Cornbread Pain Perdu with Poached Apricots and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Cornbread Pain Perdu with Poached Apricots and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Tony Maws * Craigie On Main * Cambridge, Mass.

Cornbread pain perdu is a quintessential Tony Maws dish, reflecting his affinity for riding the razor's edge between refinement and hominess.  These characteristics exist side-by-side comfortably at Maws' Craigie on Main, which he opened in 2002, and his new Kirkland Tap and Trotter.

Pain perdu means lost, or stale, bread.  The bread is revived by soaking it in eggs and milk, then fried in butter.  "I never liked French toast for breakfast," Maws says.  "but I love it for dessert."

To Make the Cornbread:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 large eggs

1  teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 300 F

2. In an 8-inch metal bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder.

3. Combine the eggs and vanilla extract.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently.

5. Add the egg mixture in 2 parts, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

6. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.

7. Line the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper.

8. With a spatula, spread the cornbread batter evenly in the pan.

9. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through, or until golden brown and baked through.

To Make The Saffron-Poached Apricots:

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon saffron

5 apricots (about 1 pound)

1. Add the water, sugar and saffron to a saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. While the syrup is heating, peel and halve the apricots, removing the pit.  Place the apricots in a heat-proof container.

3. Once the syrup has boiled, pour it (while still hot) over the apricots.  Allow the apricots to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, then cool over an ice bath.  If the apricots are particularly unripe, allow them to sit in the hot syrup until tender.

4. Strain the fruit from the syrup, and refrigerate.

To Make the Lemon Verbena Ice Cream:

1 1/2 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cup heavy cream

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

8 egg yolks

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup loosely packed lemon verbena leaves

1. Bruise the lemon verbena leaves and soak them in the cream overnight.  Strain the cream.

2. Combine the milk and cream in a sauce pot over medium-high heat, and bring up to a scald, about 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until they become slightly fluffy.  While whisking vigorously, gradually pour the hot liquid into the yolks and sugar until they are fully incorporated.

4. Return the mixture to the sauce pot, and cook over low heat.  Use a rubber spatula to constantly stir along the bottom of the pot in a figure-eight motion, taking care to scrape the entire bottom of the pan.  Cook the mixture to 185 F, or until the mixture is thick enough to stick to the back of a wooden spoon (nappe stage), about 10 minutes.

5. Immediately transfer the ice cream base to another metal container, and cool over an ice bath until completely cold.

6. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions, until it becomes thick and fluffy.

7. Freeze the spun ice cream for at least 4 hours before serving. Makes 1 quart.

To Complete the Dish and Assemble:

3 cups milk

3 large eggs

6 yolks from large eggs

3/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Cornbread (from above)

Poached apricots (from above)

Lemon verbena ice cream (from above)

1. Combine milk, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt, mixing well.

2. Cut the cornbread into 1/2-by-4-inch bars, and line up in a deep pan.

3. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the cornbread, and soak 10 to 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat an oven 300 F.  Gently remove the cornbread pieces from the mixture, laying them on a parchment-lined baking tray.  Bake until firm, about 10 minutes.

5. Sear the pain perdu: Lightly brown the butter in a saucepan. Lightly brown each side of the pain perdu.

6. Serve warm with poached apricots and lemon verbena ice cream. Serves 8.