If your family is anything like mine, you are all getting tired of sitting across the kitchen table from each other. Instead, you'd much rather be sitting opposite one another at a restaurant table!

When was the last time your family dined out? My family hasn't eaten out together since the pandemic began – more than seven months ago! I'm starting to get nostalgic for some of my favorite eating establishments and their culinary specialties. Wouldn't it be nice to finish a wonderful meal that someone else prepared, then stand up and walk out the door without having to wash the dishes?! Get me out of my kitchen, now!

One restaurant my family especially misses for a casual Sunday brunch is Denny's. Although we all have our favorite dishes, there is one taste treat that appeals to all five of us: Denny's French toast! We all slather melting butter on the flavorful toasted bread slices, then pour a generous stream of maple syrup over them. My taste buds are tingling as I type this.

A few months ago, I shared my frustration of not being able to eat out with a good friend of mine. She listened patiently as I listed the restaurants and dishes I missed the most. Suddenly, as I mentioned Denny's and their French toast, her hands shot up into the air and she practically screamed, "I have a great French toast recipe that's as good as theirs!" I shot her a doubtful glance, but she insisted it was true. Later that evening she scanned a copy of the recipe to me.

A Sunday surprise

The following Sunday, I snuck into the kitchen early and prepared a batch of French toast using her recipe and hid them in the oven to keep them warm. I also whipped up some fried rice and chicken adobo. As my family members entered the kitchen, they saw the usual Sunday brunch items on the stove and sat down with guarded enthusiasm.

I then pulled the platter of French toast out of the oven and quietly placed it on the kitchen table. All four of them stared longingly at the platter. I said, "Since we can't go to Denny's to enjoy their French toast, I brought Denny's French toast to our home." I then told them about the new recipe. From the expressions on their faces, I could see they were doubtful.

Boy, do I wish that I had recorded their reactions as they began to eat. Their doubtful expressions quickly changed to expressions of gastronomic ecstasy! "Pop, these are really good!" they all exclaimed.

Within minutes they had devoured the entire batch before moving on to the fried rice and adobo. A strong rush of self-satisfaction swept over me. Like any home cook, nothing pleases me more than feeling like I scored a homerun in the kitchen.

Stiff competition

My sense of bliss was somewhat undercut last Friday when I told my family that I had driven by Denny's earlier in the day and noticed they had set up some pop-up canopies and tables on their sidewalk for outside dining.

"Well," I said, "now that I've perfected Sunday brunch, we don't have to wait in a long line for a table."

My son, Brian, put his arm around my shoulders, and with a sly grin said, "Pop, we love your cooking, but as an early Christmas present, could you PLEASE take us to Denny's for Sunday brunch? We don't mind the wait." All my family members shook their heads in agreement. Somewhat deflated, I said we could give it a try.

Please help restore my ego. Experiment with this recipe and let me know if Denny's has anything to worry about.

Week 5: Diner-style French Toast

Ingredients

4 eggs

2/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

10 slices of bread (Thick slices of leftover No-Knead Bread make great French toast!)

3 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of powdered sugar

Syrup

Steps

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon.

2. Heat a large griddle or skillet. Once it's hot, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the griddle and spread it out to cover an area of 3 to 4 slices of bread. If the butter starts smoking, it's too hot so turn the temperature down.

3. Dip each slice of bread into the egg-mixture bowl for several seconds; flipping it over to be sure each side is generously coated. Allow the batter to really soak into the bread! Let some batter drip off, and then lay the slice on the griddle. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes per side until golden brown.

4. Remove the slices from the griddle, place them on a serving plate and cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Put the plate into a 195-degree oven to keep the toast warm as you grill the rest of the bread.

5. Repeat the cooking process for the remaining pieces of toast.

6. Sprinkle each piece with powdered sugar. Serve with butter and hot syrup. (I sometimes smear on a dab of peanut butter!)

7. Add any side dishes you wish and enjoy!

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