Monday, March 9, 2009

Those Friggin' French - And Their Toast

Have you ever cooked something that just turned out like crap? Well, I have...and it hasn't been pretty. Once, for a dinner club that Significant Eater and I belong to, it was my turn to cook. I did a Venetian dinner and everything came out great...everything, that is, except dessert. It was a Venetian dinner, and desserts were Pinza di Pane (bread pudding) along with a polenta shortcake with dried fruits and pine nuts...a Marcella recipe - MARCELLA, mind you. Well, they both sucked - big time. Dry, mealy and basically inedible. Now, I'm not faulting the recipes, mind you, but here's my TOTD - try something out on yourself before you try it out on your friends. Much laughter ensued, and to this day, those desserts are still the subject of derision. Never to be lived down. Fortunately, everyone was quite lubed up by the time dessert rolled around, and we just enjoyed more cheeses and wine instead.

Which brings me to my latest gaffe. We spent the weekend with some old friends, and is my style, I always bring along some goodies - and try to help prepare a meal or two for our hosts. I brought along a big sampler bag from Kossar's (see my previous post), along with a challah bread,a big hunk of Nueske's bacon and a pound of Intellegentsia Ethiopian. I had in mind preparing a breakfast of French toast (using the challah) and bacon - how bad could that be?

I haven't made French toast in ages...but it used to be a staple breakfast. A couple of slices of bread, dipped in eggs mixed with milk, a bit of vanilla, some cinammon and pan-fried in a good knob of butter. Along with some great maple syrup or maybe some powdered sugar..all is well. This time, however, I decided to soak the bread for a bit longer and then cook it on a sheet pan in the oven. Oy - was it ever bad. Dry, crumbly, stuck to the pan...everything French toast shouldn't be. Just awful. Of course, our friends tried to make me feel good by saying, "no, it's delish, just pour some syrup on it" and all that, but it wasn't, and here's the proof...

Made me think back to that Venetian dinner, and my inedible bread pudding. And what is it with me and bread? Bread puddings, to be precise. And what about my tip of the day (TOTD) - I had never tried this method before, and obviously should be listening to my own advice. Julia always said that cooking and baking were all about the art of camouflage. But there was nothing to be done to this to make it look (or taste) any better than it was. Well, nothing that is, except serve a lot of the accompaniment, which is really hard to screw up. Made everyone happy...even those who pretended that the French toast was good. I wouldn't know - I didn't eat a bite.

Oh, and I helped with dinner that night - Bucatini all'Amatriciana. Got raves. Cooked it many time before. So from now on, I'm following my own advice. And so should you.


  1. ah yes. the bread pudding. stuff of legends.

  2. Yep - you still remember, eh? I thought maybe everyone had drank too much.

  3. Good advice, which I, myself, rarely follow! Once I brought a "wonderful, simple cheesecake" to my Mom to be served at the afternoon coffee klatsch with her neighbor. Both my mom and the neighbor are German -- need I say more? The recipe was a Mark Bittman NY Times piece and sounded great. Well, basically, it sucked, and my mom and I had a screaming fight about it. The neighbor was very polite and had a second piece, but we knew . . .

  4. I learned that lesson (try if on yourself first) when I volunteered to make Chocolate Mousse for dessert for T'giving dinner for 20 friends. I had successfully made chocolate mousse for 2, but never for 20. It tasted like mousse, but had the consistency of Elk!

    Thanks Mitch


  5. Charles you may be on to something with elk mousse.
    Everyone has a kitchen tragedy the time you came for a weekend and I f*cked up the simplest of things. For the entire weekend.

  6. hello -- in general venetian desserts are not that great. seriously: look at the bakeries. in my experience the home cooks could care less about dessert... much more interest on the antipasti and first course. on another topic, i really appreciate your comments on neighborhood spots (kossar's...) since i have moved into the LES (East Broadway) sort of half-time from Montreal recently... do you know what that blue building a little north of us is?