Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Roman Toast - Giving French Toast it's Due

Though it poses under many names, just as the legendary Dutch Baby, "French Toast" as we know it was first mentioned by Apicius back in the days of Rome.

"Break fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk [and beaten eggs], Fry in oil, cover with honey and serve." --Apicius Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, edited and translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling , recipe 296 (p. 172)

Even the French originally referred to this application of Milk and Egg to day old bread as "pain a la Romaine" (Roman Bread), though now it is commonly known as "pain perdu" (Lost Bread); being a way to salvage old bread before it ends up in the "garbage". (hmmm, another French word)

So HOW is it that in America we call it French Toast? Your guess is as good as mine. LOL I mean, French toast shows up in Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book as Egg Toast or Bread Sauteed in 1884. So where does the "French" come in?

My assumption is that somehow, just as with French Fries or "Frenched" Fries (which are actually from Belgium) it was a shortening of the term "Toast in the manner of the French". Which kind of makes Ney & Jones look like idiots for over-reacting to France's disapproval of the 2003 invasion of Iraq with their "Freedom" Fry/Toast movement in the House Cafeterias. I think they should have given the toast it's due and simply referred to it as "Roman Toast". Not as "Patriotic" to be sure, but much less Patridiotic in the long run.

I'm just sayin'. (yeah, I know, I'm always "just sayin' somethin" and someday it's gonna get me in trouble) ;)

But be it known as French Toast, Freedom Toast, Arme Riddere, Poor Knights of Windsor, Gypsy Toast, Torrija, Nun's Toast, Lost Bread, Fattiga Riddare, Spanish Toast, Pain a la Romaine, German Toast, Wentelteefjes or Bread Sauteed, it is positively exquisite. That toasted exterior hiding the creamy custard like interior with a hint of sweet cinnamon. So delicious, in fact, that it spawned the famous Monte Cristo Sandwich. So I say, eat several slices as a part of your "nutritionally complete breakfast".

Roman Toast

1 day old Bread; Preferably a "long" loaf you can slice
1 cup Half & Half
3 Large Eggs
1 TB Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
pinch of Kosher Salt

Slice the bread into 3/4 inch slices (Take the 8 largest ones from the center and use the rest for bread crumbs)

Preheat oven to 375 and place a cooling rack on a baking sheet; place in the oven (for finishing off the toast)

Whisk Half & Half, Eggs, Sugar, Cinnamon and Salt in a small bowl.

Pour this mixture into a 9 or 10 inch pie plate.

Set up a second cooling rack on a sheet pan for draining.

Dip each slice of bread into the mixture and let it soak for 20 seconds before turning and allowing to soak for 20 more seconds.

Move each saturated piece to the draining rack and let set for a couple minutes to allow the bread to finish absorbing the "batter".

Meanwhile, begin heating a skillet with 1 TB of Olive oil (Yes, olive oil, not butter; that is for the topping when you eat it) LOL

Place 3-4 slices in the skillet and sear for 2-3 minutes, before turning.

Then sear 2-3 minutes on the second side as well.

Move the finished toasts to the oven while continuing with the remaining slices. (add another TB of oil if needed)

Serve with your choice of toppings, such as Maple Syrup, Whipped Cream and Fresh Fruit...

Or my personal favorite... Butter, a Lemon Wedge and a sprinkle of Confectioners' Sugar .

Or, like my mom, A LOT of Confectioners' Sugar.... it all depends on taste.



Spryte said...

Yum!! I love it no matter what you call it!

Patti T. said...

This is making me very hungry this morning, as I sit here with my usual breakfast of a cup of yogurt, sigh.