BODEGAS, BACON, BRUNCHINESS


Every Sunday morning, I smile and say 'good morning' and 'thank you!' to my local bodega guy as I heft my fat Sunday copy of the New York Times up onto the counter along with a crisp five. And every Sunday morning, he rings me up without expression, sometimes even without eye contact. Maybe he doesn't like my cheeriness, maybe he doesn't like my face, maybe my hastily-assembled Sunday morning outfits are too outrรฉ for his taste, or maybe he just doesn't approve of the Times. Whatever. Our exchange seems ritualistic at this point: I'm chipper, he's impassive.

And then I breeze out of his shop and back up the street, I come back inside and I make eggs and dark, dark coffee, and other brunchy things. French toast muffins are among the list of things that I feel qualify as quintessentially 'brunchy', and Sunday mornings stretched out on the couch with your newly-acquired Times in hand, a mug of darkest coffee and your most-beloved-human both reassuringly nearby, those are the best times to enjoy your French toast muffins. Although let's be honest here, you could easily stumble out to the fridge later that evening, heat up one of these little leftover love bombs, top it with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream and call the whole thing secret midnight dessert. French toast muffins with bacon won't judge you, no matter what the time of day.


Is the bodega man, in fact, judging me? I can't tell. I just collect these little experiences now, one at a time like gently clacking beads on a string, saving them for a time when there won't be any new New York experiences for me. I won't have a bodega man in Phoenix, that's for sure.

I am starting to feel wistful, already, for the city. I can already tell how I will feel about it in the future as I look back, how it will sound when I talk about it. Less than three weeks left. Am I allowed to feel wistful about a place I lived in for just one month shy of two years? That's long enough somewhere to qualify as not-a-vacation, though not nearly long enough for me to call myself a New Yorker. I'd never have dreamed of it. I couldn't even manage to stay long enough to see the bodega man crack a smile.

I'm taking the brunch tradition with me when I go, though.

French Toast Muffins with Crispy Bacon Bits

Makes about 6 muffins

2 cups of cubed bread (I had challah and ciabatta on hand; a contrast in textures like this is really nice)
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 strips of bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (mine is super-thick, awesome farmer's market bacon, yours might be sliced thinner....whatever you're using, make sure it will give you at least 2 tablespoons of crispy bacon bits)

In a mixing bowl, add milk and beat two eggs into it. Add maple syrup and vanilla, stir until well combined. Add the cubed bread and toss until bread is coated with the mixture and has begun to soak it up. It's really best to let it sit at this point; at least 20 minutes if you're in a hurry is fine but I really feel like they'd be best served with a good hour or two--even overnight, if you're really organized and have brunch guests coming the next day....even better, this way you can sleep in a little longer in the morning!--sitting in the fridge to chill and really meld together.

While all this happy sitting and soaking is happening, you can prepare the bacon and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, add bacon and cook until dark and crispy, stirring often. Blot away excess fat and add bacon to the bread mixture. Divide mixture evenly between 6 muffin cups (either rub the insides of each cup lightly with butter or use paper muffin liners), bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until muffins are golden brown on top.

Serve next to another worthily brunchy-type dish....this morning, I paired them with scrambled eggs topped with lightly sauteed yellow summer squash, fresh tomatoes and basil, with some extra lashings of maple syrup for the tops of the muffins because it's really not possible to have too much maple syrup, and because Sunday morning brunch only comes once a week! HAPPY BRUNCHING, FRIENDS.