Last weekend I decided I was making French toast, and so I picked up some French bread, thinking it might be fun to go fancier than our standard whole grain sandwich loaf. Lo and behold, when I went searching for something a little more interesting than my standard French toast, I came across a recipe for a New Orleans style pain perdu, calling specifically for French bread. And Mardi Gras was coming. And I am a food blogger. So clearly that was the recipe I had to make.
I found the recipe in Bill and Cheryl Jamison’s A Real American Breakfast: The Best Meal of the Day, Any Time of the Day. Pain perdu is, of course, French for the concept of French toast (a fact that is somewhat ironic if you ask me), but the literal translation is “lost bread,” and the concept of French toast (or pain perdu) is not French in origin. Go figure. In France, pain perdu would be a dessert, but in New Orleans, pain perdu is breakfast, just like French toast is everywhere else in America. And the secret “N’Awlins” ingredient? Booze of course.
Amusingly, Sammy, who dislikes the French toast I eat quite happily at our local breakfast place, adored this. Alex and I did too, but that was to be expected since we are French toast fiends. As for Sammy, I don’t know if it was the je ne sais quoi from the Irish whiskey or if it was the crusty French bread, but she pronounced this better than any French toast she had had before. She downed 2 thick slices–and she had not even been planning to eat any!
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup 1-2% milk
- 1-2 T good Irish whiskey (I used 1 because of kids)
- 1 T vanilla
- 2 T sugar
- ½ t fine sea salt
- 6-7 slices of French bread, sliced 1½ inches thick
- 1-2 T unsalted butter
- 1-2 T vegetable oil
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- maple syrup, for serving
- The more stale your bread, the better, but I just left my bread out overnight and this worked fine.
- Whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, Irish whiskey, vanilla, sugar and salt. Pour into a shallow, wide bowl.
- Soak each slice of bread for about 10 minutes--flip it halfway through if need be to saturate both sides. However, you do not want the bread to be falling apart.
- Heat a large, heavy pan or griddle over medium heat (I used enameled cast iron, so as the toast cooked, I gradually turned the heat down to medium low).
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan.
- When it is hot, cook the French toast in batches, cooking to lightly crisp and browned on each side. If you need to add more oil or butter, do so.
- If you are serving the French toast all at once, place the cooked slices in an oven on low heat. I of course always end up playing the short order cook and serving them to my family as they cook.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar over the pain perdu before serving with maple syrup.
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For the collage fans…