It's late, you just got home, and you're hungry. Your front door feels really, really far away. You have some stale bread, some eggs, and some dairy. Or: It's Sunday morning, and your kids are shrieking, and you want to cook something — something quick! — that will get them all starry-eyed and quiet and happy. Or: You're tired of salads and roasted vegetables and even meat and fish and you want something soothing, something easy, and something decidedly un-seasonal for dinner.
In all these cases, and many more: Make French toast. Don't believe me? Go into the kitchen and check — you probably already have everything you need.
Now, let's get cooking.
1. The soak
Get out a rimmed plate or shallow bowl or even a pie pan — my favorite soaking vessel for the bread — and combine your dairy and eggs. I like to use 3 egg yolks for every 1 1/2 cups dairy. (Note: You can mix and match egg yolks and whole eggs, but egg yolks add custardy richness without any eggy flavor.) When it comes to the dairy, you can use milk, half and half, heavy cream, or even a custom combination (look at you!).
Some people add sweetener here, others don't (after all, maple syrup is coming). If you're Team Sweet, whisk in about 1 tablespoon of sugar, agave, honey, whatever, and any flavorings you'd like. Vanilla extract (or better, scraped vanilla bean) is always a great call, but also try almond extract, bourbon, rum ...
2. The bread
Start with day-old or even sort of stale bread, which can soak up all that good stuff without falling apart. (No overly soggy French toast here.) Slice it very thickly. I'm a fan of buttery brioche or fluffy challah, but sourdough and whole-wheat are great, too. Let the bread soak in the mixture for 15 seconds on each side (so, 30 seconds in total). Once it's out of its bath, let the bread hang out on a baking sheet for two minutes or so, which encourages even custard-soakage within.
3. The toasting
Melt some butter in a pan (bonus points for salted butter and a cast-iron pan). Once it's nice and hot and runny ...
Get those soaked bread slices in there! Pan-fry until deeply golden brown on one side, and then flip. (A fish spatula works wonders here.) Get that other side just as brown, and, if you're me, drizzle some maple syrup on, right there in the pan. The warmth will get it evenly distributed — and slightly caramelized, which I love.
4. The finish
Transfer the toast to a plate, drizzle with more syrup, and eat. Quickly, before it gets cold.
French toast is a meal all on its own, but it would never turn away company. Here are some of our favorites to serve with:
- Eggs. Scrambled are always a good call, but there's some extra-special about a runny yolk to help "dress" the French toast. Take a cue from Canal House and try pimentón-fried eggs, or do as Julia Turshen does and cook them in olive oil.
- Sausage, bacon, ham, really anything meaty. This DIY merguez — made with ground lamb, garlic, ginger, and a slew of spices — is an especially good friend to the maple syrup.
- Creamed greens. If you're taking this route, skip the sweetener and maple syrup at the end. Try miso-creamed kale or this spicy, yogurty better-than-creamed spinach. You can serve it alongside or even pile it directly on the toast.
- Something to drink? Why not? Brunch is more fun with Bloody Marys, and there are lots of them. The classic, one with homemade horseradish-pepper vodka, one with beef bouillon, another with fish sauce ... We could go on.