It’s Saturday in New Orleans. It’s the early hours of the morning there as I write this from my home in Portland, meaning there are still people crawling back to the comfort of their beds after a raucous night spent strolling through the Quarter. Others are casually lazing about in their living rooms, reading the latest Times Picayune and sipping their coffee with chicory. Sounds of the trombone and saxophone spill from houses and restaurants and street corners all over, celebrating the soul of my very-much-alive hometown.
It’s Saturday in New Orleans, but it’s no ordinary Saturday. This is a Saturday for reflection and reinvention. For the end of a renaissance that’s been in the making for exactly a decade when Hurricane Katrina greedily barreled her way into the city, washing away everything we knew and loved with her whipping winds and her murky brown waters.
It’s Saturday in New Orleans and I’m here in Portland. I’m remembering what those days – months, years – were like after the storm. How much it changed everything, and also, how nothing really changed at all. New Orleans is all at once a city reborn and a city that refused to die. It’s a city that, without the help of so many, might have been lost forever, but instead was found, stronger than ever.
It’s Saturday here in Portland, but today I’m leaving you with a New Orleans classic: Pain Perdu (Lost Bread)—a breakfast of stale French bread that’s soaked in sugared and brandied milk and eggs, fried in lard or butter, and smothered with powdered sugar, syrup, and anything else that sounds appealing. Only on this particular Saturday in my house – 2,539 miles away from home – we’re calling it Pain Trouvé (Found Bread). Because I’m not sure if New Orleans was ever really lost. But today, somehow, inexplicably, it feels like it was found.
While I’m here and writing about remembering, I also want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who read and commented on my last post. Your comments and support mean more to me than you’ll ever know. I’m taking a cue from your own words as I sign off today and I’m sending loads of “hugs and piñas” right back your way. And, of course, I’m sending a plateful of this pain trouvé, too.
- 1½ cups of milk (ideally one with fuller fat--2% or whole)
- 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons of brandy
- 1 pinch of salt
- 12 slices of stale French bread*
- 4 eggs
- 6 tablespoons of butter, plus more for serving
- powdered sugar, for serving
- syrup or cane sugar, for serving
- fresh fruit or jam, for serving (optional)
- Mix together the milk, sugar, vanilla, brandy, and salt in a medium sized bowl. In a separate medium sized bowl, beat the eggs.
- Add stale pieces of french bread to the milk mixture and allow to soak until saturated, but not so much that they fall apart. The amount of time spent soaking will vary depending on how stale your bread is and what kind of milk you use, but I usually soak mine for 5-7 minutes. You will likely need to do this in batches. Set aside a baking tray with a wire rack set over it. Once bread has absorbed enough milk, transfer slices of wet bread to the wire wrack to drain. Repeat until all pieces have absorbed milk and are draining on the wire rack.
- Add milk wet pieces to the bowl of eggs, turning to coat. Meanwhile, heat butter over medium high heat in a skillet. Lift bread from egg batter, shake off excess egg, and add to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side.
- Eat fresh with powdered sugar, syrup, butter, berries, and any other toppings desired.