Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cheddar-stuffed Challah French Toast served with caramelized Apples and Red Onions

Disclaimer: most of this post was written on December 2, 2010 but I had no camera with which to capture the truly majestic awesomeness of the dish. Kudos to our families for helping me to overcome that particular barrier, and for their ongoing interest in the recipes we recommend here.

It was the most wonderful time of the year, so they say. Twinkling lights, perky tunes, an abundance of invitations to schmooze with semi-strangers juggling alcoholic beverages and green-and-red themed hors d’oeuvre plates. December is also the season of butter and deep-fat fried foods. And I wasn’t sure I was ready for it.

We had had an epic Thanksgiving. There was more food than you could shake a stick at. Do’s sister and brother in law made a superb meal with at least 10 dishes. My father lovingly prepared and FedExed barbequed ribs from Texas. And the whole thing culminated with a glorious 9 course meal carefully arranged by Do and Spuds on Saturday. There was Harissa soup. There were meatballs. (The two together constituted only one course. Yeah. Think about that). It was three full days of indulgences.

In other words, on December 1st my digestive system was ready for Lent, not Advent.

After barely four days to recover, it was time to haul out the festive spirit and deck the halls for Hanukkah, the Holiday of Lights. (The Holiday of Deep Frying would be more apropos, unless by “lights” you mean the inevitable ensuing stovetop flames). Allow me to recommend this for a nontraditional take on the homey comfort that is holiday food: Cheddar-stuffed Challah French Toast served with caramelized Apples and Red Onions.

Let me skip to the punchline: it’s to die for.

The original recipe was published this time last year in the New York Times. As the original cook describes, this dish started as a gussied up grilled cheese for when your family gets sick of latkes, then morphed into something truly festive. It’s essentially a one-pot dish of creamy, cheese-y, custard-y goodness, but savory. It reminds me a lot of the Germanic flavors that my grandmother brought over with her from Prussia and passed on to her progeny, flavors that say “home” and “Christmas” and “Mommy” to me. More than dinner, this dish becomes a way to include my family heritage in celebrating a holiday from Do’s roots.

I made this dish for both the first and second nights of Hannukah (you can tell it was a success!), and this morning we finally settled on a permutation that’s good enough for the archives. We replaced her gruyere with a sharp cheddar (personal preference), added mozzarella for cheese-y gooeyness and goat cheese for unctuous luxurious flavor, caramelized the red onions in the pan along with the apples, and nixed the “stuffing” concept for the “sandwich” concept (way easier to handle, and the flavors are better integrated). With a little bit of mustard, I promise this version is way better.

Cheddar-stuffed French Toast With Caramelized Apples and Red Onions

  • 2 challah hamburger buns, or 4 1/2-inch-thick slices challah bread from middle of loaf. (If in the East Bay, Semifreddi’s is our fav).
  • 4 oz grated Cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 3 oz grated mozzarella (about ½ cup)
  • 5 oz goat cheese
  • 1 red onion, thickly sliced into half-moons.
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • kosher salt, ground black pepper, olive oil
  • 1 apple, cored, sliced
  • Really good quality French-style mustard.

1. Make the sandwiches: Grate cheddar and mozzarella, combine into one bowl. If using hamburger buns, gently remove “crust” from bottom and top to better allow the bread to soak up the egg. Spread goat cheese on the inside of all bread slices, and tuck as much of the cheddar/mozzarella mixture into the sandwiches as they will bear. Don’t worry if there’s leftover cheese.

2. Transform them into French toast: In a wide, shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Carefully, so as not to lose the cheese filling, soak the sandwiches in the egg mixture, turning once halfway through, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.

3. Cook with Glamour. Heat oil in

a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apple slices and the red onion in a single layer and cook for 2 minutes. Push them to the side of the pan and add the bread slices. Cook until bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn bread and apples and cook until bread is golden and the apples are caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes. Crumble any leftover cheese on top, and serve with mustard.

Yield: 2 servings.


That Girl said...

Cheddar stuffed challah? To Die For

Spuds said...


Johanna GGG said...

challah hamburger buns - never heard of such thing but this french toast sounds amazing - and I don't even eat french toast!

nice to hear you back in the blogosphere neen! thanks for visiting