Savory French Toast

It pretty much goes without saying most people, generally, want to be "like everyone else." It makes them feel connected to those in their immediate sphere, that they are part of a tribe. With some exception, this is especially true during the formative years of childhood - at least it was for me. And for someone who wanted to fit in so badly, I couldn't have pushed people further away with my need to belong.

I recall watching longingly from the fringes of my usual wallflower location, hoping to somehow glean a microcosm of the ease and likability the majority of my friends seemed to exude so easily. How the hell did they do it? Delightful ruminations and succinctly intelligent prose bounced around in the space between my ears ... why did it sound so broken and garbled and desperate when the words haltingly burst out of my mouth?

Who the *bleep knows. I'm 40+ years old now and I'm over it. For the most part anyway.

Okay, so I'm never more over it than when I share a recipe or a meal or a restaurant experience and I'm met with a somewhat perplexed look of disbelief, or a comment tinged with general suspicion. In fact, that's when in my gut I feel 100% on the right track. What I lack in social finesse I more than make up for with my ever expanding and evolving palate. It's the one part of me I've never doubted. Question who I voted for and why I hold some of the opinions I do and I'll find myself second-guessing myself, wondering if I really have the world's best intentions at heart. But doubt me when I suggest you should add freshly cracked black pepper to your brownie batter or consider a savory French toast and I'm perfectly at ease with bidding you an unwavering adieu, dear friend. Go look cross-eyed elsewhere. I'm good. 

When I came across the recipe for a savory French toast in the latest issue of Cherry Bombe (reprinted from the cookbook Bread, Toast, Crumbs) my empty stomach cramped deliciously in anticipation. A custard-soaked toast, it's sprinkling of salty Parmesan cheese crisping under a broiler, begged for a sweet drizzling of maple syrup. A new take on a traditional dish never fails to draw me in, and luckily, the friends I asked over for brunch last weekend are open to such new interpretations. 

I'll take it one step further and quote zen-master chef, Andrew Zimmern: "If it looks good, eat it." If it hasn't been done before, that's a good reason to give it a go. Keep what works, toss the rest.

And pick up the current issue of Cherry Bombe - issue 9, spring/summer '17. It's packed with fantastic ideas from some of the most inspirational (and so hot right now) women and folks in the food industry to date.

This French toast recipe is deceptively simple, so use pristine ingredients if at all possible. BTC included a recipe for soft sandwich bread, but I took a short-cut and picked up a loaf of brioche. Use a really good quality bread, fresh eggs if you can manage, and freshly grated parm. 

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Savory French Toast

Recipe from Bread, Toast, Crumbs cookbook
Serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1 cup 2 percent or whole milk
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
6 slices day-old Soft Sandwich Bread, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (or a quality soft bread of your choice)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Maple syrup, for serving

Place an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler and preheat the boiler to high. In a 9X13-inch baking pan, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and 1 tablespoon thyme. Lay the slices of bread in the pan and let them sit for 5 minutes. Flip the slices and let them sit for another 5 minutes; almost all the custard should be absorbed by the end of the 10 minutes.

Place the two cooling racks on a rimmed sheet pan. Lay the slices of bread on top of the racks. Scatter half the cheese over the tops. Transfer to the oven and broil for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until lightly golden, being sure to keep an eye on them during the final minutes so they don't burn. Using a spatula, flip the slices, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and  broil again for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes more, until evenly golden and crispy.

Serve the French toast immediately garnished with more thyme on top and with syrup on the side.