Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
It’s 2020. Go nuts and have breakfast for dinner.
On top of the nostalgically fun feel, breakfast dishes are typically quick-cooking and rely heavily on low-cost pantry staples, making them perfect for a weeknight when you can’t go out. And if Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard aren't already staples in your pantry, they ought to be. Here, they add a hefty dose of salt, savoriness and depth to time-honored French toast, turning it from a safe brunch order into a sophisticated-feeling main meal. This dish can stand on its own, especially for two, but it can also be bulked up by accompanying sides like fruit salad, sausage or hashbrowns for hungrier groups.
I like challah’s distinctly fluffy interior, but if you have any other kind of thick-cut bread on hand, that works too. You’ll cut a hole in the center of each slice of bread to create space to hold an egg, but there’s no need to discard that excess portion. Aside from the fluffy middle being arguably the best part of challah (and perfect for snacking), you can also save the pieces for making breadcrumbs in a food processor or croutons by tossing with olive oil and salt and toasting in a 375° F oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Both applications work well with leftover (aka slightly stale) bread.
To play off another usual suspect on the breakfast table, I made a quick jam using tomatoes. It’s a welcome source of acidity that also adds sweetness, the “maple syrup” of this French toast rendition, if you will. Because of the added sugar needed to thicken the mixture into a jam, the tomatoes don’t have to be perfectly plump and juicy. I used halved cherry tomatoes here because I prefer that visual effect over roughly diced larger tomatoes, but any kind of tomato would work instead.
While many jam recipes involve a low-and-slow cooking process in a high-sided saucepan, I wanted to see if I could speed up the process to keep it weeknight-friendly. So I opted for higher heat than I’d usually employ for jam-making, and I used a skillet to provide more surface area. That cut the cooking time down from an hour to just about 20 minutes, while still achieving that crucial jammy texture, which will continue to thicken as the mixture cools and sets. The tomatoes also stayed more intact with this method, something I preferred over the more homogenous jam you get from low-and-slow cooking.
If there’s any extra jam once you’ve served it with the French toast, you can always reheat it on the stovetop or with a quick zap in the microwave and add it to savory foods that might benefit from a sweet accent, like burgers or basic scrambled eggs. But I also enjoyed it straight out of the fridge (it will keep well for several days in an airtight container) the same way I do onion jam, spooned onto crackers and topped with any salty cheese.
Bubbles were a no-brainer for this wine pairing. Sparkling wine with breakfast food just feels right, no matter what time of day it is. That’s especially true when looking for a refreshing contrast to rich ingredients like butter and cheese. I went with a simple and accessible sparkling wine from South Africa, Graham Beck Brut Robertson NV. The wine’s mousse and its apple-tinged acidity provided a nice foil here, with brioche notes reflecting the central ingredient of the dish. It’s inexpensive and easy to find, but if you want to elevate the moment and pull out a Champagne, go for it. Uncertain times are a perfect excuse for breaking out the good stuff.
8 & $20: Savory French Toast with Tomato Jam
Pair with a light style of sparkling wine, preferably with orchard fruit and bread notes such as Graham Beck Brut Robertson NV (88 points, $18).
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25
For the tomato jam:
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar
For the French toast:
- 5 eggs, divided
- 1/4 cup whole or reduced fat milk
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 4 slices of challah, about 1/2 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. For the jam: Set a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, then cover and cook for 5 minutes. At this point, the sugar should be dissolved and the tomato skins should be wilted. Uncover, stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Let the tomatoes simmer while you start the French toast, giving them another stir every once in a while, until thickened and jammy, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a heat-proof glass bowl to cool.
2. While the jam is simmering, add 1 egg, milk, Dijon, Worcestershire, garlic powder, parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper (about 5) to a large, shallow rimmed dish and whisk to combine.
3. For each slice of challah, use the rim of a narrow glass (2 to 2 1/2-inch diameter) to cut a circular hole in the center by pressing down firmly for several seconds and then carefully removing the cut-out portion. (Sometimes it helps to flip the slice of bread and press firmly again from the other side.) Save for another use. Have the 4 uncracked eggs and one small bowl standing by.
4. In a large pan over medium-high heat, working in batches if needed to fit the slices in an even layer, melt 1 tablespoon of butter for every two slices until the butter bubbles, 1 to 2 minutes. Dip each slice of challah in the egg mixture and add to the pan. Let cook for about 3 minutes until crisp and browned, then flip. For each slice, crack an egg into the small bowl and then add it to the hole in the center and season the egg with salt and pepper. Let cook until the bottom side of the bread has browned, about 2 minutes, then flip one more time and let the egg cook for 10 seconds before carefully transferring to a plate. Serve immediately with the tomato jam. Serves 2 to 4.