about discovering a passion for cooking outside of France.