One of the many reasons I love the holidays is the rare gem of an ad that showcases the best qualities of human beings and/or the spirit of Christmas. They make me weep. Last year, it was the John Lewis man on the moon ad. This year, this one stole my heart. In s couple minutes, it manages to tell the most beautiful story, a story that made me ugly-cry:
One of the other reasons I love the holidays is the variety of baked goods in all the bakeries around town, challah being one of my favorites. It’s no secret that the eggy-malty bread makes amazing french toast. Treat the french toast like a grilled cheese with swiss or gruyere and top with maple-candied country ham and you’ve got yourself a winner for any holiday breakfast or brunch! This star is called the Monte Cerdo, or Pork Mountain.
If you’ve read my posts before, you know how much I sing the praises of country ham, the super-salty, hard cured ham from the southeast. If you don’t have access to country ham, you can substitute bacon, 1×1. To serve to a crowd, simply double or triple the recipe
- For the Maple-Candied Country Ham
- ½ pound country ham chips or thick-cut bacon
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ⅛ cup high-quality maple syrupFor the Challah French Toast Sandwich
- 8 slices of challah, ¾ inch thick
- 8 large eggs
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 8 slices of high-quality swiss cheese or 8 ounces shredded gruyere
- 2+ tablespoons salted butter
- Cut county ham chips into roughly 1 inch pieces. Cook over medium-high heat, flipping occasionally until the outside is browned but not burned. If using bacon, cut into one inch pieces and brown over medium heat, flipping occasionally until crisp and brown. Reduce heat to medium. Drain oil. Return pan to burner.
- Add sugar and maple syrup, stirring the meat to coat. Let cook over medium heat, stirring every few seconds or so, until the sugar-maple mixture caramelizes and thickens, about 3 minutes, depending upon your 'char' preference.
- Once maple-meat mixture is browned and gooey, set aside.
- In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt until well-combined.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter, reserving the other ½.
- If challah is over 6 inches in length, cut each piece in half (I found long pieces tough to work with). Working in batches, drop in 4 pieces of challah to egg mixture. Let sit for 1-2 minutes. Turn and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Place the bread in the heated skillet and cook until the bottom is browned and egg cooked through, about 3 minutes. Turn.
- Add 1 slice of swiss cheese OR 1 ounce of shredded gruyere to the cooked top of each piece of bread. The cheese will melt while the other side cooks, for about 3 minutes. Melt remaining butter and repeat previous step with remaining challah.
- When ready to serve, dust sandwich with powdered sugar or cinnamon (optional). Top with the candied ham/bacon. Serve with warmed maple syrup.