Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Resolved: More French Toast

I must consider the posting of this photo as the first coinkydink of the New Year. In the wee hours, my daily post from the LOL Cats site came in and this was their lead photo. Ah, I said to myself. A most appropriate "message" picture to begin my blog posts for 2008. Halfway through reading the related comment section, John's notify message came in so I clicked over to his site. I was delighted to see he had posted the same picture!

That's good. Pictures like this should get around. In fact, this one has been "getting around" for at least a couple of years. Digging for origins, I find it floating about as early as 2005 and I think -- but can't verify -- it was originally an AP wire photo. Several sources point out the soldier is Israeli and that the photo was taken in Palestine.

In another context, that sort of identification might be more important. In this context, a soldier is a soldier, is a mother's son -- or daughter -- in harm's way. Nobody escapes the effects of the harm, whether giving or receiving. How terribly important, then, are the moments of human tenderness and love -- to balance, to heal.

The transition from last year to this year was smooth, though not exactly as planned. Though I am neither mouse nor man, I know what happens to "best laid plans" so there was no real surprise and adjustments were minor. My original intent was to fix myself a glorious repast for midnight snacking, accompanied by a split of the bubbly. Toward that end, I baked a loaf of bread so I could fashion a dish of baked French Toast. I was going to put the French Toast dish together and let it sit and soak, not moving it to the oven until about elevenish. That was a fairly unrealistic plan. Everything smelled too good to wait, causing me to eat at somewhere between 9 and 10 which, in turn, caused me to fall fast asleep before the midnight hour.

That's okay. I woke up somewhere between 1 and 2 in the aye-em and proceeded to do the bubbly part of the celebration while checking email and cruising the web. There was a slight delay putting the bubbly part in action. You know that old saying, "Champagne taste and beer budget." Fortunately for me, a champagne I happen to like is priced in the beer budget category. The splits come with twist-off caps instead of corks. That's nice -- except when you run into one of the twist-offs that refuse to separate themselves from the bottom part of the twist.

Well, that was plumb humiliating. There I was, champagne flute at the ready, champagne chilled and enticing -- and I couldn't get the damned thang open. After much grunting and cussing and straining, I dug a pair of pliers out of the tool box and coerced the lid off its foundation, oblivious to its protests. I must say, after all that effort, the champagne tasted more sublime than usual.

As for the baked French Toast, I can't give you exact measurements because the building of it was decidedly instinctive and subject to available ingredients. That is not a negative, actually. I think it shows how flexible this dish can be. Essentially, it consists of two layers of sliced bread, divided by whatever ingredients you desire as stuffing. Here's what I did ...

In a greased 8 x 8 inch Pyrex baking dish, I laid out 4 slices of bread with the crusts removed and saved for future bread cubes or crumbs. Then I slathered a generous layer of sour cream over the bread and sprinkled it liberally with Mrs. Dash Chipotle seasoning. Sprinkled over that was roughly half a cup of minced onion, sliced tomato, about a dozen half-slices of cooked bacon and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Then I laid four more slices of decrusted bread on top of everything. Mixed up a blend of 3 eggs and roughly 4 cups of milk, seasoned with salt and pepper. Poured it slowly over the contents of the baking dish, making sure the bread was thoroughly soaked. Sprinkled the top with Hungarian paprika and let it sit and soak for maybe an hour. (One can cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, then bake the next morning if desired.) Put it in a 350 degree fairyheight oven for 45 minutes.

Oh my. It was totally gorgeous, Coffee Mates. The bread was swollen with eggy-milky goodness and the cheese and sour cream melded with everything and the fragrance was nearly stunning. I have found the dish to be superb both fresh and, later on, nuked for a couple of minutes in the microwave. I'll wager it freezes well, too -- provided it lasts long enough to need to freeze it.

I know I'll be making baked French Toast more often. There are so many variations one can try. I wish I'd had some salsa for this version. A layer of refried beans and a sprinkle of chopped olives would have been nice, too. And, darn it, I forgot I had some perfectly good jalapeƱo peppers in the fridge! Also, there are the sweeter versions, using sliced apples and brown sugar and butter and cinnamon, for example. Many of the recipes I found utilized cream cheese in the fillings but I think sour cream or yogurt or ricotta all do the same thing and do it well. This is definitely what you'd call a versatile dish.

Until now, I've only ever had the more traditional French Toast. You know -- slices of bread that have been soaked in a milk and egg mixture that has been seasoned to be either sweet or savory, then fried in butter until golden and served with butter and syrup or fruit and whipped cream. Using the soaked bread to form a baked sandwich of sorts is a new experience for me -- one I enthusiastically encourage you to try. The range of possible fillings is infinite, the effort involved is negligible and the results are spectacular.

Make the project one of your New Year's Resolutions. It's always nice to resolve something that is attainable and fun, don't you think?


Wendy said...

Oh, my, Dee, more corruption to start out the new year right. That does, indeed, sound yummy-scrumptious. Our french toast today was the traditional fare (although I'll wager my husband's is some of the best to be had) made with french bread I had baked last night. Good times, I tell ya.

Jo said...

Here's a Happy New Year to you, Dee, and hoping to keep reading lots more about you and your cooking endeavors.

Dee said...

Wendy, it sounds to me like you and your beloved make a most excellent culinary team. Homemade french bread and superior French Toast. Can't beat it.

Jo, thank you for the New Year wishes and, of course, the same back to you and Bill. Here's to drumming and cooking our way through 2008!

Festus said...

Happy New Year!!!!!
And all the greetings and felicitations appropriate for the the arbitrary day, chosen to commemorate the discarding of old calendars and inauguration of new calendars.

Dee said...

Hey, Fes! Good to hear from you, buddy. Salutations and big hugs right back atcha, gramps. (smile)

Anonymous said...

Here's to peace, health and happiness for us all, Dee... :-)

John B.

Bonnie said...

This just reminded me I haven't made french toast since the kids were living here. Or at least I don't remember such doings.

I best scribble your recipe down.:-)
Give Ralph a scritch scratch for me.

I see it isn't going to let me sign in with my blogger acct. again. Sure it says put in password, that doesn't work for me.

Bonnie said...

Hey look I finally figured out which name it wanted. rotflmbo!

Cat said...

And now, I'm starving. :D Must try baked French Toast!

~ Sil in Corea said...

Ah, woe is me! I have no oven. I shall have to see if your recipe can be converted to work in a frying pan of the heavy metal, covered variety. Will tell you how it works out.

Finally figured out how to work this thing. I click on "nickname" and put in one of my websites' addresses under URL.

Hugs from T'other side of the Big Pond,
~ Sil

Dee said...

Thank you, John. I heartily share your sentiments!

Bonnie, you are developing a most interesting relationship with blogger, aren't you? (smile) Ralph says "Oh hai thnx 4 scrtchie."

Cat, go for the gusto! You'll love it.

Sil, I'll keep my fangers crossed for the success of your covered pan experiment. Let me know. Alternatively, you could simply use the fry pan and fix a Monte Cristo-type sandwich. That's awfully close, don't you think? Sorta.