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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recipe! Susan Feniger's Kaya Toast

I recently traveled out to the bestWest coast for a week of Halloween fun and delicious food (if you eat badly in L.A. that's entirely your own fault) and came back with food dreams and a craving for a certain dish created by chef Susan Feniger. The restaurant is her first solo venture, called Street and located in Hollywood. We went on Dia de los Muertos, and it was rather packed...but the food was amazing. Susan Feniger's dishes seem to explode on your tongue, presenting a mix of flavor and texture like you've never had before. Her innovative flavors made her famous and, when you taste the food at Street, you know exactly why.

Everything that we ate that night was delicious, but there was one dish in particular that blew me away...and I'm not alone. Kaya Toast is, apparently, the most loved dish served at Street. It's so loved, in fact, that the chef posted her recipe online. When I came home and saw that, I was delighted, but doubted I could make anything as heavenly as what I tasted at Street. Fortunately, I was mistaken. Kaya toast was an instant hit around my house...the trick is both choosing the correct ingredients and putting them together in the proper method.

I barely deviated from chef Feniger's recipe, except in this...the recipe calls for a soft boiled egg, and I soft-fried mine. I used vegan butter (Earth Balance) instead of regular butter and whole wheat bread instead of white. It still evoked the same flavors...the trick here is the medley of flavors from the dark soy sauce, egg yolk, and coconut jam. Do not accept substitutions for those things! Also, the coconut jam is not difficult to make, but it is a bit tedious and time consuming. However, once it's made, one batch should make about 20 servings of kaya toast, and it keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

This is a very impressive dish to serve as an appetizer or, if you're like me, a fabulous (and mildly guilty) breakfast. Make it and enjoy!!
Kaya Toast

For the coconut jam:

1 cup coconut milk (stir well before measuring, it will seperate)
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
8 pandan leaves, washed and tied in a knot (find these frozen or fresh at the Asian market or order online. There really is no substitute!!!)
1/8 t kosher salt
3 eggs
3 egg yolks

1. Mix half of the sugar and the coconut milk together in a small saucepot. Stir in salt and pandan leaves, then bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Make sure to keep pandan leaves submerged while the mixture heats up. Once boiling, remove the mixture from the heat and allow to steep for ten minutes.

2. Remove the pandan leaves from the mixture, squeezing them to allow any excess liquid back into the mixture. Be careful not to burn your fingers! Discard the leaves.

3. Put a medium sized pot of water on the stove over medium-high heat. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and remaining sugar together in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Whisk the coconut milk mixture to create a custard base.

4. When the pot of water is at a simmer, place the metal bowl over it (creating a double-boiler) and gently cook the custard base, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. There is no shortcut or substitute here...you must stir constantly! When the mixture has reached a thick, custardy consistency, remove from heat immediately.

5. Take a large bowl and fill it halfway with ice and water. Place a medium bowl in the ice water and strain the hot custard into it. Stir until cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator until needed.

For the toast assembly: (aka, the Easy Part)

2 T coconut jam
2 pieces whole wheat bread, toasted
Vegan butter or salted real butter
1 t dark soy sauce (available at Asian markets or online)
a dash of ground white pepper
1 soft fried egg (Cook over low heat until white is just opaque! You don't want this egg overdone.)

1. Butter the toast, spread jam evenly over both pieces, the place together to create a sandwich. Halve the sandwich, then cut into fourths.
2. Place egg on a small plate and top with a dash of white pepper and the dark soy sauce. Serve alongside the egg.

Notes: When we eat our kaya toast, we have the toast and the egg on two separate plates. We cut the egg into four pieces, releasing the yolk and providing one piece of egg for each mini-sandwich of toast. So far, everyone who has had this recipe has adored it...except my sister in law, who tried it bravely despite being a vegan and found it underwhelming. And when you are stirring jam for twenty minutes straight, just remind yourself that it is so totally worth it. I promise.

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