This is the type of breakfast we used to eat on a weekend-ly basis when I was growing up. Indeed, absolutely no reservations about the greasy consistency and future cholesterol levels. Nowadays, in the world of internet, open borders (for my home country) and the easy access to information, we have become more considerate of our health and limit the consumption of such foods (sometimes!) However, on my recent visit home, or on any visit home for that matter, I treat myself to the foods of my country and my childhood without reservations. This topinka dish is one of them.
What exactly is topinka? It’s a rustic bread fried in olive or vegetable oil or even better, pig fat! And to make that point, it is nothing like a toasted bread. It is hundred times better! It can be served with a variety of toppings but the main three I grew up with and am addicted to are: sauteed chicken liver, steak tartare, or scrambled eggs. For the meaty options, we also rub the top of the topinka with a clove of garlic. Since it’s fried in oil, it creates a nice golden crust and the garlic is literally grated off of it.
This morning, I woke up and while trying to figure out what’s for breakfast, I recalled that I have aging bread that needs to be used up. This is one of the reasons why topinka came to exist. To use all the bread without waste. And since there were no toasters in the old peasant days (nor the newer communistic days) we chose to fry it in a pan. But going back to my breakfast this morning, it felt like a great opportunity to eat unhealthily but most deliciously and indulge on an egg topinka.
- Aging loaf of bread, best some Pain de Campagne, or artisan “country bread”
- Vegetable, olive or goose oil
- Soft spreadable cheese
1. It is better to use bread that is few days old instead of a fresh loaf. Mainly, you don’t want to waste freshly made bread (unless you have really irresistible craving!) Cut the bread into some 1.5cm thick slices. Too thick slices will not be made well in a middle and too thin slices will be much too crispy.
2. Heat a pan thoroughly and once hot, add the oil or fat and wait few seconds. The oil has to be hot because warm oil soaks too deep into the bread and it will just get soggy. Hot oil creates a quick crust on the surface that disallows the oil to penetrate inside. On higher heat, fry the topinka on each side for minute or two until they are golden brown, keep checking. I also press them down with fork occasionally so they brown evenly.
3. Once the color is right, take the bread slices out of the pan and lay them on a plate. You can add paper towel sheet to the plate and then on top of the topinka to absorb the excess oil (it does feel healthier!) When all the bread you need is fried, take the pan off the heat and wipe it out with a tissue to get the burned crumbles out.
4. Crack the eggs (how many you need) into the wiped pan (or add a bit of butter) and just scramble them to your likings, with salt and pepper added, if you desire. I like them softer rather than dry.
5. Smear the top of the topinka with soft cheese. The availability of this depends on where you live. In some countries it is not typical to have a good selection of soft cheeses but most countries will have the good ole laughing cow!
6. Add the scrambled eggs on top of the spreaded cheese. Slice some tomatoes to put over it or just use fresh chives. And you are done! Quick, easy, delicious. Try to be quick in making it all. Topinka tastes better while still warm.