My dad ruined me on pancakes forever. Our big weekend family breakfast, the one we fondly recall when we think about lazy weekends as kids, was pancakes. He used the recipe from our spattered copy of The Joy of Cooking, the red satin ribbon of which was tucked permanently into place at the page, even though he had the recipe memorized. We’d make a big deal out of the occasion: the special green-glazed plates, real maple syrup warmed in a little pitcher, my mother reminding us mostly in jest that pouring maple syrup was basically the same as pouring quarters over our pancakes, and so please use a light hand.
Now I’m skeptical of any flapjack that my father didn’t make, and I can never make them as well as he does, so I often borrow another of my breakfast-loving dad’s favorites: egg-in-a-hole. You might call it toad-in-a-hole, or egg-in-a-basket, or any of its other varied and colorful names, but it is all more or less the same: a piece of bread with a hole cut out of its center, an egg cracked into the hole, and all of it pan-fried in oil or melted butter. As you might anticipate, it is very good—and genius, with an extra piece of toast cut from the center for sopping or for jam built right in.
You could stop there. When you get it just right, the bread just crisped and browned on both sides, the yolk intact and runny within, it’s a magical thing. But you could go further.
Namely, do as my father likes best and fry some bacon in the pan first. Drain all but a tablespoon or so of the fat (reserving it for other uses, like sautéeing Brussels sprouts or making cornbread), and arrange two slices of bacon in an X in the center of the pan. Lay the bread into the pan so the center of the X is in the center of the hole in the bread, then crack the egg into the hole. Wait about a minute, then carefully use a spatula to flip the whole business and cook the other side.
Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat while you cut a hole from the center of the bread. You can use a cookie or biscuit cutter for this, or the rim of a juice glass; just leave at least 1/2 inch of bread all around it.
When the oil is shimmery, swirl it gently in the pan to make sure it’s well coated, then add the bread and crack the egg into the hole. Add the bread “hole” to the pan and toast that, too. Let this all cook for 30 seconds to a minute, until the white is firm enough to flip the bread and the egg together. Cook on the second send for 15 seconds for a runny egg, 30 to 45 seconds for a medium egg, and beyond that for something firmer.
Season with salt and pepper, and eat with a fork and knife.