Apple-Gruyère French Toast With Red Onion

This is a recipe for the weekend. Different enough and a bit more involved than your everyday oatmeal, but still feasible on a hazy, late morning. French toast does well in a savory version with apples, cheese, and red onion. Challah bread makes this feel extra indulgent. Indulgent, not bad. It’s not like you’re eating chips and calling it a meal. This is just a combination of real foods that together make something special and rich.

Melissa Clark offers this up as an alternative to latkes during Hanukkah. Eight days and only one traditional food – why? – she asks. It’s a valid question. And this Apple-Gruyère French Toast With Red Onion is a solid answer.

I’m not Jewish, but a couple of my elementary school teachers were and we celebrated with them every year. I spun the dreidel. I tried potato pancakes as a second grader. I think those teachers would appreciate Clark’s French toast.

Me? I’ll enjoy this whenever.

Clark asks that you cut a seriously thick and precise slice of this bulbous loaf. I measured it. So. Thick.

Don’t worry about the line that casually instructs you to create a pocket in a slice of bread. It threw me off at first, but in the end wasn’t a big deal. Bon Appetempt (latest blog crush) has a good picture of the bread pocket for you. All the cheese and onions didn’t fit in the bread pocket. No sweat. Use it later or sprinkle the extra cheese on at the end.

At one point you have to flip over the toast. Don’t be afraid. Just GO for it in one quick move. Surprisingly, everything stays together.

The crust of the bread crisps up. Browned, thin slices of apple blend into a soft, brown loaf. Onions add a slight sweetness and pungency, and melty cheese keeps you from putting down your fork.

An arugula salad on the side would be nice for next time. If I were out of red onions, I’d use shallots. Next time I’ll play around with some herbs – maybe rosemary? I almost never say no to rosemary.

I don’t know what restraint came over me to stop the suggested fried egg from topping off this meal. I so frequently top a pile of greens or rice with a fried egg and call it dinner. Anyway, there’s no doubt that a runny yolk would be sublime on this French toast. Do it.

p.s. the leftover challah loaf is fantastic when turned into regular toast and buttered up.

apple-gruyère french toast with red onion

serves 2, recipe from Melissa Clark for The New York Times

  • 2 1 3/4-inch-thick slices challah bread from middle of loaf
  • ~ 3/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (3 ounces )
  • 1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small apple, cored, quartered and very thinly sliced
  • 2 fried eggs (optional)

Start with the bottom crust of a slice facing you. Begin cutting horizontally into the slice to make a pocket. Cut a bit into the sides of the loaf to open up the pocket. Do not cut all the way to the top of the slice; bread should remain attached there. Tuck half the cheese and onion slices into pocket. Repeat with other slice.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper to make the custard. Pour the custard into a wide, shallow dish. Soak stuffed bread in custard, turning once halfway through, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the apple slices in a single layer and cook for 1 minute. Don’t worry about getting them perfectly aligned to the bread, just line the pan. Place bread slices in pan, covering apples. Arrange remaining apple slices on top of bread; cook 1 minute more.

Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium; cook until bottoms are golden, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn bread and apples and cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve topped with fried eggs if desired.

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