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Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 12:25 am

Savory pancakes

Savory sweet corn pancake.
PHOTO BY PETER GLATZ

 


Savory: (sā'væ-rē)
(In the world of cuisine) food belonging to the category that is salty and spicy rather than sweet. [i.e. not sweet]
From the Oxford English Dictionary


Both of these recipes can be a delicious main course or a part of a larger meal. The sweet corn pancake easily becomes vegetarian by substituting extra cheese for the ham or bacon.

This recipe is my riff on two riffs. Variations of this eggy pancake can be found in Northern Europe: Pfannkuchen, baked with fruit or topped with butter, powdered sugar and lemon. Similar batters are utilized for popovers and traditional English Yorkshire pudding.

Credit for the addition of cornmeal and fresh corn goes to New York Times food writer Melissa Clark. Her brunch/dessert version is topped with a lightly sweetened blackberry compote. I recently had one topped with cheese and ham at Milktooth, a groundbreaking restaurant in Indianapolis. Named one of 2015’s 10 best new American restaurants in Bon Appetit magazine; its owner/chef, Jonathan Brooks, was also chosen as one of the 2015’s 10 best new American chefs by Food and Wine magazine. What’s most impressive is that Milktooth serves only breakfast/brunch and lunch; it’s the first such establishment to garner such national accolades. Wonderful as both were, I decided to combine the two and make the sum greater than its parts.

Savory sweet corn pancake

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. fine cornmeal
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 c. milk, whole preferred, at room temperature
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. loosely packed, freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 3/4 c. fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. grated Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyère or Gruyère type, such as (French) Comte
  • 1/2 c. ham cut into thin strips

Heat oven to 425 F.

Combine the flour and cornmeal. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until thoroughly combined and then stir in the milk. Whisk in honey (if using), nutmeg, salt and pepper until no lumps remain. Stir in the corn. Set aside.

Put the butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet such as cast iron (preferred), or 2-quart ovenproof baking dish. Melt the butter over medium to low heat on the stovetop. Increase to high heat. When the butter begins to bubble, quickly brush the sides of the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet with a gentle swirl so that it doesn’t all hit the hot surface in one spot.

Place in the oven. Bake until the pancake is puffed and the edges and center have turned golden brown, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make sure the grated cheese and ham are measured and close at hand.  

Working quickly, pull out the skillet, leaving it on the oven rack but just enough out of the oven to be able to scatter the ham over its surface. Top with the cheese. Slide the skillet back into the oven. Bake for about another 5 minutes or until the edges of the pancake are dark brown and the cheese has melted.

Remove the skillet from the oven. The pancake will quickly begin to deflate some or all of its puffiness. Don’t worry; it’s supposed to do so. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Makes one 10-inch pancake, serving 2–6.

Variations:
Cheddar bacon: Substitute cheddar for the Gruyère and 3-4 strips crisply fried, crumbled bacon for the ham. Optimally/optionally, substitute bacon fat for the butter.

Zucchini pancakes are a Turkish tradition. There are endless variations, so feel free to add a bit more or less of the feta or any of the herbs to your own taste. The addition of walnuts is fairly unusual but one I really like. Lightly toasted, they add delicious dimensions of both flavor and texture. Traditionally, Turkish zucchini pancakes are served with yoghurt but I prefer the contrast/compliment of a Middle Eastern tomato sauce lightly flavored with cinnamon. These absolutely scrumptious pancakes are wonderful for brunch, lunch or supper, as a vegetarian entrée or side dish. Bet you can’t eat just one!

Turkish zucchini pancakes

  • 3/4 c. walnuts
  • 1 lb. young zucchini (without large seed cavities), stems and root ends trimmed, coarsely grated
  • 1 T. salt for sprinkling on the grated zucchini, plus additional below
  • 2 c. thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts, about 2 bunches
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh dill feathers, large stems removed or substitute 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/3 c. chopped parsley, preferably flat-leafed
  • 2 T. chopped fresh tarragon or 2 tsp. dried (or substitute additional parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, or more to taste
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until they just begin to brown and become fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Put the grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Toss until the salt is thoroughly incorporated, then put the colander over a sink or bowl and let the zucchini drain for 30-45 minutes.

Rinse the zucchini shreds thoroughly under cold running water, then spread evenly over the surface of a large, lint-free towel. Roll the towel up and press it firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. If the zucchini still seems wet, twist the towel and wring it out until the shreds are as dry as possible.

Combine the zucchini, green onions, eggs, flour, herbs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the crumbled feta. At this point the mixture can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated, covered, until ready to use. (If you’re making it more than two or three hours ahead add the feta later with the walnuts).

When you’re ready to start making the pancakes, stir in the walnuts (and feta, if appropriate), making sure the ingredients are combined thoroughly. Place a large baking sheet lined with paper towels in an oven turned to low.

Pour a thin film of olive oil into a large skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, place large spoonfuls (about 1/3 cup) into the oil, spreading the mixture into flat cakes with the back of the spoon. Fry until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy on the outside and cooked through, turning once, about three to four minutes per side. As they’re done, place the pancakes in a single layer on the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while cooking the rest. Serve immediately with yoghurt and/or the tomato sauce below. Makes about 12.

This tasty tomato sauce is good not only with the zucchini pancakes above but also served over rice or as an accompaniment to kebabs, kofte (meatballs) or grilled seafood or fish.

Simple Middle Eastern tomato sauce

  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. onion, not super-sweet, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced or more or less to taste, about 1 T.
  • 1 T. dried oregano leaves (not ground), crumbled
  • 1 cinnamon stick, approximately 2-inches long or 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 c. dead-ripe, seeded and chopped tomatoes, peeled or not as you prefer, or 2 lb. can whole tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic along with the cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon and oregano in the olive oil over medium heat, or until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and their juices, crushing the canned tomatoes with your hands, if using. Simmer until thickened, 30 minutes or more. Fresh tomatoes usually take somewhat longer. Season with salt and pepper. Makes approximately 3 cups.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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