When I was a young-un, French toast was my favorite (or is it favoritest?) breakfast food. Soak some stale bread in a simple sweetened custard spiced with nutmeg and vanilla, fry it up, and smother in syrup and butter. Nice.
I started thinking recently that in French toast, the flavor is really all in the custard, and that because of that, one might make a savory custard that would allow the creation of a savory dinner version of breakfast.
So here we are with a custard that gives French toast a nice full mushroomy flavor, ideal as the base for a salmon and greens sandwich. I tried to come up with a syrup analog, but the only thing I could come up with was a cheese sauce, and we're on a health kick around the Chicago Too Many Chefs household...
Because of the texture and coat of fry butter, the sandwiches don't work so perfectly as an in-the-hand sandwich, but they work wonderfully as a fork and knife dish. You can certainly pick this up and eat it as a sandwich, but have plenty of napkins handy.
The Redhead enjoyed the dish, though she thought we should try to lighten it up if we make it again. She also wanted more pepper in the custard, which I can see. I tend to be shy with pepper and salt in dishes I'm serving to her.
I'll be contemplating other savory custards for other French toasts. Maybe I'll try something with curry or hot spices. Try the mushroom version and see if it doesn't inspire you to perform some experiments as well.
Savory Mushroom French Toast
1 cup mushrooms, diced small
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk, 2% or whole
4 slices stale bread, whole grain preferred.
salt and pepper
additional 4 teaspoons butter for frying
In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Heat until it starts to foam. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sautee until mushrooms are fragrant and soft, about 3-5 minutes.
Add milk, reduce heat to medium/medium-low. Heat the milk but do not let it boil for about five minutes. Stir frequently to infuse mushroom flavor into the milk. Take the mix off the heat.
In a blender, or with an immersion blender, blend the mushrooms into the milk throughly. If you can liquify every last chunk, do so.
Put the mushroom milk aside to cool. Once its reached room temperature, crack two eggs into the mix and beat well to create a custard. Salt and pepper to your tastes. I'd give it a pinch more salt and a couple good grinds of black pepper.
Refrigerate custard for as long as you can before using, up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150-200 F. Place an oven-safe plate or platter in the oven.
Pour the custard mix into a pie plate. Place a slice of bread into the pie plate. Let sit for about two minutes. Flip and let sit for another two minutes so it absorbs the custard well.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt 1 teaspoon butter over medium-high heat and heat until it starts to foam. When the butter is foaming, transfer the slice of bread from the pie plate to the skillet. Add another slice of bread to the pie plate.
Fry on one side until golden brown. Flip the slice in the skillet and flip the slice in the pie plate that's absorbing custard after about two minutes. You may need to adjust your heat to make this coincide.
Transfer the finished slice to the heated plate in the oven and continue the process until you're done with all four slices. You may need to scrape and pour the last of the mixture over the last slice of bread to get good custard penetration.
To make the sandwich shown above, simply put 1-1/2 ounces sliced smoked salmon and a handful of greens between two slices of finished mushroom French toast.
You'll notice the mushroom taste with the first bite. It compliments the salmon and greens, and gives the sandwich a rich base of flavor to start from.
Now I'm sure someone out there will try a mushroom Monte Cristo sandwich with this recipe. Let us know.