Country Pain Perdu
At nearly ninety years old, Phila Hach has racked up a collection of catering stories that prove her "making-do" philosophy isn't just something she likes to say.
She once hauled dinner across the state from Nashville to Roots author Alex Haley's home in East Tennessee. At Knoxville, three hours from Nashville, she realized she had left the chess and fudge pies at home. The desserts had been specifically requested. So she pulled off at the nearest Kroger grocery store. "I'm going to need to borrow your bakery," she told the manager.
And then she gathered ingredients to whip up enough pies to feed more than a hundred people. When she arrived at the Haleys', she not only had the pies, they were still warm, and they filled the author's home with the rich aromas of chocolate, butter, and vanilla.
When friends visit, as they often do, she still displays the ingenuity and resourcefulness she's called on for years, like many who grew up in this region. She might pull together this pain perdu made with half a loaf of nearly stale bread and egg yolks (saving the whites for her grandmother's meringue cookies). Topped with tomato and slices of bacon and paired with a grated carrot salad, it's simple, chic, and as comfortable on the place in Tennessee as it is in Europe. "What more could you want?" she asked.
Cooking MethodPan-frying, Sauteeing
Total Timeunder 1 hour
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe CourseMain Course
Dietary ConsiderationPeanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free
Five Ingredients or LessYes
MealBrunch, Dinner, Lunch
Taste and TextureRich, Savory
Type of DishSandwich
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cups (315 ml) whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup (60 g) yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 small tomatoes
- 4 thickly cut slices bread (I used Tuscan-style boule)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks, milk, salt, and pepper.
In separate bowl, combine the cornmeal and oregano. Slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels.
Place the bread flat in a casserole dish. Pour the egg custard mixture over it and let it sit while you heat a sauté pan over medium-high. Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of oil--just enough to coat the pan--and then 1 tablespoon butter. When the oil and butter are hot carefully move the bread with a spatula from the casserole pan to the sauté pan.
Fry the bread for about 2 minutes on each side until it is golden and browning and crispy in places. Set the bread aside. Remove the pan from the heat and add the bacon. Fry until they reach the desired crispness.
Meanwhile, dredge the tomatoes in the cornmeal mixture. When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan and pour it off a bit of the grease, leaving just about 1 tablespoon, and then fry the tomatoes for about 2 minutes each side until the cornmeal mixture is lightly browned.
Top the bread and the tomatoes and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Drape bacon across the tomatoes and serve.
2015 Jennifer Justus