Fernet French Toast
Too far? No. Not at all.
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
So John Kiely beat me to the weird-French-Toast punch with his piece on French Toasted Tortillas, simultaneously making me shake my fist a la Jerry Seinfeld, muttering his name under my breath, and creating what is probably an unhealthy fixation on the idea of French Toast Enchiladas. I'm a life-long lover of pain perdu in all of its many forms, though, so I have absolutely no problem adding to the list of oddball options.
This one was sort of a happy accident, a comedy of errors mixed with a bit of free association, vividly reminding me of playing Telephone in grade school, purple monkey dishwasher. I don't even remember the details, just that some combination of local food blogger/photographer/notable lush Matt Chow, Anvil bartender Matt Tanner, and I read between lines that didn't really exist, culminating in the flash of genius that is Fernet French Toast. Twitter: catalyst for ridiculousness and brilliance in equal measure.
I spent several weeks intending to get around to it, planning to get fancy with a Brioche base, and Maple Chantilly Cream on top. That didn't happen. Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.
What did happen, a couple of weeks ago, was a last minute proof-of-concept breakfast. I didn't write out a recipe or record my process very closely. When I make Fernet French Toast again, which I will, it will likely be different. I just wanted to see if it would be terrible or wonderful; an in-between result seemed somehow unfathomable.
In brief, I combined a few eggs, a splash of milk, a bit of brown sugar, and a dash of flour for a basic French Toast dredge. A few slices of cheap sandwich bread took a turn through a low oven, as my lack of planning found me without actual stale bread on hand. After a few "normal" slices of French Toast hit the griddle (I wasn't sure that Fernet French Toast would either be appropriate for or appreciated by my kids), I added a shot or so of Fernet, whisked it into the batter, and took a step toward (in)fam(e)(y).
As I'd hoped, the Fernet added its unique flavor in subtle ways, bringing a haunting depth of flavor, subtly savory and uniquely sweet, with just a trace of freshening menthol. Even a little bit more would likely have overwhelmed the simple flavor of French Toast; anyone familiar with Fernet knows that it can be pretty aggressive, and nobody wants medicinal French Toast.
Paired with some decent-quality maple syrup, the Fernet somehow made the French Toast taste more like itself, amplifying the underlying flavors while adding a spicy undercurrent and an air of mystery. Now that I've proven the concept, I really do intend to go about this properly. A nice loaf of brioche, thickly cut; some Way Back When Dairy cream, whipped to soft peaks with a bit of maple syrup; maybe a dusting of some appropriate spice blend on top. I foresee a weekend in the near future, the night capped with Fernet, the morning opened with Fernet French Toast.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.