You might call it “Egg-in-a-Hole,” or one of the dozen other names dot the further reaches of the food internet—egg in a basket, frog in a hole, bird’s nest, one-eyed Jack. With some variation, they all describe the same thing: an egg fried in the middle of a piece of bread. For whatever reason, I have always known it as a toad in the road. Toad in the Road is a dad-breakfast classic, not least for the archly unappetizing name. If there is any substantive difference between a Egg-in-a-Hole and the Toad in the Road (pl.: Toads in the Road) I know and love, it is that most recipes call for a thick slice of bread, so the egg remains confined to the well within the bread. Toad in the Road uses regular sliced sandwich bread, so the egg spreads when it hits the pan, and the end result looks like the dish’s namesake—roadkill. And a toad no less.
My dad always used whole wheat bread and jumbo white eggs that spilled out into opaque white puddles of “toad” almost broader than the “road.” He would butter both sides, then cut a hole with any round he could find—coffee mugs, cup measures, jelly jars turned drinking glasses—and pass off the remaining double-buttered bread hole (I call it “the tire”), which was almost as good as the toad itself.
I use potato bread when I make Toads in the Road, but I also enjoy whimsical substitutions—pumpernickel, cinnamon-raisin, marble rye, why not? A slice of sourdough boule can fit two eggs, and the tang is incredible. I like to replace the bread hole to make a little buttered egg pocket, but sometimes fry the hole alongside the toad, or eat it buttered and untoasted like the old days.
Toad in the Road is my favorite kind of dish—few ingredients and endless variation. The dishes I know how to cook from memory are more like templates than recipes, sets of instructions with basic relational rules that can be switched out for whatever’s on hand. The deliciousness of a Toad in the Road is a simple math problem—butter + bread + egg—rather than a miracle of cooking science. I never touch my kitchen timer, never have to make a special trip to the store for ingredients. Cooking for a group is easy with a big enough pan, and each serving is made to order so there’s never any waste. Despite its name, a Toad in the Road is a beautiful thing.
Toad in the Road
- Yields: 1 toad
- Cook Time: 7 minutes
In a frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.
Cut a hole in a piece of bread large enough to fit an egg. I like to use the rim of an 8 ounces jam jar, but get creative and/or resourceful as necessary—cookie cutters, measuring cups, wine glasses, even just tearing a circle with your fingers is fine. Whatever shape you use, save the cutout and set aside—this is called the tire.
Crack an egg into the bread hole, being careful not to break the yolk. I like to crack the egg into my jam jar to check for shells, then pour into the hole. Season as desired—pepper is key.