When I look back on this period of our lives — and I do sincerely hope that we’ll be looking back on it someday and that quarantine isn’t just a new way of life — there are certain cultural artifacts that’ll remind of me this time: The Leftovers (which we marathoned at the start of the pandemic; it’s very on-the-nose and also very good), The Nilsson Sessions (my go-to cooking music these days), The Patrick Melrose novels (read them over the past few months), Parting Glances (an incredible movie that we watched in our Zoom movie club), and, most relevant to your interests: ricotta pancakes.
How did I arrive at these ricotta pancakes? I can trace it back to my friend Diana telling me about Farm Fresh To You (a great CSA) and the incredible ricotta that they carry from Bellwether Farms. I signed up and started getting the ricotta every week — it comes in a little basket, so the whey drains out and the ricotta is extra thick — and at some point I had a ricotta pile-up. Instead of just eating it with a spoon (a viable option, considering how good it was), I decided to treat ourselves to ricotta pancakes one morning for breakfast.
Breakfast may be my favorite meal to cook because there’s nothing fussy or formal about it. You just wake up, roll out of bed, head to the kitchen, put the coffee on, see what you’ve got in the fridge and the pantry and get going. Most of the time, I improvise with what I have on hand; but sometimes, if I want breakfast to be special, I turn to one of these ten recipes and start my day in style. Now that it’s almost the weekend, consider this a prompt to start your Saturday or Sunday with style too.
Several years ago (in 2008, to be exact), I covered Vegas Uncork’d, Bon Appetit’s Las Vegas food festival, for the Food Network. That was a whirlwind of a trip; I interviewed so many chefs and attended so many meals, it felt like I ran a marathon. The nice people there invited me back many times but I was never able to justify the flight from New York. This time, though, I realized I could go just by driving. So I said “yes” and brought along my friend Diana.
Look, I’m going to level with you. These are pretty pictures I took last weekend, on a Sunday morning, after I’d made coffee for myself and read the Sunday New York Times and decided I wanted some breakfast. In the refrigerator, I had leftover English Porridge from April Bloomfield’s cookbook, with its great salty sweet kick. Instead of heating it back up, I thought: “What if I turn it into pancakes? Oatmeal pancakes?” Seemed reasonable enough.
It’s Friday which means it’s time for a weekend breakfast recipe!
I’d like you to meet my breakfast from last weekend, Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes. These pancakes, which come from Cheryl and Griffith Day’s “Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook” intrigued me because of the cornmeal in the title. I’m not normally a pancake person because of a texture issue–I find them too spongy, too mushy when you add the syrup–but cornmeal seemed to suggest these might be crisper than normal pancakes. And guess what? They totally were. Craig called them the best pancakes he’d ever had for that very reason.
We need to talk about the pancake at Canelé in Atwater Village.
I mean, look at it: it’s totally outrageous. It’s puffed up like a blowfish and it’s filled, almost defiantly, with a Meyer lemon custard. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with a lemon wedge, this pancake puts all other pancakes to shame. Is it a Dutch Baby? A riff on the David Eyre’s pancake? Possibly.
People who live in warm climates aren’t allowed to eat pancakes.
It’s true: pancakes are for cold winter mornings, still in your pajamas, curled around a space heater and holding your coffee mug close to your face. Pancake batter is basically cake batter and the only way you can justify eating cake at the start of your day is to keep warm; so Floridians, stay away. This recipe is for those of us who saw our breath this morning.
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!