This single-serving French toast recipe came to me out of spontaneous necessity. Save for a couple stale slices of bread and a single egg, my fridge was empty. And though I can't argue that this would be, universally, a "pantry raid" recipe, it is for me in my kitchen: I happen to always have bread crumbs (especially panko) and packets of roasted seaweed snack on hand. It makes so much sense, anyway, to crust the French toast in panko before frying it in butter. The result is a brilliantly savory crust, which stays super crunchy even after drowned in good, runny maple syrup. The salty seaweed makes sense, too, in the comfortingly bland grits, and goes with the savory-inflected palate of the spread. A side of lacquered, maple-candied bacon is optional, but strongly recommended. This is French toast for one—and for one alone. —Eric Kim
For the French toast, whisk together the egg, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a shallow dish. Soak the bread slice in this custard, ensuring thorough soakage on both sides. Let this sit awhile as you prepare the bacon and grits.
Place the bacon on a foil-lined quarter sheet pan into a cold oven. Turn the heat on to 400°F and roast about 20 minutes. Take out of the oven, drizzle maple syrup over both slices, and place back into oven 5 more minutes to candy. (Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.) Plate immediately, then set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring the water, milk, and quick-cooking grits to a simmer (this will seem like too much water and too little grits, but trust me; the grits will swell up considerably, and all that water will make them nice and tender). Once brought to a simmer, cook 5 minutes, or until slightly thicker but still loose. Add butter, crumble in the roasted seaweed snack, season with salt and pepper, and stir. Keep covered until ready to eat. (Optional: Sometimes I add a dribble of sesame oil here to enhance the nutty flavor of the seaweed snack.)
Your bread slice should be thoroughly soaked now, even mushy. Place panko onto another plate or cutting board, then carefully add the bread to it, pressing gently to coat both sides with crumbs. You may have to flip a few times, but once generously covered, the toast should be sturdier and easier to handle.
To fry the French toast, heat a skillet over medium-low, then add the butter, allowing it to melt so you're left with a nice puddle in which the panko can properly fry. Add toast and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip to cook the other side, 3 to 4 minutes again. Season with a final pinch of salt, if desired, and eat with maple syrup, bacon, and grits.
Eric Kim is a Senior Editor at Food52, where his solo dining column, Table for One, runs Friday mornings. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.