Discerning Diner...with Elan Head
A Motherís Day toast (P.S. Donít forget the socks)
Motherís Day has never been a big holiday for my family. My mom always maintained that she would rather have us pick up after ourselves 364 days a year than be showered with attention for one ó not that we necessarily obliged her in that regard, either.
The fact is, mothers are a remarkable, long-suffering people. A motherís duties never end, and they certainly donít end on Motherís Day, when (in addition to picking up socks), many of them must sweetly endure their loved onesí attempts at breakfast in bed.
Itís not the breakfast thatís so bad (though it certainly can be). More often, itís the mess left behind in the kitchen, which somehow never gets cleaned up to specs.
Going out for the traditional brunch certainly has its pluses. But if you ó and, more importantly, Mom ó would rather not hassle with crowds that morning, my recommendation is French toast.
French toast is such a simple breakfast that even husbands and children can make it well. Yet unlike, say, pancakes, which create a lot of dishes first thing in the morning, French toast makes a very containable mess.
The trick? Make it the night before.
Oh sure, you can wake up extra early if youíre determined to make breakfast in bed a ďsurprise.Ē Trust me on this one, though: Mom is all-knowing. She may act surprised, but she wonít be.
The perfect French toast is creamy and custardy within; golden brown and crisp without.
It has a structure that can only be provided by eggs, but itís not overwhelmingly eggy. Itís also a little sweet, but not too sweet for powdered sugar or syrup.
And it starts with good bread. Properly, the bread should be stale: The less moisture it has to begin with, the more you can replace with eggs and milk.
But you can use fresh bread in a pinch, if itís the kind of sturdy, crusty French or country bread that wonít dissolve after a night in milk.
In the Kyrene Corridor, I buy bread from Wildflower Bread Company. Its Tempe location is on the southwest corner of Guadalupe and McClintock, right next to Changing Hands Book Store.
Select a French bread, a challah, an Italian bread or even a sourdough ó just avoid any kind of pre-sliced, prepackaged supermarket sandwich bread. In this recipe, it wonít work.
Slice the bread 3/4-inch thick (or even thicker, if the bread is particularly soft). Arrange the slices in a baking dish with 2-inch sides.
For every four slices of bread, beat together two eggs with one cup milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, one tablespoon sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla.
Exactly how much batter youíll need depends on the size of your slices and whether theyíre fresh or dry. Feel free to fiddle with amounts accordingly.
Pour the batter over the bread and gently press the slices into the dish with the flat side of a spoon. Flip the slices over, cover it with plastic wrap and again gently press down on the bread.
Let the dish sit in the refrigerator overnight. Clean up the mess youíve made thus far!
In the morning, heat a griddle or frying pan until hot; grease with butter. The bread will be soft, so use a spatula to carefully transfer slices from the baking dish to the griddle.
Cook each slice until golden brown on one side, then flip it over and cook until golden brown on the other.
Serve with powdered sugar, real maple syrup, fresh fruit or berries, or any combination thereof. Add a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and you have a breakfast fit for a queen.
Afterward, get into the kitchen and wash those plates! And donít forget to pick up your socks.