Cooking with Myra: Brioche French Toast with Bananas Foster makes decadent Christmas breakfast

Dec. 6, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.

Brioche French Toast with Bananas Foster

Brioche French Toast with Bananas Foster

By Myra Starkey

Over Thanksgiving, my sister, Cindy, came to visit. She was here with the rest of my side of the family, as this was a Mitchem holiday. Christmas will be a Starkey holiday.

She brought some of her scrap-booking paraphernalia, and we sat at the very cluttered dining room table and made greeting cards all afternoon. Of course, we had to clean it all up before the next meal rolled around. You know how holidays are; cook, eat, visit, clean up, visit, cook, eat, etc. The following morning, we retreated to my sewing room and made pillows and monogrammed blankets. I was in craft heaven.

My mom taught my sisters and me to sew and do handicrafts at a very young age. She was a "crafter" and always had projects for us to make. I can remember making a Snoopy purse, which consisted of a wooden box, which looked like a dog house and was painted white with a black door. Snoopy was affixed to the top of the roof, and his body was the handle of the purse. One side of the roof opened to hold a wallet, which is essential to every 8-year-old. One should remember that Charlie Brown and Snoopy were all the rage in the '60s and '70s. The point is that I was a very crafty child, and most of my projects turned out well, especially in the eyes of my mother.

When my kids were young, I used to have projects for us to do such as tie-dying T-shirts, painting birdhouses and a myriad of other crafts, especially at Christmas. I remember once that my friend, Janet, and I dragged our kids around gathering moss from trees by the roadside and cutting branches from cedar trees to make garlands. We spray-flocked branches, so they would look like they were snow-covered and hung wreaths from windows. We made ornaments for the trees and they remain my most precious ornaments to this day.

As the season of Christmas is arriving, I have once again turned my mind to yuletide decorating and have been trying to come up with something new and different. Janet found a table-scape in a magazine last week, and called to tell me about it. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a table-scape, it is a table decoration that goes beyond the normal napkins and tablecloth and adds all sorts of theme-based items and arrangements. Her idea sounded cute and required only a few hours of creativity and some pine cones, so I told her to go for it. She was hosting a small dinner party and needed something for her table. I was at work, so I gave her some suggestions of where she might find a cone-laden pine tree.

Pine cones are apparently not as easy to find as they used to be, and Janet called in a huff later in the afternoon. She had gone by my house in Old Victoria to drop something off and had spied a large tree nearby. The tree was in a graveyard and surrounded by a fence. She could see there were numerous pine cones under the tree, but the gate was locked, and she weighed her options.

In her youth, she would have simply climbed over the fence, but since she is now older and wiser, she said her fear was that she would either fall and break a bone or get caught trespassing. If she fell and broke a hip or something, then it might be hours before anyone found her, but worse seemed to be if she happened to be arrested for trespassing in the graveyard.Her story was particularly amusing, since I was aware of a lifetime of antics in search of bird nests, moss, wildflowers, tree parts, grapevines and other natural decorating items. Janet is usually the one who is climbing the fences or ducking under barbed-wire fence, since she is small and easily encouraged. I could understand her hesitancy that day since her sidekick was at work. In the end, Janet sprayed some fake snow on some pine cones she found at the craft store. I should mention that Janet's house has been decorated for Christmas for more than a week.

The Starkey home has yet to have one branch of garland or even a red bow. The living room is still waiting for a tree. I have done nothing more than locate some of the boxes that contain decorations. I keep wishing I still had a kid or two around the house to help me get it all done. Taylor is a bit of a Scrooge and doesn't seem to appreciate putting up lots of decorations just to have to store them away again in a few short weeks.

On the other hand, I have been perusing cookbooks in search of Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas breakfast. I just purchased the new Don Strange cookbook, which was written by his wife, Frances. Don was a wonderful man and an incredible caterer. He was well known in Texas as the "king of caterers." I had the privilege of working with him several times for charity events in Galveston when we lived there, and later after we moved to Victoria. He was so gracious, and nothing seemed to ruffle his feathers.

His catering years covered more than three decades and his clients included princes and presidents. In the cookbook, I found a delicious recipe Brioche French Toast with Bananas Foster, and it is decadent enough for Christmas morning, especially accompanied by the Christmas bacon crusted with brown sugar. The cookbook has been adapted for home cooks and has wonderful recipes, which span his catering career.

I was visiting with my friend, Connie Wood, owner of The Market, and she told me that she had invited Frances Strange to come to Victoria with her new cookbook, "Don Strange of Texas, His Life and Recipes." This is a great opportunity to get cookbooks personalized for holiday gift giving. Frances will be in Victoria at The Market, 1411 E. Airline Road, on Dec. 17, from 1 to 3 p.m. to sign cookbooks. Preorders can be made by contacting the shop.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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