French rabbit….


Happily, our electric toaster no longer toasts. Even when it did toast, it didn’t. There is something unpleasant and inept about toasters. In my mind’s eye I see floppy slices of artificial bread on a hinged platform, not unlike a miniature ducking stool, being lowered into what one would hope is a blazing inferno but is in fact a sun tanning shop. Added to this sense of hopelessness is the irritating whirring of a primitive sort of timer, the knob of which is emblazoned with graphic symbols or numbers supposedly suggesting a relationship between the time spent inside the machine and the depth of the tan to be expected. I have found this rarely to be the case. My experiences with the cult, chromium plated American toaster have been equally disappointing, more often than not resulting in one side of the bread being the colour of the girl in a Piz Buin advertisement whilst the other looks as though it stayed in its hotel room, safe from the rays of the sun.

In France the word “toast”, for the most part, refers to rusk like creations about which the less said the better. On the other hand, the words “pain grillé”* present a correct description of that which I seek when yearning for a slice of toast. A  thick slice of good bread that has been grilled quickly under intense heat, which heat will allow the slab of butter placed on its hot cheeks to melt slowly into its interior, is the object of my desire. In order for this dream to come true, firstly throw your electric toaster from a high place and watch it smash on the rocks below, then turn on the grill in the oven or , ideally, a gas fired, eye level grill on an outmoded cooker, and finally lay the slices of bread under this heat in order that they may be toasted. I have fond memories of toasting bread on a long fork in front of a fire but I don’t think that it ever really happened…..however, the memory is just as clear and pleasing as if it really had. Such is the pleasure of dreams and imagination.

The French Rabbit in the picture is a combination of a thick slice of pain bucheron, Camembert, and tomato. The marriage of these ingredients was sealed beneath the red hot elements of an oven grill. As with any successful marriage, it needed loving care and attention, the application of which resulted in mouth watering happiness.

*although the words “pain grillé” offer hope, it is rare for the words to be made flesh in a French establishment. This must be done in the privacy of your own home.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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63 Responses to French rabbit….

  1. Rabbit! Ho, ho. Cheater. Great photo.

  2. Darya says:

    What a poetic homage to pain grillé. And anything with melted camembert on top makes me dream and drool.

  3. Absolutely perfect. I’m not sure there’s a toaster in existence that perfectly does its job. Mine certainly takes its time…

  4. A perfect French “Rabbit”. I don’t own a toaster (or a microwave come to think of it!) and make my toast on my griddle pan or like you, under the grill. Those eye level ones (New World Cookers!) were the best for toast as you didn’t have to bend down like a contortionist to see if it was perfectly done.

  5. How to knock the stuffing out of the humble slice of cheese on toast. Your writing is as delicious as the food you describe, as always. Now I’m off to try and fit my legs in the toaster.

  6. saucygander says:

    I also don’t have a toaster, nor a microwave. I have heard of people setting the oven/grill on fire while toasting bread though – flaming rabbit!

  7. Graham says:

    We had a toaster on which the setting allowed only one side of the toast to be ‘toasted’, sadly long defunct. As to cooking under the grill, our grll is inside the over and so gets coated in splashes of whatever was cooked in the oven last in consequence when turned on, the kitchen with actrid smoke and sets off the fire alarm – not ideal. The best, oh the very best, was to cook toast in front of an open fire on a Sunday when we ventured into the front room. The coals needed to be raked over first to ensure an even heat with no smoke – the challenge was to get the toast done without burning ones fingers or dropping the bread into the fire.

    And the last verse of Toast from the Bob and Tom show!

    oui monsieur bonjour coquette,
    uh huh croissante vous a ver,
    maurice chevalier effeil tower,
    oh oui maria bagette bon soir,


    But I don’t think that makes much sense.

  8. catterel says:

    As long as we had an open fire at home, which was until the mid-sixties I think, we had a toasting fork hanging at the side of it. The flavour of the toast is different when done on a “proper” fire (wonderful dripping toast!!) and fingers and faces often got toasted too. But Welsh Rarebit was done under the gas grill, at eye-level where you could watch it carefully and whip it out the second it reached perfection. Thanks for the memories!

  9. You and I have owned the same toasters over the years! But this, this is perfection and one of my favourite foods! I have to stay glued to grill while making though as I have a tendency to meander through my mind and forget and then, alas, burnt French Rabbit and a house filled with smoke!

  10. Mad Dog says:

    Ha ha – I was expecting Bugs Bunny. I wish I had an eye level grill 😉

  11. Vicki says:

    I haven’t had a toaster for some 20 years (and don’t have a microwave, dishwasher………).

    I never grill meat under the griller – too messy to clean. So anything to be toasted gets grilled.

  12. Amanda says:

    This looks gorgeous. My toaster broke years ago and I never bothered getting a new one for space reasons and also because I feel like such a chef when I toast it in a pan. Can I ask an ignorant question? Why do you call it a rabbit?

    • Cheese on toast in England is often called Welsh Rabbit or Rarebit. It’s an ironic title, like Mock Turtle Soup, in which there was no turtle as there is no rabbit in Welsh Rabbit.They were dishes created in poverty. We also have Yorkshire Rabbit, Scots Rabbit, all sorts of Rabbits. The real Welsh Rabbit entails melting Cheddar cheese in a pan and pouring it, like a sauce, over large pieces of bread. Various versions were made with the addition of Worcester sauce, mustard, and other condiments. It can also be served with a poached egg on top or with grilled bacon. Mine was French Rabbit because it was with a French cheese.

  13. You’re so right about toasters….. I’d thought something was very wrong with our goold ole family toaster but the new one I’ve bought isn’t any better!

  14. MELewis says:

    I cannot allow you to malign my beloved toaster without a word in its defense. Grilling bread in the oven is not for me; too finicky and smokey and smelling of Sunday’s roast. My toaster browns beautifully and evenly, bread with character as well as the industrial slices. It does it within moments of my waking with no preheating. It is perfect for breakfast toast. Le pain grillé in the rarebit you show, however, is another story….and could only be accomplished in an oven. Bon appétit!

  15. Sally says:

    In a mad moment I bought one of those lean grill things that are meant for steak and drain the fat away. I would never sully a steak on its bars but it makes a fantastic toasted sandwich. My lunch 4 days out of 5 is a cheese and tomato one. Loved the Piz Buin ad analogy 🙂

  16. *Googles “Piz Buin advert”*

    Ah! That is part of the color palette I call “George Hamilton.”

  17. Well, I’ve been on a crispy bread kick lately, especially with a smattering of soft cheese and tomato on top.

  18. Mary Frances says:

    I love toasted cheese with tomato! Definitely on my list of comfort favorites!

  19. MTM uses the oven or the stove to toast. We never, ever use the toaster for the same reasons you cite.

    My chef friend John started early on rabbit at his restaurant. He usually debuts it on Easter Sunday, but I got to have it for Valentine’s Day. I dearly love rabbit, and cannot get it nearly enough here.

  20. EllaDee says:

    Clever! – I knew exactly the colour of the girl in the Piz Buin advertisement 🙂
    We have a toaster in the city but no grill, and vice versa in the country. Regardless, I garner any cheeseboard leftovers to on have on toast for breakfast.
    The best toast I have ever eaten was created on a home-crafted wire fork over a campfire… slick with butter and topped with a just caught just legal size trout pan fried on the same fire. Some things you never forget.

  21. How lovely. Amazing how consistently pleasing and satisfying something with a crunch and plenty of melted cheese can be!

  22. The Editors of Garden Variety says:

    Oh my it looks decadent! Awesome job.

  23. chef mimi says:

    This looks so beautiful!

  24. ChgoJohn says:

    I gave up on my toaster ages ago. It’s still there on the counter, all nice and shiny, mocking me whenever I throw bread into the oven. That’s fine. When it comes to toast, he who laugh last …

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