Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leftover Tuesday: French Toast Done Right

Leftover night this week wasn't looking too stunning. The odds and ends we had lurking in the refrigerator were mostly ends, meaning they were prepared meals like spaghetti, bowtie salad, etc. Things like this are great for leftover nights in general--you just plop them on the table and let people eat buffet-style. But they're not perfect for a blog post in which I brilliantly throw things together to create something else--oh, look, I made sesame mandarin orange spaghetti marinara beef stroganoff casserole--yum. We did have, however, some a couple of types of bread--one of which had been fairly unpopular on its own, even with me (I messed up my soda bread somehow--it came out flat and weird). Both kind were homemade and free-formed, which meant that the end pieces were too small for sandwiches. But they'd be just right for French toast. I knew that with the proper cooking method, even the un-beloved could have its little day in the sun. And it did.

The proper cooking method is, to me, the one described by Molly Wizenberg. I like to think of it as the sort-of-like-donuts-without-calling-it-donuts method. Because, you see, you don't exactly cook these puppies in a pat of low-fat margarine.

Here's how it goes.

1. First of all, Wizenberg's milk/egg mixture is milkier than mine used to be. This works especially well with thick breads like mine or other artesian-style. Yet no matter what kind of bread you use, it's nice because it keeps our French toast from coming out of the pan with an egg-like casing cooked all around.

Wizenberg recommends 1 C milk to 4 eggs. This is just about perfect. She also adds a bit of vanilla and a Tbsp sugar to the mix. I also like to add a couple shakes of cinnamon. I like this because, as a grown up, it means I can eat these on their own if I want or with just a bit of jam or cream or powdered sugar. I didn't last night, but I could have. Of course your kids will still slather it with syrup, so if you need to feel like a good parent, go ahead and leave out the Tbsp sugar.

2. Get a cast iron skillet or something equally sturdy and awesome. Heat a good layer of oil (I use canola) in that pan. No no no, not a teaspoon. But not 4 cups either. You want it to cover the bottom of the skillet. The oil should not be smoking, but it should be hot enough to make the French toast sizzle a bit--just a bit. If it's too hot, your toast will burn. And that would be tragic.

3. Dunk your odd-ball sized slices into the milk/egg mixture and get them nice and saturated. If you're using sturdy homemade bread, this will take a minute or so. If you're using flimsy sandwich bread, it will take only a few seconds. The bread should not be falling apart when you take it from the milk/egg mixture. Put them in the oil. Cook a couple minutes on each side until they're golden.

4. You can keep these warm in an oven at 200 degrees.

Note: French toast made this way makes for surprisingly good leftovers. I had a couple slices (warmed up in the microwave) this morning with PB for breakfast and it was delicious and satisfying.

The result: This was a great way to use up odds and ends of different breads. It even made my messed up soda bread taste good. It's not necessarily the healthiest meal in the universe, but if you use whole wheat bread (we did) and go light on the sugary toppings (we didn't do as well there), there's really not a lot to feel guilty about. Serve it with a green drink, blueberry soup, or a bunch of sliced fruit.

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