Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Having Elvis for breakfast


My latest column in today's Times-News.

French toast fit for The King: a twist on an old favorite

By DREW LONG/Special to the Times-News

I don't know if Elvis ate French food, but I doubt it.
Still, it was The King that I was thinking about the other day when I was thinking about French toast.
Ah, French toast. The fancy cousin to pancakes that doesn't seem as fussy -- or European -- as crepes and more accessible than waffles for those of us without a waffle maker.
Growing up, French toast was always more common in the Long household than pancakes. Even with the add-water-and-stir-mixes that have been around longer than me, dipping bread in batter will always be easier than mixing and fussing with a batter patty.
Sure, you can't turn French toast into an art project (cactus-shaped pancakes, anyone?), but who cares? It's all about the taste, right? And when it comes to taste, French toast wins hands down.
OK, that's not necessarily true. Naked and alone, pancakes can taste better than French toast. But when you start introducing additional ingredients, French toast takes the cake.
As popular as it is to stick bits of fruit and nuts to pancakes, flapjacks are not the best vehicle to carry off the extra ingredients. Rather than gelling with the pancake, the add-ins just sit there like trail mix stuck in Jell-O.
That's not the case with French toast, which can just as easily be considered a battered and fried sandwich.
And that's why I was thinking of Elvis.
Anyone who knows anything about Elvis Aaron Presley knows the man had a love affair with a sandwich: peanut butter and bananas fried in butter. Those among you who haven't tried "The Elvis" haven't lived. The deliciously staggering amount of fat and calories, which are as much a part of the sandwich as the butter it's fried in, would have done The King in if the pharmaceuticals hadn't gotten him first.
So how can you improve on such a sandwich? Add syrup and powdered sugar.
The Elvis is a natural candidate for French toast. Basically, all you do is dip The Elvis in egg batter, fry it in butter and cover it with syrup and powdered sugar. I threw in a couple breakfast sausages to give the breakfast the savory balance such a sweet meal needs. Besides, The King was a good Southern boy who loved pork like he loved his mama.
The dish is phenomenal. Hot peanut butter dripping from the crispy French toast into an amber pool of syrup and sugar tastes as good as it sounds. You might be tempted to tell yourself the bananas offer some redeeming value, but we both know it's a lie. The sweetness and soft texture of the warmed-through bananas are what's important, not the potassium.
With only sticky residue remaining on the plate, you'll feel more like bloated Las Vegas Elvis than svelte "Viva Las Vegas" Elvis, but you'll see my point. More importantly, you'll see French toast in a whole new light.
You'll begin to see its potential. You'll realize that instead of peanut butter and bananas, you could use preserves and fresh fruit, or Nutella, the addictive chocolate and hazelnut spread. Instead of cinnamon raisin bread, you'll mull the possibility of egg bread or plain old white bread, the way Elvis would've wanted it.
You'll also understand why the pancake is so very limited.
You might even want to thank me for opening your eyes to the world of possibilities that is French toast, but don't.
Thank The King.

Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast

4 slices of cinnamon raisin bread (or whatever bread you have on hand)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons of milk
2 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 bananas, sliced into bite-sized disks
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
4 breakfast sausage links (or strips of bacon)

Take the sausages out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes ahead of time to allow them to lose some of their chill. Preheat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add the sausages. Cook the sausages for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness, until done.

While the sausages are cooking, prepare the egg batter by whisking together the eggs, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. Also, prepare the French toast by spreading the peanut butter on all 4 slices of bread, placing the bananas on 1 piece from each pair, and closing the sandwiches.

Once the sausages are cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the butter to the still hot pan -- the leftover pork fat in the pan will add extra flavor to the French toast -- and move the egg batter and sandwiches close to the stove. When the butter is melted, dip both sides of the first sandwich into egg mixture, coating thoroughly, let some of the batter drain off and add to the pan. Immediately do the same with the second sandwich.

Cook the French toast for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until the bread is crusty. Remove from the heat, cut in half and place on the plate. Before serving, drizzle with syrup, dust with powdered sugar and add the sausages.
(Tip: If you use thick slices of bread -- like me -- the French toast might need a little extra help in the oven to finish cooking. As you're getting started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If the sides of the sandwiches are still a bit moist with batter after cooking on the stove top, stick the pan into the preheated oven for about 3 minutes. Pull them out, cut them in half and add the syrup and sugar.)
Makes 2 hearty servings.

1 comment:

antoniabowden said...

This almost made Corey's head explode. There goes the diet...