Charles Siskin: Holiday Brunch

Thursday, December 10, 2015 - by Charles Siskin
French Toast studded with fresh berries
French Toast studded with fresh berries

Recently my wife brought me a Challah Bread she picked up at Trader Joe’s in Atlanta. (In the spring we’ll be getting a Whole Foods but alas no Trader Joe’s yet).  Truthfully by its arrival time it had dried out some and putting it in the fridge for several days didn’t help matters either. Incidentally Google says it is a Jewish bread to be eaten on holidays. Tell that to Trader Joe’s where it is an everyday staple. 

Being taught not to waste food, fill in the blanks about who is currently starving, I thought of what I could do with the bread short of feeding it to the birds or pelicans since we are here on the Gulf.

There was no “eureka” moment but I did consider a couple of options and settled on French Toast.  The real French toast like those recipes you see in your Wednesday or Thursday or whatever day the food section appears. It always calls for egg bread which happens to be another name for Challah.

It’s not a big deal to make basically using an egg or two with a splash of cream or milk that has both nutmeg and cinnamon whisked in and some cooks add a bit of sugar but the bread is sweet enough for me.

Once the bread slice is thoroughly soaked I put it in a pan coated with melted butter and fry turning until it is golden brown on both sides. Also any leftover egg wash I fry up and top the toast. Nothing wasted.

All that said I realized those French toast sliced could also be made into luxurious and classic French Croque Monsieur  sandwiches as well. Or being politically correct, Croque Madame.

Monsieur has ham and cheese and Madame adds a fried egg either of which is perfect for your brunch. Some recipes call for an additional cheese sauce topping. If you are interested in bringing instant death to your friends with heart disease then I would recommend the cheese sauce topping.  Bet you hadn’t seen that on CSI. The part where the coroner says, death by cheese sauce and someone ask, “Gruyère”? 

You  can let your imagination run a bit wild if it is a Christmas or New Year’s party when it comes to toppings as well. Who’s to say that a combo of seafood or a pricy diced lobster should your rich uncle have conveniently died prior to the start of the festive season leaving you distraught but stinking rich, with a Béchamel topping.

I’m all about Brunch for several reasons, the prime one being all your guests have departed before dark and if there is one or two drunk in a corner calling the police is totally appropriate.

Oh yes, don’t forget to serve your black eyed peas and kale, which are the greens of choice for the millenniums, although I still like my collards cooked down drained well and tossed with diced onions that have been cooked in a  balsamic vinegar reduction with hot sauce on the side.

You could even serve your French Toast as a dessert (bread pudding by another name) with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a toss of fresh raspberries. Okay a scoop of salted caramel ice cream sound good too. In fact the whole combination sounds excellent.

Remember to have your Prosecco chilled and ready when guest arrive, Champagne is totally over for the millenniums. However for old timers champagne with OJ is perfect. Whatever you decide toast the season and have a healthy and happy New Year.

A Croque Monsieur Variation Recipe

Make a basic white sauce and whisk in Gruyere or another cheese of your liking

Once combined take off heat and let rest

Tip: I like to add a bit of white wine to the sauce as it is cooking

Lay out one slice of French Toast in a heat proof pan and topped with a slice of ham

(because of the richness of the French toast I only use one slice as an “open face” sandwich)

Cover the sandwich with your Béchamel sauce

Put under a broiler or bake in the over just until the sauce is bubbly and brown on top

Bon Appétit 

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