• Tommy Centola

Brunch can be best of both worlds

Brunch is, of course, the combination of breakfast and lunch. Usually served on Saturdays and Sundays, brunch consist of menu items from both meal times. It’s a great idea for larger groups, since some would want breakfast and some would want lunch. Brunch gives you options for both.

In New Orleans at Commander’s Palace, Dick Brennan Sr. came up with the idea to have a small Dixieland Jazz band performing while wandering around the dining room during brunch. In 1973, the Jazz Brunch was created and has been one of the more popular meals in the city.

Today, I want to share with you two dishes that are popular on New Orleans brunch menus. The first one is a New Orleans twist on French Toast, Pain Perdu. The second is a clever twist on the classic jambalaya, Pasta Jambalaya.

Pain Perdu is French for “lost bread”. Most people know this as French Toast. In New Orleans, it got its name from its use of day-old French bread. The stale bread is said to have been lost for most other uses. It is, however, perfect for soaking up the custard liquid and frying in a hot skillet. This is served with powdered sugar on top, but you can always add syrup at the table, if you desire.

Pain Perdu

8 sliced stale French Bread, sliced on a bias(angled), about 1 1/2-inch thick

1 cup Half-and-Half

4 Eggs, well beaten

1/4 cup Sugar

2 teaspoons Vanilla

Nutmeg and Cinnamon to taste

4 tablespoons Butter

4 tablespoons Canola Oil

2 teaspoons Powdered Sugar

In a large bowl, combine the half-and-half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Soak the slices of French bread in the custard mixture until they are thoroughly soaked. In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the oil. When the butter-oil mixture is very hot, fry the soaked bread slices on both sides, until they are golden brown. Place on plates and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

This dish was created by one of my favorite French Quarter restaurants, Mr. B’s Bistro. When they opened in 1979, they thought that replacing the rice in jambalaya with pasta was a good idea. Of course, the dish caught on and can be found on menus all across the country. I am surprised that it took so long before someone came up with the idea. Thankfully, the folks at Mr B’s. did.

Pasta Jambalaya

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Chili Powder

1 tablespoon Cumin

6 ounces Andouille Sausage, cut into bite sized discs

6 ounces Chicken Breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 tablespoon Garlic, chopped

1/8 cup Red Onion, cut into strips

1/8 cup Yellow Bell Pepper, cut into strips

1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe to follow)

1 pound tricolor Fusilli (spiral) pasta, cooked al dente

Shredded Provolone Cheese

Shredded Smoked Gouda Cheese

Combine olive oil, chili powder and cumin. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, sauté andouille and chicken in oil mixture until the chicken has cooked through. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the garlic is golden. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Place warm pasta into a large bowl and cover with the sauce. Mix well and divide into 4 serving bowls. Top with Provolone and Smoked Gouda cheeses and serve.

You may be wondering what the difference is between Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce. Marinara is a quick sauce to make. Spaghetti sauce usually takes hours to prepare. Marinara sauce is also a looser sauce with larger chunks of tomato that are found in a spaghetti sauce. They both are delicious and can be used interchangeably.

Marinara Sauce

1 teaspoon Olive Oil

2 cloves Garlic, minced

1-28 ounce can crushed Tomatoes

1 small Bay Leaf

1 teaspoon Oregano

2 tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped

Creole Seasoning to taste

In a medium pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until golden, being careful not to burn. Add crushed tomatoes, creole seasoning, oregano and bay leaf. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and add fresh basil.

I wish there was a local option that offers a true brunch. IHOP and Waffle House has menus that you can order either breakfast or lunch. In my opinion, they lack the sophistication of the menus from New Orleans. With these recipes, you can recreate your own brunch.

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