French toast


French toast, extreme edition

The yummiest, stickiest way to use up stale bread.

Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93

In 1974 the University of Chicago Press reissued Alma Lach’s (EX’38) Cooking à la Cordon Bleu (1970) as Hows and Whys of French Cooking, with a new section of provincial menus and recipes added at the end.

For those of us intimidated by the prospect of trying to learn haute cuisine, alone and weeping in an American kitchen, these recipes are simpler—slightly simpler. The first one, chicken breasts in pâté sauce (from Alsace), requires the cook to debone the chicken breasts and slice them in half horizontally, then pour cognac over it all and set aflame. That’s before you begin to make the sauce.

So on to Flanders, which “in its food preferences”—hearty stews served with beer—“is closer to neighboring Belgium than to France,” Lach writes. The suggested menu includes Carbonade Flamande (beer stew), Pommes de Terre Bouillies (boiled potatoes), Salade Chaude à la Flamande (hot lettuce salad), Pain Ordinaire (French bread), and Galopins (bread pancakes), with beer to drink.

I was intrigued by the bread pancakes, which sounded like French toast turned up to 11, but “end up tasting like fried custard,” in Lach’s description. Alas, even this plain-seeming recipe required a fair amount of dexterity (and a lot of butter) to prevent the cakes from sticking to the pan. Despite their imperfect appearance, the finished cakes were indeed custardy and delicious.


Extra credit: Logical cuisine

Lifelong Hyde Parkers, Alma Lach, EX’38, and Donald Lach, PhD’41, served as resident masters in Shoreland Hall from 1978 to 1981. Trained first at the Cordon Bleu, Alma continued her culinary education on research trips with her husband, who authored a multivolume study, Asia in the Making of Europe, and became the University’s Bernadotte E. Schmitt professor in history.

Traveling to India, Nepal, Ceylon, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and beyond, Lach came to believe “that there are two great and logical cuisines in the world—Chinese and French,” the New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne wrote in 1968. She had a theory that “through some bizarre turns of history and navigation the French was derived from the Chinese.” The close relationship was evident, she thought, in some of the brown sauces.—Elizabeth Station

Read more about Lach's cooking career.


Les Galopins

1 1/2 c milk
6 slices bread or 6-inch piece of French bread
2 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla
dash salt
1/8 lb butter

Bring milk to a boil. Take from heat. Add the bread and let soak ten minutes. Mash with a fork and then beat with a whisk. Beat eggs, vanilla, and salt together until light. Add to the bread mixture. Beat. The mixture should have the consistency of pancake batter—a little on the moist side. Adjust thickness with more bread or milk.

Heat a skillet. Add a piece of butter. Spoon batter into the skillet to make pancakes. Brown both sides.

Serve topped with more butter and sprinkle with sugar.


Photography by Tom Tian, AB’10 (Tian also helped flip the pancakes.)