Time for another entry in the list of breakfast foods that don’t have to be sweet:
Don’t get me wrong. Sugary, crispy custard-bread is a fine foodstuff indeed. There’s a tiny roadside diner in Belchertown, Massachusetts that makes a gingerbread French toast I’ll remember for years. But for my money, that’s not breakfast. It’s dessert. It’s bread pudding by another name.
Breakfast French toast, in my book, is bread soaked in scrambled eggs, with enough salt and black pepper to make you sneeze. I love it especially when it’s made with Jewish deli bread: caraway rye or even a good chewy bagel.
Yes, I said bagel.
That’s right, French toast is not just the provenance of the sweet, eggy bread. Challah is nice, but so are the various savory loaves of the Chosen People. When I was ickle, my mom made French toast with rye bread, and it was one of my favorite breakfast treats: the bread got plush in the middle without going completely gooey, and then the tang of rye, and the intermittent crunch of caraway seeds…I get dreamy just thinking about it.
Then, recently, I found out that my mom and brother have cottoned on to bagels as the New Thing in French Toast. Essentially, their M.O. is a bagel robed in a whisper-thin layer of scrambled egg, with the texture inside progressing from gooey to velvety to good old-fashioned bagel chew. Any type of bagel is fair game–onion, garlic, sesame, everything, jalapeno-cheddar, you name it.
The morning these photos were taken, I used a pumpernickel bagel–my personal favorite–and seasoned it with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. It was rich, dense, salty and sharp, plus I got to enjoy the glorious weirdness of eating a bagel bite-by-bite with a knife and fork.
I’ll take that over a sweet belly-brick of bread any day.
Mom’s French Toast
Get yourself a loaf of Jewish rye (marbled or not), and slice it thinly if it isn’t already. For each slice, beat an egg with a couple tablespoons of milk or cream in a shallow dish, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Soak the bread in the egg for 30 seconds or so, until it has soaked up as much liquid as possible. Then fry in butter or olive oil over medium-high heat, until both sides are French-toast-brown. Omnomnom.
Slice your bagel of choice and microwave for about 30 seconds, until it’s soft all the way through. Meanwhile, beat two eggs in a shallow dish with 1/4 cup of milk or cream, and stir in whatever seasonings strike your fancy–salt, pepper, spices, fresh herbs, minced garlic and/or onion, or finely grated cheese. Lay the bagel halves in the egg, cut side down, and let them soak for a few minutes.
Heat your olive oil or butter over medium-high heat. Put the bagels in the pan cut side down, and pour any excess egg from the soaking dish into the bagel holes. (It will almost certainly end up overflowing and frying in the pan alongside the bagel, but that’s fine. More scrambled eggs for you.)
Fry for about 3 minutes on the first side, until the egg is starting to brown, then flip and do the same on the other side. Remove from the heat and chow down.