It’s Sunday, which around here is a more laid-back kind of cooking day. I know many a cook pull out all the stops in the production of Sunday dinner (I imagine there are homes across the country that still emit the savory scents of roasting beef and carrots) but I kind of like doing the opposite.
Weeknights I cook like crazy as a way to unwind from the day, to put a barefooted stop to the spinning, to the back-and-forth and in-and-out. But on Sundays, which we set aside exclusively for familial pursuits of the decidedly slow variety, I’m already unwound. And as I typically grocery shop early in the week, Sundays I’m left to scratch my head, to devise something edible from whatever I can scrape from the bottom of the produce bin.
In the rather recent past I hit the Sunday jackpot with a lone zucchini, a few medium-sized carrots, a host of cheeses and some farm-fresh eggs from my husband’s office (yes, his office, and yes, we live in one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, but more on that aside another time). All those ingredients seemed to exist for the express purpose of being gathered into a crustless quiche, a dish that is easy by virtue of its throw-together-blindfolded qualities, but that makes me feel nonetheless like a bona fide cook.
But on the off occasion my kitchen is bereft of vegetables, it always has eggs. And there is always bread and always milk, and with the happy combination of the three, I can give in to my unwavering craving for French toast.
I learned the basics of French toast from my dad: stir together with a fork the eggs and the milk, dip and soak the slices of bread, then grill them. And that’s how I used to make it, just kind of nonchalantly stirring the egg-milk mixture together until it looked right, in a pie pan, the way my dad did it.
Then one day I came across an actual recipe for French toast in an issue of Martha Stewart Living. It had proportions! That there would be ratios involved, measurements, exactitude, never occurred to me. Two eggs per every ½ cup of milk, Martha’s recipe said. Not only that, but her French toast involved vanilla – nothing short of inspiration, I concluded, ripping out the page. Later I found a recipe that used cinnamon and in a restaurant I fell in love with a French toast that used orange juice.
This became my signature French toast, a mixture of eggs and milk, vanilla, cinnamon and orange juice. Then just last night, short on OJ, I altered my standby, and the result may constitute an improvement. I had picked up a jar of three-citrus marmalade when traveling recently, and, inspired by a recipe for orange marmalade-frittata Panini that we adore in this household, I dumped a tablespoon or so of marmalade into the egg-milk mixture instead of the usual 1/3 cup of juice. The result was noticeably sweeter and more, well, orangey, but not cloyingly so thanks to the slight heat of the cinnamon and the richness of the vanilla.
I know, I know: I Googled “marmalade French toast” after dinner I am not the first person to add marmalade to French toast (I knew in my heart of hearts that it couldn’t be my discovery). All I take credit for is the thought that occurred to me in my kitchen, eggs beaten on the counter, as I peered in the fridge: “Hey, marmalade might taste really good.” Herewith are my proportions (not a complete recipe), altered from that original Martha recipe I stumbled on so many years ago.
Marmalade French Toast
12 slices (1/2-inch thick) of hearty, whole grain bread
1 cup of milk
1 tbsp. orange or other citrus marmalade (you might try double or triple this – this was my not-boldly-going, first-try measurement)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon