This is a terrific item to make for breakfast or brunch. Its delicious, it smells incredible while baking and will be eaten quickly. It can be made ahead of time, and I highly recommend doing this because it is somewhat time consuming to make. Do not make this if you want something that’s easy to make and doesn’t make a mess. You will end up with multiple dirty pots, pans and bowls. You’ve been warned. But, let’s say you are planning to have guests visit and want to make something impressive that you can make ahead of time and pull out of the fridge and pop into the oven. Then this is for you.
Let’s talk about ingredients for a minute.
The ingredients for this are fairly easy to obtain through your friendly neighborhood grocer. The bread should be day old at least. You need structure for this dish. You want bread that won’t disintegrate into mushy ickiness once exposed to the egg, wine and half and half mixture. If it is relatively fresh you should dry it out, either at room temperature for several hours, or you can put it into a 200-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Do not skip the shallots. Trust me on this one. Use whatever wine you want to for this. The first time I made this, I only had flat champagne leftover from the night before. It was still delicious. Use whatever works for you. Just make sure it’s a somewhat dry wine, nothing sweet. Lastly, don’t skimp on the cheese. The recipe calls for 8 oz. I probably put in at least 50% more than that. But, do what you prefer.
- 1 loaf of French bread, cut into ½” slices
- 5 Tbsp butter, softened
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 medium shallots, minced
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 8 oz. fontina cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 6 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups half-and-half
- Butter the slices of bread on 1 side with 2-3 Tbsp of the butter. I found that the most efficient way of doing this is to let the butter come to room temperature and then microwave it for a few seconds. Literally, only microwave it for a few seconds. It should be soft enough to use a pastry brush to brush the butter onto the bread, but not melted enough to make soggy bread. Fear the soggy bread. Set aside the half buttered bread.
- Bring a medium sized pan of water to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp salt, and boil potatoes until just tender. Drain potatoes. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp of the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook potatoes until they start to brown. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 2 minutes longer. Add garlic and rosemary and cook about 2 more minutes. You’ll notice that all of a sudden, your kitchen smells amazing. This is the point where you should transfer mixture to a medium bowl and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Set aside.
- Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add wine, and simmer until reduced by half. Set aside.
- Butter a baking dish, at least 3” deep. Either 8x8” square or 11x7”. You want it to be deep enough to hold the two full layers of ingredients, but also not so wide and shallow that the egg mixture doesn’t cover everything.
- Arrange half of the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in a single layer in the dish. Sprinkle half of the potato mixture, then 1/2 the grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in a single layer over the cheese, then sprinkle remaining potato mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over the bread.
- Whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in wine and half-and-half. Pour egg mixture over the bread layers. Cover the surface flush with plastic wrap or foil. The idea here is to make sure that everything is soaking in the egg mixture. It helps if you put another pan on top to weigh everything down with boxes. If you are making this ahead of time, this is the point where you should pop it into the refrigerator overnight. Alternately, let the mixture soak for about 30 minutes before proceeding.
- Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes (if refrigerated overnight). Heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled slightly away from sides of dish, about 50 to 55 minutes (60 to 70 minutes if you've doubled the recipe). Cool on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.
This is so much more filling than you would think it would be. This recipe is enough to serve 6-8 adults.