cannoli french toast


One of the windfalls of our unfortunate isolation is I am cooking a lot more. The combination of having more time and Ginger not having meetings twelve nights a month means we get to eat dinner together. The last week in particular my depression has decided to show up for a return engagement (so much for distancing) and that, too, has driven me to the kitchen–my one depression-free space.

One of the regular meals of the lockdown has been fried chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and then I try to think of something that is not beige to a to the plate. My mother is the one who taught me how to fry chicken, right down to pulling the dough off my fingers to drop in the oil to see if it’s hot enough, which then becomes a tasty snack while you wait for the chicken to cook.

My mother haunts my cooking; I feel closest to her and I miss her the most when I am making a meal. For that I am eternally grateful.

Once Ginger and I moved to New England, my mother was intrigued by ingredients I learned to use that were not a part of her repertoire. I learned how to make fresh pasta. When she came to visit, she was amazed that our supermarkets had aisles of Italian food where she was used to seeing Mexican stuff. The differences fed us both.

Last night, I made Ginger’s birthday dinner with Mom in mind: fried chicken, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, cornbread. This morning, for Mother’s Day, I switched gears to make breakfast for Rachel, my mother-in-law, with whom I share a love of cannolis. Ricotta cheese–one of the ingredients my mother didn’t cook with much–has become a staple in my fridge, so deciding to make cannoli french toast didn’t mean a trip to the store. It did mean I made Rachel really happy.

She took a couple of bites and said, “When can we have this again?”

Most of the recipes for “stuffed” french toast are really talking about a french toast sandwich, which is far easier to do than cutting the bread thick and then trying to create a pocket for the filling. Though the recipe that follows uses a cannoli filling, you could adapt it to do most anything. One of the things I like about using ricotta, besides the taste, is it doesn’t get real melty and so the sandwich holds it shape. I also added limoncello to the egg mixture because I wanted the citrus taste to add another layer. Bailey’s Irish Creme is another good dipping liquid. You get the idea: use this as a platform for your imagination.

And check the internet. This recipe was my jumping off place.

A quick note about the bread. The cool thing about french toast is it’s a sort of fancy thing that you can make with what you have on hand. Since I knew I was going to do this for Rachel, I bought a loaf of brioche at the market because it is soft and would soak up the egg. But use what you have, or what you like.

cannoli french toast

1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

2 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons limoncello
4 slices bread
1 tablespoon butter

In a small bowl mix the ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla, and mini chocolate chips. (You could also add a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg.)

Beat the eggs, cream, and limoncello together until smooth and pour into a pie dish.

Put two of the slices of bread on the counter and divide the ricotta mixture between them. Place the other two slices on top.

Heat a skillet on medium to medium high. When the skillet is hot, drop the butter in it. While it is melting, place the sandwiches in the egg mixture. Let them sit for about thirty seconds and then turn them over and wait another thirty. Transfer them to the skillet and let them cook for three or four minutes on each side. You may want to turn down the heat a bit at this point.

Remove them from the skillet, cut them in half, put them on plates, and sprinkle them with powdered sugar, if you so choose. I also topped mine with fresh fruit and served it with maple syrup.

We will have it again.



  1. This sounds wonderful. Must try.

    Mom’s dealing with isolation, and with Dad having up & down days, by cooking. A lot. Some days they’re on each other’s nerves & I try to be the peacemaker or go-between. Somehow I always end up bringing home yet more cookies, or ziti, or frozen meat.

    Most days, of course I’m grateful to have them still & I cherish every minute. There are other days I sorta dread going because there’s that millstone that drags me down – the days are running short. We all know it. I’m trying to help Dad find some peace. That should help Mom. But we all talk around things. I’m not so sure this “just be present for them” bit is helping all that much, on those days.

    It’s all I know to do, though. So, keep doing what you need to; you’re not alone and you are loved, brother!

  2. Nino, our grandmother, made green beans with the fried chicken. I think every Sunday after church. My mom could cook that same fried chicken. ❤️❤️❤️

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