What Southern Folks Eat: Southern mornings and sweet peaches
What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast? ~ Anthony Bourdain
Breakfast, as everyone's mother says, is the most important meal of the day. This isn't just a Southern-ism; this is practically universal among family matriarchs. While her intent was and is to fuel your body so you can work efficiently, there's a lot more to appreciate about breaking your overnight fast than just that.
Breakfast allows families, if they plan well, to sit down to laugh and eat together before launching into the day. It allows couples to quietly sit down together and feel connected in their "nest" before heading out the door in different directions. It allows single folks to start the day with a ritual of self-care and enjoyment. Breakfast is important.
The morning meal doesn't have to consist of eggs or oatmeal, of course. It can be something savory, like a breakfast pizza, or something creamy and fruity, like my peaches and cream French toast casserole. Now that is a good breakfast.
I always think of my Uncle Jessie when I hear the words “peaches and cream.” Whenever our family made the drive from St. Joe Beach to his home in North Carolina to visit, he would present my little sister Sherrin and me with a bowl of peaches and cream to enjoy for breakfast, which was, to me, an amazing combination of flavors and textures. I had never had cream before that first time, and I couldn't get over how silky and wonderful it was.
To prepare it, he'd slice up a few peaches, sprinkle them with a touch of sugar, and drizzle some cream over them. Sometimes he’d even slice some bananas in there, which I thought was over-the-top fantastic. Such a simple food, but here I am, several decades later, still remembering it. Inspired by the memory of that simple breakfast in my uncle's kitchen, I like to make this simple casserole that features the same elements.
Peaches and Cream French toast casserole
- · 3 to 4 cups sliced fresh peaches, or two 15 ounce cans of sliced peaches, drained
- · 8 to 10 ounce loaf of French bread, thickly sliced
- · 8 eggs
- · 2 cups of 2%, or whole milk
- · 1/4 cup white sugar
- · 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- · 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- · 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- · 1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Spray or butter a 9-inch ×13-inch casserole dish. Arrange bread slices in the bottom of the dish, as tightly fitting as possible, to cover.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all eggs and milk, then add sugar and vanilla. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.
3. Pour egg mixture over bread, and then arrange peach slices all over the top, distributing evenly.
4. Sprinkle all with brown sugar and cinnamon, then cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.
5. Remove baking dish from fridge and uncover 30 mins prior to baking.
6. In the meantime, place 1/2 cup cream in a sauce pan, and simmer until reduced by half.
7. Pour the thickened cream over the casserole, and then bake, uncovered, for about 45 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees F.
8. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
When it's ready to eat, I hope you'll sit down to enjoy it in your quiet kitchen or at your noisy family table, perhaps with some bacon on the side for some salty contrast to the sweetness of the peaches. I think it will help get your day started on the right foot.
With all you’ve got to accomplish today, you deserve a great breakfast! Enjoy!
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph". She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three sons who are substantially taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com.