Whoever said French toast had to be sweet? This savory version — spiked with Parmesan, mustard powder, garlic, and hot sauce — is perfect for a Saturday brunch, Sunday lunch, or even a quick weeknight dinner. I'm thinking breakfast (and "breakfast for dinner") just got a whole lot tastier!
Back when I was still a single gal, living with a handful of other young Southerners in a retro Venice bungalow, weekends were always a reason to celebrate. Saturdays usually started out with a round of freshly squeezed orange juice mimosas, and someone would often volunteer to whip up a carb-fueled breakfast feast. My favorite dish was my roommate Jack's signature deep-fried French toast, which could only be matched by his perfect mint julep. Pure decadence!
Gone are those lazy days with nothing on the schedule but beach snoozes and bike rides, but whipping up a batch of French toast will always take me back to California living. I've had plenty of time to tweak the recipe over the years, including this savory version — my latest and greatest spin on the classic. Since I actually prefer savory to sweet when it comes to breakfast, it was natural for this recipe to evolve towards salty and cheesy.
I seriously love everything about this dish, as it really offers a nice alternative to the typical syrup-laden brunch. Ground mustard, hot sauce, and garlic give the basic custard some kick, while Parmesan really takes it to another dimension.
Of course, frying the toasts in a generous amount of oil doesn't hurt anything, but if you're making this for a crowd or whipping it up on a weekday, feel free to bake the French toast in the oven or just brown the slices in a little butter in a pan. But trust me, a quarter-inch of canola oil and a cast iron skillet really are the secrets to transcendent French toast, so given the options, why not go all the way?
Savory Parmesan French Toast
Serves 2 to 4
Neutral cooking oil, such as canola or peanut oil, for frying
whole or 2% milk
grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
dry mustard powder, or more to taste
hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
slices good-quality bread, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
Freshly minced herbs, such as chives or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Turn the oven to the warming setting. Line a sheet pan with paper towels and set it near your workspace.
Combine the eggs, milk, and cream in a blender and pulse until well combined. Transfer mixture to an 8x8 baking dish or shallow pan. Whisk in the Parmesan, mustard powder, salt, hot sauce, and a very generous amount of black pepper, followed by the garlic clove.
Pour about 1/4- to 1/2-inch of oil into a large cast iron skillet (or heavy, flat-sided pan) and heat over medium to medium-high heat until the temperature of the oil reaches 365°F to 375°F on an instant-read thermometer.
While the oil is heating, add 2 pieces bread to the batter and soak, flipping frequently, until thoroughly saturated with liquid, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bread to the hot oil and cook until the bread is golden brown; flip and continue cooking, about 2 minutes per side. (Reduce or increase heat, as necessary, to keep oil temperature around 365°F.)
Gently shake excess oil from the bread and place on the paper towel-lined sheet pan. Pat the toast with additional paper towels to remove excess oil, if necessary. Transfer the sheet pan to oven to keep warm, and continue cooking the remaining bread.
Garnish the French toast with chopped herbs and Parmesan cheese. Serve with a lightly tossed side salad and additional condiments such as bacon jam, tomato jam, or pesto, if desired.
Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container and reheated in the toaster oven.
This recipe was originally published February 2014.