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Author Notes: The béchamel here is exactly as I learned it from my mother many years ago, with a couple of adulterations which likely have her rolling in her grave. First the similarity: 2, 2, and 2, the easy-to-remember ingredients for the “white sauce,” as she called it. The departures: first you’re going to fry bacon in a saucepan and use its fat as your point of departure for the, uh, béchamel. And you’re going to use whole milk, not 2%, and certainly not (saints preserve us) non-fat. You’ll chop up the bacon and add it to the softened cream cheese (no, you won’t kill anyone if it sits at room temp for several hours) along with some snips of fresh chives to make the filling for the French toast. Best of all, you can prepare everything to this point a day in advance! Make the béchamel, cool it, and refrigerate it overnight. Stuff the slices of Texas Toast (I know, very un-French, but work with me, please), and refrigerate them overnight. In the morning, reheat the béchamel in a bain marie (a fancy name for a stainless steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water), dip the bread in beaten eggs, fry them up, and voilà, a heavenly, elegant holiday breakfast. By the way, this doubles and triples easily.
For the Bacony Béchamel
- 6 slices bacon, fried and fat reserved
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk, warmed in the microwave for 5 minutes
- Sea or kosher salt
- White pepper
For the Filling and the French Toast
- 4 slices Texas Toast
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
- Chopped bacon
- 2 tablespoons snipped chives
- Sea or kosher salt
- White pepper
- 4 eggs, whisked
- 2-4 tablespoons butter
- Snips of fresh chives for garnish
- To make the béchamel, fry the bacon until quite crisp in a stainless steel saucepan. I know, this will feel weird, but persevere; in the end, you’ll clean up fewer pans. When done, remove to a plate lined with paper towels. You’ll need a good 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Eyeball it, you’ll be fine. If not enough, add some butter; if too much, pour a bit off.
- Add the flour and cook to a pale golden color. Begin pouring in the warm milk in approximate half-cup (4-ounce) increments. After each addition, whisk vigorously until mixture smoothes out completely before adding more warm milk. You'll simultaneously be deglazing up all those lovely browned bits from the bottom of the pan. After the last addition, mixture will appear thin, but smooth. Switch to a flat-topped spatula at this point, as it will make continuous contact with the bottom of the pan, where a whisk will not. Over medium heat, stir constantly with the spatula until the sauce comes to a mild boil and thickens. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and white pepper (because it’s a white sauce, you know).
- If preparing in advance, cool to 70 degrees (I keep plastic water bottles of frozen water in the freezer for this) before refrigerating overnight with a sheet of plastic wrap in contact with the surface of the sauce to prevent a “skin” from forming.
- Now prepare the filling. Use a food processor or a bowl and a wooden spoon. If the former, break up the cream cheese with your fingers and drop chunks into the bowl of the food processor. Break up the strips of bacon and add them. Use the Pulse button to incorporate the ingredients. If using a bowl, also break up the cream cheese with your fingers, and add the bacon which you’ve chopped up on a cutting board. Work together using a wooden spoon. Whichever mixing method you’re using, at the last add the snipped chives (as in with scissors because they are less bruising than using a knife), and pulse or stir them in. DON’T turn your filling green! Taste, and season as needed with salt and white pepper (because it’s a white filling).
- Prepare your slices of Texas Toast for being filled. Lay each slice of bread flat. Using a paring knife, cut a slit along one side beginning 1/4” from the corner, and cutting through the center in straight strokes to a 1/2” perimeter along the side and opposing crusts. Pinch up opposing sides of each slice of bread so that the pocket opens. Use a teaspoon (such as you would use to stir coffee) to spoon up filling into the pocket. Plan on 2 or 3 scoops per slice. After filling, gently press each slice flat to distribute the filling throughout the pocket. If preparing in advance, lay each slice on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cover entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigeration a good hour or so before planning to fry so that everything can come close to room temperature.
- If you’ve prepared everything in advance, when you start coffee before opening presents, also start a pot of water to simmer. Remove your béchamel from the fridge and take off the plastic wrap. Set its bowl over the warming water. Every 15 minutes or so, give it a whisk. By the time you are ready to prepare breakfast, the sauce should be beautifully warmed and the filled slices should have lost some of their cold edge.
- Prepare the French Toast as you traditionally would. Begin warming a cast iron pan/griddle or other type of skillet. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter onto it. Whisk the eggs together. Pour them onto a flat surface (a plate, a baking sheet). Dip each side of the stuffed breads, as well as all four sides, into the eggs, then lay onto the hot surface. When nicely browned on one side, turn and fry until browned on the other side. Remove each slice to a plate, ladle some of the warmed béchamel over it, snip some fresh chives over, and serve to your lovely family.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Holiday Breakfast II