I’ve written about this month’s Top Mom, Marina, and her seemingly easy, breezy style at pulling off major league fun parties back in December of 2009 when I attended her annual Holiday boutique party. (Sheesh, this is when I first launched my blog – don’t even look.) Besides her girl time get-togethers, Marina and her husband traditionally host, not one, but at least three parties a year – de rigueur in the annual party line-up are a costume party for Halloween, a winter casino party, and a 4th of July party and you can expect to see usually around 200 of their closest friends, family members, neighbors, work associates past and present, and friends of their two beautiful daughters. This 4th of July was no exception…
In years past, as soon as school was out we would escape to the Ozarks for a summer sojourn at the lake and stay through the 4th to gather with family and friends to shoot off some big-guns fireworks – outside of California there’s very few pyrotechnics that you cannot buy and ignite to celebrate our nation’s independence. But this year, circumstances found us at home and we were excited to be a part of the patriotism and shenanigans that surround the Huntington Beach 4th of July Parade and join the party at Marina and Gary’s house – which, of course, is perfectly located one block from the parade route and party central 🙂
FYI for next year – the Annual 4th of July Parade and celebrations in Huntington Beach begins with the Surf City Run (all levels) and ends with an amazing fireworks display at the beach – and it’s all free! There’s something for everyone and it’s a unique combination of family fun, small town charm, all-American patriotism, beach city vibe, and neighborhood block party. Billed as the largest Independence Day parade west of the Mississippi, with an estimated 100,000 people lining the 3-mile route from Pacific Coast Highway to Main St., this year’s parade was the 107th.
Back to the party and food for 200… Marina pulls this off with two core dishes that everyone has come to love. First, the rich, creamy Crème Brulee French Toast – if you love crème brûlée and French toast then you’ll be in heaven; and a hearty, cheesy egg and tater tot casserole that I named Eggs Napolean, because I’ll never think of tater tots the same way after seeing the 2004 sleeper hit, cult classic movie Napolean Dynamite 🙂
Spoiler alert: major crowd pleasers but in no way low-calorie and, as with any party, requires prep time the night before and the help of some awesome friends and relatives! To give credit where its due, this recipe is nothing new and can be found on Food Network and Epicurious, but don’t let that dissuade you from making it to satisfy the hungry masses at one of your family gatherings. I swear, and Marina can testify, that every man, woman, and child will rave about it!
Crème Brulee French Toast
Yield: 8-10 servings | Level: Easy
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 round loaf country-style bread*
1 ½ cups half and half
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp salt
*other good breads to use are Texas Toast or challah
Trim crusts from bread.
In a small heavy saucepan, melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth.
Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange bread in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marner and salt until well combined. Pour evenly over the bread. Chill bread mixure, covered, for 8 hours or over night.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring bread mixture to room temperature. Bake uncovered until puffed and edges are pale golden, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.
Note: No additional syrup is required for the fluffy toast wrapped in a caramelized crust – maybe some crisp, salty bacon to make it sing! Not planning any parties for 200? Crème Brulee French Toast is ideal for a weekend brunch or breakfast when you want to relax and spend time with visiting friends or family.
Being more of a savory person and an egg lover at breakfast, I’m still partial to Eggs Napolean 🙂 Either way, you’ll be a happy camper!