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Using old bread to make French toast is no stale idea

By Gabrielle DevenishFood EditorI recently went on vacation and returned to a refrigerator full of chunky milk, slimy lettuce, fermented fruit salad and other indistinguishable science experiments. The pantry wasn’t much better. Among the canned foods stocked up in case of a world-shattering disaster, the boxes of cereal dust (I always forget to throw the empty boxes out) and various condiments, I found a lone half-loaf of bread. It was a little stale, but not moldy, and I wondered if I could fashion a meal out of mustard and whole-wheat toast. Then it came to me: I could make French toast! I had four eggs that were still fresh and I could borrow some milk from my neighbor. Whew! I could put off going to the grocery store until the next day.Then I got to thinking, why is it called “French” toast? I’ve been to France and I don’t remember ever seeing it on a menu. Because inquiring minds want to know, I later Googled “French toast.” I found that there are several conflicting stories about the origins of the sweet breakfast dish.One version of the story is that the dish was invented in 1724 at a roadside tavern near Albany, N.Y. According to the tale, the tavern owner, Joseph French, gave the dish his name. I also found out that French toast has various names. French-speaking Cajun cooks in Louisiana make “pain perdu” or “lost bread” with day-old bread, and this Cajun tradition also lays claim to the origin of French toast in this country. In England, French toast is called “poor knights of Windsor.” And in Washington, D.C., The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings changed the name of “French toast” to “freedom toast,” in a culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over the country’s refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq. Several restaurants across the United States followed suit.French toast has several variations, from complicated, gourmet-cook type recipes to the good, old-fashioned plain style doused in maple syrup. It can be made with any kind of bread, and even croissants, and the toppings are endless.So, if you find yourself with some day-old bread, don’t give it to the birds. Whip up your very own version of French toast. Besides, feeding the pigeons would just cause them to hang around and poop on your porch.– n nHawaiian Croissant French Toast1 can coconut milksugar, to taste3-4 croissants3 eggs13 cup milkpinch salt34 cup shredded coconutbutter, enough to grease skillet2 bananas, sliced34 cup macadamias, chopped For the syrup: Pour coconut milk into a stainless skillet; sweeten with 1 tablespoon sugar and simmer, reducing to a syrup. Stir regularly, adjusting sugar to taste.For the toast: Preheat a large, heavy skillet. Beat eggs with milk and salt. Stir in coconut. Slice croissants in half or thirds and dip into egg mixture, allowing them to soak for a couple of minutes.Melt butter in skillet and add croissants. Cook over medium heat to brown and cook through.Plate toast, topping decoratively with bananas and sprinkling with toasted macadamia nuts. Serve with hot coconut syrup. – Chef Mick Rosacci, Tony’s Meats & Specialty FoodsEasy French toast1 cup half-and-half 3 large eggs 2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds 14 teaspoon salt 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread 4 tablespoons butterIn medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet pan. Place 2 slices of soaked bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.- Alton Brown, foodnetwork.com


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