Weekends are for making breakfast. I used to think weekends were for going to brunch, and we still do go out to brunch every now and then, but I’ve started to embrace the simplicity, comfort and relative cheapness of making those same dishes at home.
Take the dish you see above: that’s called a dutch baby; a big, puffy, baked pancake. I got the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, but Molly has a pretty gorgeous looking one on her site too (click here.) Whichever recipe you choose, it couldn’t be simpler: you mix melted butter, eggs, flour and milk (or in Molly’s case, half-and-half), pour that into a skillet and bake in the oven. I’d recently purchased a cast iron skillet, and there was something especially satisfying about making a dutch baby in a cast iron. How much would this be if you had this at a restaurant? I’m guessing, at least, $12. At home, assuming you already have milk, eggs and flour in your fridge, it’s free.
At 11:47 PM, after watching two episodes of “The Wire: Season 4,” it hit me like a ton of bricks: an intense craving for Honeycomb cereal. To put this into perspective, I haven’t consumed Honeycomb in years. I haven’t consumed cereal in years. What brought this on? Why was I out my door, shuffling along the street like Bubs and his shopping cart, needing a Honeycomb fix?
I never liked pancakes growing up (the syrup made them too soggy, I preferred waffles) but I like them now mostly because they’re easy to whip up on a Sunday morning, especially if you have one of the following dairy items on hand: buttermilk (most preferable), regular milk (also preferable) or, as I learned today, sour cream and half and half (not preferable, but certainly good).
Yes, to make pancakes you just mix a bunch of dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) and then a bunch of wet ingredients (milk or buttermilk or sour cream, eggs, melted butter), and then you add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, heat some butter in a nonstick skillet and fry up the pancakes a few at a time. Only, as I discovered today, you can also add a mystery ingredient. Sometimes the mystery ingredient is chocolate chips, other times the mystery ingredient is coconut. Today the mystery ingredient was strawberries!
Funny how when you have an impulse to do something, like add strawberries to pancakes, you look for validation that your idea is ok online (at least I do). I Googled “strawberry pancakes” and saw several recipes and I knew it was ok. And sure enough, after making them and eating them, it was more than ok: it’s a terrific way to use up seasonal strawberries that you bring home from the farmer’s market and don’t know how to use.
I figure at this point in the post you’re probably wondering: “are you going to give us a recipe?” And normally, I’d say: “No, just do any pancake recipe you like and add sliced up strawberries at the end” but instead I AM going to give you a recipe in the style of Star Wars opening credits. Enjoy!
Last week I started a series called Tuesday Techniques, a series where I cook my way through Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques the same way that Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio did at the start of his career. Already, I’m on shaky ground: (1) my Tuesday techniques posts always show up on Wednesday, but Wednesday Techniques doesn’t have quite the same ring to it; (2) this week I didn’t really use the Pepin book to work my chosen technique, I chose the technique first and picked up the book later.
The technique I chose was “home fries.” I chose home fries because it was Sunday morning and I was going to make scrambled eggs and there were Yukon gold potatoes sitting on the counter. Now my normal Sunday breakfast fare is scrambled eggs with homemade biscuits or buttermilk pancakes. I don’t make home fries, normally, because the truth is I don’t know how to make home fries. They’re a staple on your plate at a brunch restaurant, but I always take them for granted. Often they’re disappointing: limp, greasy, under-seasoned.
So this Sunday I began my research. I did lots of Googling, I did open the Pepin book but his recipes for fried potato balls and soap-shaped potatoes didn’t really fit the bill. He did speak eloquently about my chosen ingredient, though: “The potato is probably the greatest food contribution that the New World made to the Old….The potato is a versatile vegetable; it can be boiled, sauteed, baked, fried, steamed, broiled, stewed and so on.”
The secret to making home fries, I soon discovered (after all my research) is a combination of two of those techniques: boiling and frying. First you boil, then you fry. It’s that easy.
There is no greater triumph for a home cook than to make something spectacular out of food you already have on hand. Case in point: the dish you see above, Chorizo scrambled eggs and fried fingerling potatoes–assembled, with no premeditation, in a matter of minutes.
How did I do it? Easy. I took Chorizo that I had leftover from the Arroz Con Pollo I cooked last week and, after peeling off the skin, cut it into cubes. I heated some olive oil, added the cubes, fried them up a bit–poured off some excess fat–and then added 3 eggs slightly beaten. I immediately lowered the heat to barely a whisper of a flame and stirred around until the eggs were hardly cooked. Salt, pepper, all done!
As for the potatoes, I took the fingerlings and cut them vertically. Then I coated a skillet with olive oil, turned on high heat, waited a few minutes and carefully placed the poatoes in face down. I left them like that for a long while–10 minutes–and after lifting one to make sure it was a dark beautiful brown, I started tossing them all around and continuing to cook until a knife went through easily. At that point I added lots of salt and pepper and tilted on to a plate.
Not the healthiest breakfast in the world, but one that’ll put a big smile on your face. And if you’re smiling at breakfast, imagine what you’ll be doing at dinner. No wonder it’s the most important meal of the day.