The Northeast had a blizzard over the weekend, so we were obligated BY TRADITION to have French Toast for breakfast. The tradition, of course, stems from the long-standing habit of New Englanders to run out and stock up on milk, bread, and eggs just prior to a major snowstorm, since we all remember The Blizzard of 1978 like it was yesterday. Even if we didn’t remember it, the local media have no problem reminding us about it every time we get a snowstorm. Blogger friend Adam Gaffin, who runs Universal Hub, even has a French Toast Alert System that he trots out every time there’s a snowstorm, and this weekend’s stormwas an unprecedented 5- SLICE alert.
We tend to use challah or brioche for French toast, if we can get it. Supermarkets around here have wised up and make challah when the weather threatens, some stores even making it in square loaf pans without the braiding, to make better French toast slices. The loaf we were able to get in the pre-storm frenzy was braided. Texas Toast bread will do in a pinch, as well.
My wife used a method she was on a recent America’s Test Kitchen segment where you pour the custard into a sheet pan, dip the slices there, and then bake the whole pan, flipping once, and finishing in the broiler. It worked pretty well. You can see that the final product doesn’t have some of the color variation you usually see on French toast slices, but it did brown under the broiler nicely, and wasn’t too mushy on the inside.
Our town got about 14 inches of snow, which is a decent amount but not a record-breaker. Boston itself got just shy of 24 inches, which was a record. No word on how many loaves of French toast were consumed, but it was probably a wicked lot.
Mac & Cheese’s fancy cousin. I usually make this with egg noodles instead of pasta shapes, but I had a box of elbows. I also had some “fancy” tuna we bought on our last excursion to Eataly in Boston.
I stopped using Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for tuna casserole a few years ago, when my lactose intolerance was especially severe and taking no hostages. I also switched to Daiya shredded cheddar. Even though things have improved on the LI front, I have come to prefer Daiya for any macaroni-and-cheese combo, and I have stuck with the homemade white sauce, too. In cooking school, we learned a 1-1-1 ratio of milk, butter, and flour for bechamel, although I know there are some recipes that change that a bit. I steep about half a cup of dried portobello mushrooms in boiling water for twenty minutes, chop the reconstituted mushrooms, and throw the mushrooms and the liquid in the white sauce.
This tuna casserole has diced green bell pepper and yellow onion along with the tuna, cheese, and mushroom sauce. Sometimes I also like to stir in some Durkee French-fried onions, a la green bean casserole, but didn’t have any on hand.
Country-style pork ribs in mushroom-onion gravy, sauteed green beans with garlic and red pepper flakes, rice pilaf
This barely qualifies as cooking in my book. I browned the pork in a skillet, sweated down some onions, and dumped in two cans of mushroom gravy, then put it in the oven for half an hour to finish. Microwave green beans until barely tender, then sautee in olive oil with some sliced garlic and toss with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Rice pilaf mix from a box. Less than an hour, but a nice, warm, comforting meal on a winter evening.
After feasting on so many luze things over the New Year’s weekend, I needed a little simple comfort food, so I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich and a nice hot bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup (not shown). You’ll excuse the bite in the sandwich, but it was calling my name and I had to try it before I remembered to pull out my phone and snap a photo.
I always use milk in my Campbell’s Tomato Soup, since that’s how my mother always made it for me when I was growing up. In fact, I don’t thinl I ever had it made with water until long after I was an adult, and, I’m sorry, that’s just not the way it should be. I also love a pat of butter melting on the top, and lots of freshly ground black pepper in the soup. I’ve made my own creamy tomato soup a few times, but I don’t know if I like it any better than the Campbell’s.
American cheese is usually what I use in a homemade grilled cheese, but I like ’em with other cheeses as well. I like to watch Binging With Babish on YouTube, and he made some particularly interesting grilled cheese sandwiches that I have on my must-try list. For comfort food, though, it’s Kraft American Singles all the way. Also, real butter on the bread. I like to melt about a tablespooj of butter in the microwave and pour the melted butter on the bread slices before grilling. That lets the butter really soak into the bread a bit. Don’t even talk to me about using mayo on the outside of the bread.
Together, the creamy soup and the melty cheese toastie were a plain-and-wholesome antidote to the posh noshes I’d been eating all weekend. It snowed at the end of last week, and in retrospect I kind of wish I’d saved them until the snow day, but maybe there will be another opportunity for that trifecta before winter is over.