Breakfast

Raul Malo's "Best Breakfast Sandwich in the World"

Santa Maria was out last night, catching up with old friends at Marcus Samuelsson’s new restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, and I was at home casting about in the refrigerator for a dinner of my own. I cobbled together a few leftovers and fed myself well enough, but what I came up with was nothing to write home about.

Fortunately, I happened to have the chance to talk with the country singer Raul Malo, who led the Grammy-winning country-rock band The Mavericks to chart success in the nineties, about some of the cooking he does. Malo lives in Nashville and has he has three sons, ages 15, 14, and 10. He shared a story about what happened one time when he found himself in the kitchen with very little to choose from. He came up with what he calls the “The Best Breakfast Sandwich in the World.”

Malo’s latest release, “Sinners & Saints,” carries a powerful, nostalgic punch for me. It’s largely a Tex-Mex album, and when I was growing up my father used to put on Freddy Fender’s 1975 classic, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” at dinnertime. As soon as I heard Malo’s peerless crooning on his new one, I was taken back in time.

Malo, who was raised by Cuban parents in Miami, said, "We listened to a lot of music around the dinner table when I was young. If we were having a barbecue, it was a sure bet if that a Herb Alpert record would be playing." He went on:

I do some cooking, typical guy stuff, grilling and pasta. Grilling is art form, certainly, but basically there are two ways to have your meat. Do you like it burned or raw?

My favorite time to cook is breakfast. I have the most fun doing that. I've come up with absolutely the best breakfast sandwich you’ll ever have. I can’t believe that you can’t buy this anywhere. I wish I could get it at a restaurant, but I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been all over the world.

I start with a really good bagel. Personally, I prefer an onion bagel. I toast it. Then I fry an egg in olive oil. Frying an egg in olive oil just tastes better than using regular vegetable oil.

I sauté some spinach and a little onion and garlic in a separate pan, with a little cayenne, to give it a bit of a kick. I put the egg on the toasted bagel and the spinach on top of that. Then I top it with a little Tabasco and salt.

I came up with this combination because it was all I had in the kitchen one morning. I like spinach and I thought spinach is good for you, so why not put a little in my breakfast.

It sure sounds a lot better than what I came up with last night, and I’ll have to try it one of these days. Malo, by the way, will be at City Winery in Manhattan for three nights later this month, February 24-26. In the meantime, here’s the video from the title song of his latest album. Enjoy.

 


Oatmeal: A Good Winter Breakfast

Brooklyn-snow-morning
Nine-plus inches of snow fell in here Tuesday into Wednesday, and suddenly, with Santa Maria out of town, taking care of my little ones became a lot more complicated. Snow pants, mittens, and hats were required in the morning, but some things were hard to find. There wasn’t sufficient time to bundle everyone up and wash the frying pan, tea cups, and plates from our morning meal. They would have to wait. We had to get out the door—Nina needed to be in school by 8:40, and I needed to get Pinta to daycare, and myself to work.

Coming home at the end of the day, I found myself revising my dinner menu. The other evening, I shook off laziness and lethargy by cooking asparagus. By last night, though, I was singing a different tune. I had planned to serve some Bolognese that I had in the freezer, but it was 6 p.m. by the time I picked up Nina.

A half-an-hour to defrost the sauce, boil the water, and cook the pasta seemed risky—the kids melt down when they're hungry. And besides, it’s hard to make dinner when the breakfast dishes are still in the sink. I punted and suggested that we all go out for pizza. Nina and Pinta loved that idea.

Walking to the pizzeria Pinta looked at the wintry sidewalk and said “The snow looks like oatmeal.”

“How,” I said.

 “It’s lumpy,” she replied, adding, “Will you make me oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow?”

 “Of course,” I said. “How do you like it?”

 “With butter, and brown sugar, and cinnamon,” she declared.

Personally, I prefer it with milk, almonds, raisins, and cinnamon, but with oatmeal you really can't go wrong.

Oatmeal: A Good Winter Breakfast

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • a pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in a sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil on a high heat.

Reduce heat and simmer until soft and creamy (can also be made with milk); about twenty minutes.

This amount serves four. Keep the leftovers in the refrigerator and heat the next day in the microwave or on the stove top with a little water in the pan. Serve the ceral with milk or butter. Cinnamon, walnuts, almons apples, and raisins are nice additions.


Teaching Our Children Well

Sandwichlunch2
The scary thing about being a parent is that children learn more from your behavior than they learn from anything else. Two weeks ago, I was late in getting my submissions to the curator of the “EAT/ART” show, and I had to bring my drawings to the gallery the morning work was being hung.

Workers were busy munching bagels and pounding nails in the walls. The artwork had been carefully laid out on the floor in front of where it was going to be displayed. Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria were with me, and the kids were as enthralled with the magical scene as they were with the free bagels. They tiptoed around the art, as I dropped my pieces off.

A week later at home, Nina took out a large stash of her old drawings, and started laying them out one by one on the floor along the wall in a long hall in our apartment. She then proceeded to hang them.

Yesterday morning when I was going out to work, my youngest, Pinta, was eating a toasted, buttered baguette that she had doctored. “Cinnamon toast,” she shouted. “I made it,” as proud as one would be upon discovering the cure for cancer.


Why Make Pancakes with the Kids?

Pancake
When I married Santa Maria, I knew that she didn’t like to spend much time in the kitchen. She once stunned me by taking a twenty-six-step Moosewood Cookbook recipe for an Ethiopian stew and reducing it to about a half dozen steps. It was delicious. (A nice online version is here; skip steps at will). I never would have had the gall to disregard the recipe.

She is also a fantastic baker: When she puts something in the oven, I’m assured that something sweet and tasty will come out. There are just two problems—I don’t like to eat pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and as the working mother of one, now two children,  baking is the last thing on her mind. (Santa Maria would like the record to reflect that last week she made husband’s favorite organic banana walnut bread, one loaf still in the freezer, along with a stash of plain banana mini muffins for fruit-hating, nut-allergic Nina).

 So, I started making most of the meals once we had Nina and Pinta. I found it fun to do, and as a new father, I found it easier to slice onions than try to quiet a fussy baby.  In fact, for a long time I preferred to work in the kitchen than to deal with the kids. Then they started to grow up, and now they are great fun to be with. I’m torn between cooking and spending time with them.

The conventional response to this situation is to have the children cook help make the meal. But this ignores the fact that cooking with children is rather like taking a shower with monkeys. If a recipe normally takes ten minutes to prepare, it will take half an hour if the kids are involved. Measuring a cup of flour will take five minutes, not including the time spent wiping up spills. It might be heretical to say, but only the insane try to cook with kids.

Of course, in retrospect one might call it insane to ever become a parent, but this is such a widespread collective delusion that the human race is in no danger of dying out. People adapt, and I’ve learned that there are times when it is very useful to have the children in the kitchen with me.

Take last Saturday morning. I went for a run, and when I returned, Nina and Pinta were running their mother ragged. “Pfannkuchen! Pfannkuchen! Pfannkuchen!” they were chanting. Santa Maria had taught them how to say “pancake” in German, and now she was reaching her limit. I could tell by the tone of her voice, and by its volume. Even though I was in the shower and the water was cascading down around my ears, I could hear her starting to yell.

I was feeling very good after exercising, and I thought to myself as I toweled off, time to throw myself on top of the grenade, and invite the kids to help me make breakfast. Pancakes are one of our old favorites. 

I gently engaged Nina and Pinta, who settled down and were thrilled to join me. Pinta ran to get her Hello Kitty apron. The two took turns measuring the dry ingredients. We beat the egg whites to glorious peaks.  We didn’t mix the batter too much after adding the wet ingredients. And then the batter just sat on the counter while we waited for Santa Maria to return. I had sent her out for a bike ride (apparently exercise can even moderate anger).

Letting the batter rest before making the pancakes is one way to ensure that they are light and tasty. Mixing the batter too vigorously can activate glutens in the flour and result in chewy pancakes. It’s best to leave the mixture lumpy, and let Fick’s law do the work of diffusing the ingredients.

We all enjoyed a peaceful and scrumptious breakfast. Nina said the pancakes were like pizza. What? She explained that she liked them as much as pizza. They are one of her favorite things.

That was last weekend. This Saturday we had pancakes again, only this time it was just Pinta and her Hello Kitty apron keeping me company. I learned something. I don’t have to go to such effort to make great pancakes. I’ve always been proud of how I like to beat the eggs, and then fold them into the batter. This weekend, I broke a yolk into the whites and couldn’t beat them. No one noticed the difference. Much like Santa Maria and her magic with the Ethiopian stew, it can be possible to cut corners.

Basic Pancake Recipe

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspon salt
  • 1.75 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 1.25 cups milk
  • 2 eggs

 

        Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

        Mix the eggs into the milk.

        Melt the butter, and add it to the milk and eggs.

        Combine the wet and the dry ingredients, without mixing the batter too much. Leave some lumps.

        Heat a frying pan and add a little butter. Ladle out the batter in small amounts and cook until bubbles form on the surface. Flip and cook a moment longer. Enjoy.

 

 


Egg On My Face, or a Huevos Rancheros Sandwich Recipe

Scrambled-eggs-guacamole
When I was young, my grandmother used to say to me, “The more you learn, the more there is to learn.”  I had no idea what she meant, but there wasn’t much room for dialogue in the family I grew up in, so I used to nod my assent. She thought I was a know-it-all-child, but I was just confused.

As I’ve aged, I’ve come to understand what she was trying to get across. And I’ve discovered something else. From a pop-culture perspective, whenever I learn something, I often get the lesson backwards. For example, I grew up on the Beastie Boys, and I once thought of all their funky beats, especially those on the landmark 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique,” as their own.

I didn’t realize my mistake until the moment, one day long ago when as a single man, I walked into a clothing store in the East Village, heard a certain bass line, and thought to myself “Beastie Boys!,” only to discover Curtis Mayfield crooning over it a few moments later. What song was it, that I liked so much?

I thought of this moment when Santa Maria made me breakfast on Saturday. We like to have pancake blow-outs on weekend mornings, but Nina was sick with a 102 degree fever and it didn’t seem to me like the right time for an elaborate breakfast.

When I told Santa Maria that we should hold off for a day or so, she was disappointed. There’s a saying that to eat well in England, one should order breakfast three times a day. If that’s true, Santa Maria would be ecstatic to be there. She loves breakfast, though mostly for one reason, as she has repeatedly pointed out to me—that it’s the only meal each day that we can all eat as a family. It is one meal that Santa Maria rushes to make.

Having taken pancakes off the menu, I needed to come up with a new idea. We had a pair of rather ripe avocados sitting in the kitchen, so I made a request. A few weeks earlier, Santa Maria wrapped scrambled eggs, guacamole, salsa, and cheddar in a corn tortilla and called it lunch. I really, really enjoyed it.  So I said to Santa Maria, “Will you make that egg and guacamole dish?” and she thought it was a great idea.

I was very excited to have it, and I believed that it was something that Santa Maria had invented. But she straightened me out when we were sitting at the table, guacamole dripping down our chins, and Nina laughing at the eggs and salsa that were falling out of my tortilla onto my plate. She said, “You’ve never had huevos rancheros before?”

All in all, not a bad way to learn a lesson. And I don’t think that young people today will have the same issues with learning pop culture that I did. The Internet makes access to all epochs of pop music almost instantaneous. For those who don’t know the Beastie Boys song, appropriately enough titled “Egg Man,” or the Curtis Mayfield single “Superfly,” the fascinating website WhoSampled.com has both of them, side by side.

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Sandwiches
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • guacamole
  • fresh salsa
  • cheddar cheese, sliced
        Scramble the eggs in one frying pan. Warm the tortillas in another pan. Put the tortillas on a plate, top with sliced cheese, add the eggs and the guacamole and the salsa and enjoy. See below for recipes for the guacamole and the salsa.

Guacamole
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 4 shakes Tabasco
  • 1 sprinkle salt
  • 1/3 tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon diced cilantro

        Peel and mash the avocado and combine with the other ingredients

Fresh Salsa
  • 1 tomato, medium size, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced, or to taste
  • 2 shakes Tabasco
  • sea salt, to taste

        Stir ingredients together, and enjoy

    


How to Cook an Egg

Egg
I've found it hard to cook these days for a couple of reasons. The first is that finding a new place to live is a massive task. Instead of chopping onions, I'm talking on the phone with friends about real-estate lawyers and the ins-and-outs of other neighborhoods. We need to move someplace with decent subway access to Manhattan, proximity to a great grocery store (nothing we find will land us as close to the Park Slope Food Coop as we currently are, alas), and good public schools. The first two points are not as much of an issue as the latter one. A good school will most likely determine where we end up next. Figuring out what makes a school good, is another question. Answering that will require more time on the phone and in front of the computer.

The other reason is a bit more ironic. It's really quite a shame that our over-sensitive ex-neighbors moved out when they did. One of the things that drove them crazy was the sound of the kids in the early morning. When they came to complain about it, I told them that I sympathized completely--the sound of the kids in the early morning drove me crazy.

The kids slept until 8:30 this morning. The later they sleep, the less time I have to cook before going to work. Back when Pinta used to wake at 5 a. m., I would make soups and stews with her beside me on the floor of the kitchen. I think I dirtied every non-lethal utensil daily during those days. I would toss her pots, pans, spoons, empty plastic containers, and anything I could get my hands on to keep her busy. I got a lot of cooking done back then.

But this morning the house was silent until 8:30 a.m. I was shocked when I woke. We had a mad dash to get out to school and work. I didn't have time to do any prep work in the kitchen for tonight's dinner. When I got home from work, I was tired and hungry. Fortunately, I had made chicken soup over the weekend, and I ate some of that for dinner. We have a freezer full of old bread, and I used three pieces to make grilled cheese. Still, I wasn't satisfied. I needed more protein. The best thing I could find in the fridge to eat were eggs.

When I was a child, my mother made eggs a special way for me. She called it a "Chopped Up Egg." It caused great confusion whenever I slept over at a friend's house. "Eggs for breakfast? Over easy, sunny side up, or scrambled?," the parent would ask me. "Chopped up, please," I would reply, not knowing anything else to ask for. "What?" was usually the response.

It is a poached egg in a dish, chopped and served with some butter and salt and pepper. My mother usually served it in a tea cup. I loved it. I don't make it very often anymore, but it still tastes good in my memory. I was too lazy to make chopped up eggs this evening. I just boiled and peeled the eggs and ate them. I'm not proud, but I am well rested.

Chopped Up Egg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil and then reduce the flame until the water is barely simmering.

Crack the egg and slip it into the water gently.

Poach it for three or four minutes, depending on how well done you like your eggs. I like the yolk bright yellow and solid, but you may not.

Put the butter into the bottom of a teacup, along with some salt and pepper.

When the egg is ready, remove it from the water and pat it dry with a paper towel.

Transfer it to the teacup and chop the egg up with a spoon, mixing the butter and the salt and pepper together.

Enjoy.

Note: This is also delicious with a bit of toast crumbled into the cup.


An Old Friend Shares His Best, Healthiest Pancake Recipe and Other Advice

GreatMartiniSky10 Lately I’ve been in touch with a former colleague, the writer and editor Charles Michener. I used to work with him in New York, and he’s now based in Cleveland, researching a book on the lakeside city. Charles is a bit older than I am, and his children are grown. He’s still interested in cooking, certainly, and offered the following advice. It is timeless.

I've cooked for my family (ies) since I got fascinated as a kid by how to make an omelet. I was about ten when I successfully flipped a mushroom omelet without using a spatula. (Now I prefer to turn off the heat while the top is still runny, put a lid on the pan, let it sit for thirty seconds and then gently roll up the omelet.) In my view, making an omelet is the best way to begin learning proficiency at the stove. It teaches you how to handle and crack eggs; blend whites and yolks; make judgments about seasoning (don’t salt the eggs until after they’re in the pan); understand different ingredients (cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, herbs); observe the effects of heat; and execute split-second finishing so that the result looks good on the plate. And you learn how great such a complicated little mixture tastes when it’s right off the stove. From there, it’s a short step to frittatas, which I also find deeply satisfying to make. Another wonderful learning dish for kids is risotto, which I taught my daughter when she was three. The slow transformation and expansion of rice kernels into the pillowy final product is magical. Making a risotto also teaches diligence and patience.

In high school, I belonged to a group of boys who started a Gourmet Club as a way to get girls. It worked. Don’t forget to put Edith Piaf on the hi-fi when you’ve brought out your Coq au Vin in a copper pot and placed it next to the pre-dripped candles.

I've cooked in a restaurant in Venice, Italy. And I really enjoy cooking for myself, fortified by an ice-cold vodka martini without vermouth. Lately, I've tried cutting back on oils—using cooking spray (the best I've found is Smart Balance Omega)—and substituting light chicken stock for oil in salad dressing. I've also cut back on eggs—or at least whole eggs (whites alone do almost the same job); pork and beef (the occasional Nieman Ranch bacon is like Beluga caviar; a great cheeseburger is now like Beef Wellington); cheese (except for goat cheese); and milk (except for almond, soy or rice milk). I've actually grown to like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.

I did a simple dinner the other night for eight people: a salad of baby spinach and watercress, roast beets marinated in Balsamic vinegar, toasted walnuts, crumbled feta cheese and marinated white anchovies; brown rice (I like Lundberg Countrywild) with lots of bay leaf, tossed with scallions, parsley and lemon zest; and a shrimp sauté - garlic, chopped tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, capers slowly simmered in chicken stock before adding the shrimp, brightened at the end with lots of chopped fresh tarragon, basil and a splash of lemon juice. Dessert: berries and sorbet.

Essentials in my pantry: capers; Maldon sea salt; Pepper Supreme peppercorns; bay leaves; cayenne; tumeric; cardamom pods; coriander seeds; cinnamon; whole nutmeg; pure vanilla extract; Worcestershire sauce; Sriracha hot chili sauce (better than Tabasco); small jars (better than tins) of Italian tuna packed in oil; ditto with anchovies; Goya canned beans; canned whole tomatoes (I love Redpack); varieties of brown and wild rice; Carnaroli rice for risotto; rice crackers; varieties of whole wheat pasta, especially penne rigate (most versatile); good quality red wine vinegar (for salad dressing) and extra virgin olive oil (get the best and use sparingly as finisher on pasta); extra light olive oil (for salad dressing and cooking); white vinegar ("secret ingredient" in chili and complex stews).

Essentials in my fridge: lemons and leeks (the two best culinary catalysts); non-dairy milk; variety of Italian, Spanish and Greek olives (never pitted); sun-dried tomatoes; tomato paste; Trader Joe’s ginger spread (good with cheese or to spark up a salad dressing); Dijon mustard; Hellman’s mayonnaise; Durkee’s Famous Sauce (still the best sandwich spread ever); parmigiano reggiano; homemade tarragon pickles; multigrain tortillas; varieties of good spicy salsa; wild forest honey; pure maple syrup.

Top tip: the best cooking is cooking with things at hand–and by hand.

Here's my recipe for the best, healthiest breakfast I know of. The kids will love it.


Oatmeal Pancakes



               The proportions are for four, 4"  pancakes.

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant);
  • 1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese (or yogurt);
  • 2 egg whites (one beaten and folded in for fluffier pancake);
  • 1 whole egg (optional);
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract;
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (or more for flavor);
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder;
  • pinch of salt.


Combine ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
Let batter settle while heating griddle to very hot.
Lightly grease griddle with a stick of butter or Smart Balance Omega spray.
Pour batter onto griddle in four, same-sized pancakes.
Flip when bubbles appear and pancakes darken and begin to smoke.
Serve with heated pure maple syrup or wild forest honey.
You can add blueberries, thinly sliced bananas or crumbled toasted walnuts to the batter.

Father's Day Breakfast Surprise

Dutch_baby1 Santa Maria is a woman of remarkable fortitude. She once ran the New York City marathon without training (she had volunteered to escort a blind runner through half the course, but the person who was supposed to relieve her didn't show up, so she ran the whole way). Also, when she was younger, she climbed Kilimanjaro. Oh, and she married me.

Her strengths were on display this morning. Last night we went out to a friend's wedding, and we didn't get home until well past midnight. Nina, who is just getting over yet another bout with a mystery virus was up at 5:50 a.m., and she was hungry. At least she wasn't throwing up, like she was the day before. Santa Maria got out of bed and took care of the kids and let me sleep in. It was a generous Father's Day gift.

Once I got up, Santa Maria made an old-favorite breakfast, something she's christened a Dutch Baby. Her mother used to make the sweet and savory egg dish for her. It has flour, lemon, and powdered sugar in it. The Dutch Baby is essentially a variation on a popover or Yorkshire pudding. Santa Maria makes it in a cast-iron frying pan. We once went through a phase of eating it every week. That was shortly after Pinta was born, a period that also coincided with Santa Maria carrying around a since-lost, post-delivery, thirty-extra pounds: watch out, it's a rich dish.

It's a delight to cook. It fluffs up in the oven, and then has to be rushed to the plate before it completely collapses. The kids love to get involved. They can sprinkle the powdered sugar on top. We eat with cherry jam and smiles.

Alas, Santa Maria had to make the Dutch Baby this morning from a modified recipe. I had taken to my office the recipe that she perfected during that pos-partum period. She didn't have the right one at her disposal. I thought that this version turned out well. The kids agreed. Pinta saw the little triangluar piece on her plate and said "Pizza!" I was excited to see her devour the Dutch Baby. Up until now, she has refused to eat eggs. We might have to start making it more often again. Tomorrow, I'll post the proper recipe for the Dutch Baby.


Food, Inc.

Last night, the Museum of the Moving Image organized a screening of the new documentary “Food, Inc.” I went, and an old joke came to mind: There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.

“Food, Inc,” delivers a gut-wrenching (pardon the pun) look at our nation’s food supply, and there are some who are going to say (or who are already saying) that the film doesn’t tell the truth. That’s a bunch of malarkey.

It is true that the film doesn’t present the views of Monsanto, Perdue, Tyson, and the other major companies that dominate the market. But that’s only because they refused to cooperate with the director, Robert Kenner. After the screening, Kenner told the audience that when he started the project, “I wanted to make a film about where our food comes from, but more than fifty companies wouldn’t talk to me.”

Those companies do talk, but only about to distract us. They advertise like mad, filling our minds with cheery slogans and our eyes with pretty pictures. They don’t want the truth about what they are doing to be known. It’s not just that they don’t want the public to see what happens in a slaughterhouses or how chickens are actually raised. They don’t want the public to learn how government policy makes corn chips, soda, and the like cheaper than fresh vegetables. They don’t want you to think about what you are eating.

“Food, Inc.” does an excellent job of condensing the ideas of such authorities in the field as Eric Schlosser (of “Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”), both of whom appear in the film, as well as showing how seemingly rational decisions can have unexpected, and un-healthy, effects. We have some of the most productive farmers in the world and cheap food is a worthy goal. But that food needs to be good for us, and for the planet, or else we might just not be able to afford it.

The film opens on Friday, June 12, and there’s a screening in Brooklyn next Wednesday, the 10th, at The Bell House. Annaliese Griffin, the editor of the lifestyle and events-listing site Brooklyn Based, will interview the director and Schlosser after the screening.





More Pancake Recipe Tricks

DonohuePancakeEDIT3 As this blog grows, I plan on including outside contributions. My recent post on pancakes drew this response from my friend Peter Feld.  He’s not, to the best of his knowledge, a father. But he once was a kid. 

In my house, Saturday mornings were for French Toast, and Sundays belonged to Dad's pancakes. French Toast was great but I loved Sundays better. Like John, my Dad never used mix. Nothing fancy - no separated eggs or whipped egg whites. The main secrets to success were good proportions and a tablespoon of vanilla. I've taken his tricks with me all over the world and they haven't let me down yet. Here goes:

2 1/2 cups flour.... white back then, but nowadays I would think about using whole wheat or at least unbleached.
3 tbsp sugar... this was back in the '60s, I'd cut that now by a bit, no loss of flavor
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder.

Mix together dry ingredients, then add:

2 eggs
2 cups milk (low-fat now)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 stick melted butter.... well, nowadays I cut back on the butter and just melt some in two pans for cooking and pour most of into the batter and stir. Beat it all together, then start ladling the batter and cooking the pancakes. Dad didn't go for adding fruit until after we were grown, but blueberries (frozen are fine), bananas, or both make it even better.

When the bubbles pop and harden, and the top is no longer moist, time to flip them. Hopefully the temperature is such that the pancakes don't burn on the bottom before the top is dried out. (Get the pan good and hot before you start, then turn down the heat. Somehow the first one is always a little off, but that gives you something to nibble while you cook the rest of them.) But of course, if that happens, just serve with the burnt side down!