On Christmas Eve Eve, also known as December 23, Chris had his first night at home after 11 evenings away at various functions with work, church and friends. I had been away for 10 of those 11 nights. The boys had been away half of those nights at Grandma’s or the church Christmas program. So we were all tired and looking forward to an evening home as a family.
That morning we’d discovered that Jonah’s favorite Mozart CD wasn’t working anymore, and he listens to it every night at bedtime. He loves it, and it works like a charm—he falls to sleep within minutes every night. He was sad, and I wasn’t up for a rough bedtime that night, so I promised to find him something new at Barnes & Noble, which across the street from my office. I found a two-CD set called “The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the World … Ever!” and brought it home with me.
Jonah was excited about the new CDs, especially the fact that there were 18 tracks on each. The more tracks, the better the CD, in his opinion.
“I’m going to listen to my music,” he said.
“Not in the living room,” I said. “Neeley is already watching Elmo.”
Jonah looked nonplussed.
“You can listen in your bedroom, and when Elmo’s over, I’ll let you know so you can come listen in the living room.”
Meltdown averted, Jonah went in his room and closed the door. As I went back to the kitchen to wash the dishes and feed the dogs, I heard, faintly, the strains of a Bach orchestral suite coming from the back of the house.
A few minutes later, as the Elmo’s World closing credits played, I called to Jonah to tell him he could come listen to his music. There was no response. So I walked to his room and opened the door.
There was Jonah, lying under his covers, one arm thrown above his head, fast asleep. His CD player showed Track 7 of CD 1 of “The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the World.”
Now that’s an aptly named CD.
While Jonah napped, I got ready to make a quick supper. I thought that making something simple would be best, considering all the holiday food we’d be eating over the next couple of days. Also, I wanted to make something that would suit the wintry weather. So I gave Chris two options: (1) macaroni and cheese or (2) French toast.
He picked French toast.
Chris says I make the best French toast. Yeah, of course he has to praise my cooking, but I do have strong feelings about how French toast should look and taste and I think my instincts are right on. In my opinion, many restaurants focus too much on the topping and not enough on making the toast itself taste good. A good piece of French toast would be delicious with no topping at all, and would be heavenly with just a small amount of syrup and possibly a small amount of butter.
French toast was one of the few things I mastered in the kitchen before I got married at age 24. There was very little else that I could make without a recipe—I even had to consult the box each time just to make packaged macaroni and cheese—but French toast I could cook by instinct. My mother taught me her method when I was a kid, I picked up some additional ideas in high school from my best friend Heather’s family, and then I refined my French toast through college and the couple of years after that.
A lot of the French toast out there is soggy, dry, too oily, too egg-y, not egg-y enough, undercooked, or overcooked. People hide this mediocre French toast under giant mounds of butter, blankets of powdered sugar, whipped cream, and syrup so deep you can’t see the toast beneath. I’m sorry if that sounds good to you, because I have to say, there’s no point to French toast like that. That’s a ruined piece of bread covered with a heart attack.
Instead, learn to make French toast so good on its own that it would seem a sacrilege to add powdered sugar, or even a mound of fruit, like some people do. Eat the fruit on the side and let the toast speak for itself.
Of course, my plain tastes don’t suit everyone. You can certainly top your next homemade French toast however you like, but I recommend trying it simple at least once, maybe twice, with just a little butter and syrup (no more than ¼ cup of syrup) to get the feel for how you actually want your toast to taste.
Makes 6 slices
2–3 tbsp butter, halved
2–3 eggs (allow approximately one egg per two slices of bread)
2–3 tbsp skim milk
Pinch of cinnamon
- Melt one tablespoon of butter on a griddle or skillet. Keep an eye on the butter and use a spatula to spread the butter evenly across the griddle.
- While the butter is melting, use a fork to stir eggs as for scrambled eggs. Add milk and cinnamon to eggs and stir to combine. Mix well, because your toast will taste best if the egg, yolk, and milk are thoroughly mixed and completely smooth.
- When the skillet is hot and the butter melted and sizzling, dip both sides of a slice of bread in the egg mixture, making sure to coat the toast evenly. There should be no dry corners. Do not let the bread soak in the egg mixture or the toast will be soggy. I lay the bread on top of the egg mixture, push it in for just a moment, check to make sure the side I’ve dipped is coated. Then repeat with the other side of the bread. Note that the last pieces of toast you make may have very little cinnamon on them. If you want more cinnamon on them, you may add more cinnamon to the egg mixture before dipping the bread into it or carefully sprinkle cinnamon on the bread while it is toasting on the griddle.
- Immediately place the bread on the skillet. Repeat with additional slices.
- After a couple of minutes, flip each slice of toast. Do not flip until the bottom side is browned to your liking. After two minutes, you can lift a corner to check for doneness. I like a dark golden brown; my husband likes his lightly toasted. However you like it, do not flip the toast until the first side is completely toasted; it should not be soggy and should be crisp to the touch. When the second side is browned to your liking as well, remove the toast from the griddle and serve with butter and warm syrup.
- If you are making more toast than you can complete in the first batch, clean off the skillet with a paper towel after the first batch, then add the remaining butter and begin again at step one. (You can skip step 2 if you made enough egg mixture for all the toast you wish to make.)
Tip: As the toast cooks, you may want to add more butter to the skillet to give the toast the desired buttery, fried look. You can add more butter to the middle of the skillet and, as it melts, spread some around on the skillet under the pieces of toast.