I'm not the biggest fan of brunch, especially since around here, brunch seems to mean an excuse for people to pack restaurants and loudly drink too much booze before noon. I was totally on board with making brunch for dinner at home though. The greatest issue I faced with the brunch challenge was figuring out what to make because my first thought was something with eggs, which I've already made for so many challenges (like the egg scramble, gravlax omelette, poached eggs with polenta, fried eggs with corned beef hash and potatoes, leek and bacon tottins, and Western omelettes). I wanted to do something different, so A suggested French toast. That sounded good to me, but since it was for dinner, I decided to do a savory French toast using one of Kenji's recipes on Serious Eats along with some corned beef hash on the side since we still had some cans left.
The ingredients for our brunch challenge were:
- 4 slices of multigrain country bread ($0.62)
- 2 eggs ($0.40)
- 1/2 cup of milk ($0.14)
- 5 garlic cloves, minced ($0.08)
- 1/2 bunch of parsley, leaves finely chopped ($0.50)
- pinch of red pepper flakes ($0.05)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, grated ($1.20)
- a few tbsp of butter ($0.50)
- 5 scallions, chopped ($0.40)
- 1 can of corned beef hash ($2.49)
- 2 small bell peppers, chopped ($1.56)
- 2 small onions, chopped ($0.35)
The total cost of dinner was about $8.34. Excellent price for a dinner for 2. It would be pretty difficult to get brunch with this much food for that price outside.
I've never actually made French toast before since I'm not a huge breakfast person, so I stuck relatively closely to the recipe's instructions. First up was prep (chopping parsley, mincing garlic, grating parmesan, chopping scallions, and chopping onions and peppers for the hash). Next was preparing the egg mixture for the French toast - combining the egg, milk, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and a little bit of the parmesan cheese together in a large bowl. The rest of the parmesan went on a separate plate ready for the assembly line.
For each slice of toast, the process was to submerge both sides of the bread in the egg mixture and then coat it in parmesan cheese on each side. I'm not great at dredging things so the parmesan was uneven, but that was okay. The more noticeable issue for me was when I got to the last slice of bread. Apparently I hadn't broken down the egg whites as well as I thought when I was mixing up the eggs, so the egg mixture was really thick and I had to spread it on to the bread with my hands. There was a whole layer of fried egg on part of that piece of bread when it was done. Not intended, but not bad.
Once coated in the cheese and egg mixture, the bread got moved to a nonstick skillet in which I had melted some butter. I don't know how big Kenji's "large nonstick or cast iron skillet" is, but ours could not fit more than 1 piece of bread at a time. 2 slices wouldn't fit, so we definitely couldn't do 4 slices at a time like in the recipe. I ended up making all 4 slices separately, so it took much longer than I thought it would. Each slice cooked for about 5 minutes or so (a few minutes on each side) until golden brown (although after the first slice, most of the slices were just brown, and less golden). I put the finished slices in a 200 degree oven to stay warm until I finished the fourth slice.
While the French toast was in progress, we also put together the corned beef hash. I sauteed the peppers and onions in some butter in a large pan (and also about a third of the scallions from the French toast when I realized how many I had), and then A added the can of corned beef hash. Canned corned beef hash always looks so horrible and amusing right out of the can, but it does taste pretty good. A helped me out with this while I was working on the toast, so he broke down all the corned beef hash and mixed it together with the vegetables so that it could cook.
We let it cook for a while, basically until all of the slices of French toast were done. We tried to get the corned beef to brown as much as possible in the pan, since it seems to taste better that way. The corned beef hash was actually pretty good with the peppers and onions added in. Didn't taste the same as it would when you get the corned beef hash from a diner off the griddle (hasn't in the past either), but it was nice to have some vegetables mixed in this time.
Once both the corned beef hash and French toast were done, it was time to get it all on the plates and eat. The last step was to sprinkle the French toast with the remaining scallions and parsley. I didn't do a very good job plating it, but that's not really my forte. Generally, our feelings about the garnishes were that the parsley was fine, but the scallions didn't really add anything to the whole thing. They were just sharp, but didn't really complement anything. Could have gone without them.
I don't know if we have any cans of corned beef hash left, but if we do, I wouldn't mind adding peppers and onions to it again for a more balanced meal. There wouldn't have been many vegetables at all if I hadn't. As for the French toast, it was good. It was interesting having a more savory French toast since we've never had that before. The slice that had the most flavor actually turned out to be the last slice, which had the remainder of all the garlic, parsley, and seasonings that were left in the bowl. I guess the other slices didn't pick up as much of the flavor as we hoped they would, but they were still good. Overall, it was a fun experiment.