I couldn't eat much of anything this terrible, sad weekend, but as my desire to cook has slowly returned, I'm turning to comfort foods. I made pan-seared steaks with a dried-and-fresh-mushroom pan sauce and it was just really nice to serve John and Nathan one of their favorite meals.
I made a good amount of the mushroom sauce with savory French toast in the back of my mind. If you only enjoy French toast for breakfast, you're missing out on a terrific and fast lunch or dinner. I used gluten-free bread for the pic (and my stomach), but if I could eat gluten I'd use challah. Any type of bread works nicely, though, really what you have on hand. Because that's the point - savory French toast is a filling, comforting base for leftovers of almost any type, on the table quickly.
If you're not a mushroom fan, try spinach sauteed with garlic, perhaps with a spot of sausage in the mix as well, perhaps with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Or thin slices of ham and a spoonful of braised beans. Or roasted squash and fried sage leaves. Or in the summer, slices of ripe tomato and crispy bacon. (Best. Thing. Ever.) French toast is rich, so a touch of acid and a shower of black pepper strike a delicious balance.
In case you ARE a mushroom fan, the sauce below is a terrific finish for any pan-seared meat that leaves lovely, crusty drippings behind: chicken, steaks, lamb, venison, veal, pork. Just stir the completed sauce into the hot pan juices, scraping the pan while simmering for a couple of minutes. That's it. However, the sauce is also rich and flavorful on its own, thanks to the beauty of dried wild mushrooms. And sherry. And butter.
Savory French Toast with Mushrooms
1/3 c. dry sherry
2/3 c. water
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
6 oz. fresh mushrooms, quartered
4 Tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
few gratings of fresh nutmeg (optional)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh herbs (thyme or tarragon or whichever you like best; optional)
1 Tbsp. heavy cream or sour cream (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 c. milk or half-and-half
pinch of salt
4 slices bread (challah, country bread, sandwich bread, gluten-free, any type works)
2 Tbsp. high heat oil (sunflower or safflower)
2 Tbsp. butter
For the mushrooms:
Combine sherry and water in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot (steaming). Add dried porcini mushrooms to the pan and remove from heat. Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring the mushrooms a couple of times, until mushrooms are soft. Using your hands, scoop mushrooms from the liquid and squeeze excess liquid back into the pan, reserving the liquid. Coarsely chop mushrooms and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add fresh mushrooms to the pan, along with a generous pinch of salt. Stir around so the mushrooms are coated with butter, then let them be for a few minutes until they start to brown. Give them another stir, add the porcini mushrooms and garlic, and saute for another 5-7 minutes until the whole pan is browned and glaze-y.
Pour the porcini soaking liquid into the skillet of mushrooms, leaving the sediment that will have settled to the bottom of the saucepan behind. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to thicken the sauce a bit. Stir in the squeeze of fresh lemon juice (to taste). Stir in optional nutmeg and/or fresh herbs and/or cream or sour cream and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
For the French toast:
In a pie plate, beat together the eggs, milk, and pinch of salt. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, dip both sides of the bread in the egg/milk mixture and add to the hot pan. Fry bread until golden brown, then flip and brown the second side. Transfer French toast to plates and serve immediately with warm mushrooms.