From Too Many Chefs -

March 7, 2006
Savory Mushroom French Toast

Salmon sandwich made with Mushroom French ToastWhen 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
2 eggs
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.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at March 7, 2006 7:32 AM

Very creative, Mr. B. and dare I say it looks good enough to eat.

Posted by Justin on March 7, 2006 at 9:55 AM

Very clever! French toast was my breakfast of choice for years when I was a young'un and I have to say it's been years since I made it. Methinks the boy deserves his first taste this weekend!!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 7, 2006 at 12:03 PM

The English have only EVER made savoury French toast: it's called "Eggy Bread". Ask Meg to check in with the Critic about it.

(I put colman's mustard powder in the eggs and serve it with mushrooms and bacon. )

diet be damned.

Posted by sam on March 7, 2006 at 1:17 PM

Sam - really? I'd never heard of that. Very cool. I'm rediscovering traditions I'm not aware of!

Mustard... nice idea.

Posted by barrett on March 7, 2006 at 1:30 PM

Have you ever had a Monte Cristo sandwich? It's savory and delicious for breakfast.

Posted by Amy on March 7, 2006 at 4:55 PM

Amy, I used to love Monte Christos. I had them for lunch far too frequently. It's one of the dishes that my sorta-vegetarianism keeps me from, much to my tastebuds' chagrin and my aorta's delight.

Posted by barrett on March 7, 2006 at 5:28 PM

It could be that Eggy Bread is not Britishly universal, it's just I grew up with it so assume it must be. We always made it at girl guide camp so I know its not limited to a family thing.

I also remember as I had a kiddies cookbook when I was young and it had a french bread recipe in it and I used to read it (my cookbook reading obssession started very young) and think to myself in my little 10 year old mind -ugh- i am never going to make that - how could anyone ever make sweet eggy bread, it sounds disgusting. Erhm - i still have the same prejudice to this day and have only ordered it once in my entire life. Twice if you count Paris where they tricked me by calling it something fancier than "french toast"

Ummm - I LOVE eggy Bread.

Posted by sam on March 7, 2006 at 9:23 PM

a nice version of french toast....sounds delish ...using skim milk will lighten it somehow but i guess the butter would make it a tart heavy too...hmm...

Posted by foodcrazee on March 8, 2006 at 3:33 AM

Good old eggy bread is indeed a British term but the recipe is repeated around the world in various iterations. This antithesis to pain perdu is more suited to British tastes (witness the savoury preference of the humble cheese and crackers in Wallace and Gromit).

Incidentally, I had never heard of the Monte Christo sandwich until choosing it for a lunch in Florida one Summer. Dreadful thing it was (sorry to say). I settled for the fries, cheese and ham - leaving the fried sugary husks as decoration.

I have a sweet tooth but the combination of frying plus sugar is very hard going. It was my own fault - I had sore head from too much 'sauce' and didn't read the menu properly.

I applaud the American tastes that mix sweet and savoury to the n'th degree but it takes some getting used to. My brother putting a blob of cream on his breakfast thinking it was mayo was worth a laugh. Didn't stop him eating it though..

As for your mushroom version, I will definitely give that a whirl - thank you!

Posted by charles W on March 8, 2006 at 10:04 AM

Charles, if you had a sweet Monte Christo, I'm betting you had it at a Bennigan's or similar chain restaurant.

I've always called the Bennigan's version the "Monte Crisco". Adding powdered sugar to a Monte Christo is evil, in my opinion, and a good local diner Monte Christo will usually consist of nothing more than "Eggy Bread", ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese.

If you get a chance to try a non-sugared monte Christo, I encourage you to do so. They can be addictive.

Posted by barrett on March 8, 2006 at 10:11 AM

Sam, I have consulted the Critic who tells me:

a) never heard of eggy bread

b) French toast is toast that is toasted on one side only, preferably on an open fire.

When I explained that there actually is a basis for us calling it French toast (pain perdu) he blithely told me I was wrong. End of story.

Thank God he's not Oxbridge or he'd be TRULY unbearable!!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 8, 2006 at 2:22 PM

Just to counter the Critic -
"This dish does have its origins in France, where it is known as "ameritte" or "pain perdu" ("lost bread"), a term that has persisted, in Creole and Cajun cookery; in Spain it is called "torriga" and in England "Poor Knights of Windsor," which is the same name for the dish in Denmark, "arme riddere," and Germany, "arme ritter." At one time or another in America it has been referred to as "Spanish," "German," or "nun's toast," and its first appearance in print as "French Toast" was in 1871. "
---The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 134)

Found on -

Posted by barrett on March 8, 2006 at 3:31 PM

What a unique recipe, however I don't think I'd use skim milk...I like a good hearty breakfast!

Posted by Manuel Ribbeck on March 8, 2006 at 4:39 PM

The Dutch name is pretty weird: wentelteefjes (ummm... flipover 'female dog'?). Don't ask me why. For bonus cultural points, MC Escher drew a little caterpillar-type fantasy creature that he called Wentelteefje (translated as "Curl-Ups"), which I've always loved.

Posted by Anna on March 14, 2006 at 1:40 AM