Irish-American Dining: Stuffed Irish Toast

Bigfork, Montana, where the Irish stuff their french bread.

Bigfork, Montana, where the Irish stuff their french bread.

This is something off a one-off, as stuffed Irish toast seems primarily associated with one venue, a now-closed bed and breakfast in Montana called the O’Duachain Country Inn. The place was founded in 1985 and decorated with leprechauns by a couple named Tom and Margot Doohan, and Margot was the originator of the stuffed Irish toast.

This is the recipe, first published in “Montana Bed and Breakfast Guide and Cookbook”:

Take one loaf of French bread.

Make a filling of the following: 8 oz. cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup sliced almonds, 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

Make a batter of the following: 3 whole eggs, 1 pint whipping cream

Make a topping of the following: 2 jars apricot preserves, blackberries, fresh grated nutmeg

Start by toasting the almonds over medium heat. Warm cream cheese in microwave until soft. Add almonds, vanilla, powdered sugar; mix. Cut bread into 1-inch slices, slice partway through to make pocket. Spread 21 tbs cream cheese mixture in pocket. Dip slices in batter and fry over griddle until brown. Drizzle preserves, blackberries, nutmeg. Serves four.

There isn’t even much of an American tradition of stuffed toast, although in Aberdeen, SD, they apparently used to stuff chicken into loafs of bread.
Now, I’ll admit this doesn’t sound very Irish, although it sounds like exactly the sort of thing you might expect in a Montana B&B. There isn’t even much of an American tradition of stuffed toast, although in Aberdeen, SD, they apparently used to stuff chicken into loafs of bread, at least according to the Aberdeen Daily News from 1958. I’d like to say that Aberdeen isn’t all that far from Bigfork, where the O’Duachain Country Inn was located, and so maybe the chicken stuffed toast is an ancestor of the Irish stuffed toast. And maybe it is, but even though they are in neighboring states Aberdeen is actually 945 miles from Bigfork. To put this into perspective, that’s about the distance from Dublin, Ireland, to Venice, Italy, and the food of Ireland has very little to do with the food of Italy.

But, then, America is a vast place with a compressed sense of culture, and so you find substantially the same food popping up in New Jersey and Seattle at about the same time. Speaking of New Jersey, according to the Trenton Evening Times their locals were stuffing seafood into toast in 1984, and this doesn’t sound especially Irish either, but the author of the recipe was named Joan O’Sullivan, and, from what I can tell, she was a syndicated food writer, so as Trenton went, so went America.

And, looking closer at the Margot Doohan recipe, even though she’s using French bread, between the batter and the powdered sugar, it’s essentially French toast she’s serving. There is a bit of a tradition of this: I find at least several dozen recipes for stuffed French toast in America’s newspapers. The Dallas Morning News stuffed them with figs on Christmas, 1948, while the Richmond Times Dispatch reported on a Polynesian-themed restaurant that was stuffing them with bananas in 1982.

Further, once I start looking for “Irish French toast,” I start getting a lot of culinary inventiveness. Yankee Magazine, as an example, published a recipe by Aimee Seavey in January, 2012, which used cinnamon raisin bread and added Irish cream to the batter. Cakewalkr.com offered a version in 2013 that used soda bread, a suggestion elaborated upon by  Fáilte Irish Pub and Steak House this year in Happenings Magazine — they made their with soda bread and then topped it with whipped cream made from Irish cream.

I don’t want to get to far from Mrs. Doohan’s original conception, though, which involved stuffing the toast. But I’d like to suggest, as our recent cooks did, that we start with soda bread and not French bread.

I think Doohan was smart to stuff it with cream cheese, and I actually think the idea of blending these things with Irish cream to be a bit naff. When I look over recipes for spreads in Ireland, they tend to be a bit rustic and more savory than sweet, including horseradish and herbs. We tend to think of French bread as a sweet food, but there are recipes for savory versions, which use Parmesan, mustard powder, salt and pepper, basil, and other unexpected flavors.

I’d try something like this. Use an herbed cream cheese — perhaps sage, thyme, and oregano. Consider adding a earthier cheese to the batter, and perhaps black pepper and garlic.

Heck, if you’re feeling especially daring, toss something else into the bread. We’ve already seen that you can stuff it with chicken or seafood. This is supposed to be Irish stuffed toast. Stuff it with mutton or cod.

How will it taste? I don’t know. I’m just making this up as I go along, as I suspect Mrs. Doohan did.

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Max Sparber

Max Sparber is a playwright, journalist, and history detective in Omaha, Nebraska.