Serious Eats, one of my favorite blogs, hosts a weekend cooking share post every weekend. Usually, I don’t catch them in time to participate but last week I did. The theme was pancakes. This hit very close to home for me as one of the first things that I learned to make by myself was Biscuit box mix pancakes.
In our family, there was a mini-tradition of making these on Saturday morning, with a side of cartoons. The ritual was that whichever older child got up first made the batter and then cooked these for the younger ones. Chocolate chips were added only rarely but butter and syrup were usually generously applied. As we’re all now quite spread out geographically, we haven’t been together to continue this in years.
It’s no wonder then that when I saw this cooking suggestion on Serious Eats, my tastebuds were dreaming about lost weekends and remembering a plate of poffertjes that I had at the New Amsterdam Dutch days celebration a couple of weeks ago. While waiting to get into the mini village that had been set up for the occasion, I saw people eating these little paper containers of something that looked good. Wandering around the market, I came across the stand where they were being made.
Pouring the batter via a funnel into the molds
Flipping them from one side to the other to continue cooking
The result was well worth the three-minute wait that I had to see my mini-pancakes being made in front of me. Slathered with butter and dusted with powdered sugar, these rich and fluffy treats were the perfect mid-afternoon slump pick-me-up. It made me proud of my recently-discovered Dutch heritage to know that we’d contributed these to the culinary landscape.
Unfortunately, however, I don’t have one of those pans in which to make the little gems, and I really don’t need any more kitchen gadgets. So, I tackled one of my new favorite recipes that I discovered this past summer in Food & Wine
: Mixed-Berry Dutch Baby
. This has become my new go-to dish to showcase late-summer berries, and it will definitely make it into my ‘keeper’ file.
It also reminds me of the Dutch Apple Pancake that I had when I was visiting Amsterdam several years ago, and the recipe is similar to ones that I have found for that dish. The fruit becomes enrobed in the soft, cakey filling. The fact that it puffs up so high by the end of its baking time makes it all that more dramatic of a dish to serve to company or to have as a special weekend brunch, syrup not needed and cartoons optional.
After seeing the Julie/Julia movie, I decided that I wanted to read more about Julia Child’s life, which is also partially why I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. I picked up one biography that was written before her death and also the book in which Mrs. Child described her introduction to French food and the journey that created Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Unfortunately, this had the effect of making me long even more for an entire movie starring Meryl Streep as Julia. The dedication and passion with which Julia Child tackled this project and her determination that American cooks have a chance to learn about this wonderful cuisine made me feel not a little bit guilty that I haven’t tried to make things from her books more often.
While reading My Life in France, Julia mentions a dish called Piperade (on p. 183), that her friend Avis De Voto raved about. Aside from the general hunger pangs that reading these books caused, this reference was to a dish that I actually have made several times before which made me dig the recipe out of my own personal ‘archive.’ That and seeing late-summer tomatoes, ripe red peppers, and fragrant basil at the Greenmarket inspired me to put the books down and to actually make something. The clipping is from The Sunday Times of London about 11 years ago.
I’ve made a couple of notes on the side, just so that I could remember what I liked about this dish and to distinguish it from the hundreds of other recipes that I pull out of magazines. Because Julia mentions making it, I consulted MAFC (p. 137, Volume 1). There (and in versions I found in my other French cookbooks) it talks about scrambling the eggs into the tomato-pepper mixture. As a personal choice, I don’t really like my eggs that way, so this take where the egg is cooked on top of the other ingredients better suits my tastes. It can also be used as a filling for an omelette.
I recommend using a 12-inch skillet to make this. That way, all the ingredients have space to cook without becoming too mushy. The raw peppers and tomatoes will end up reducing. In My Life in France, when going through the recipe testing process, Julia Child mentions some of the challenges in converting the recipes from French to American because even basic ingredients like flour are processed differently between the two countries. I’ve definitely had the same experience, but I’m happy to say that this recipe works well on both sides of the Atlantic.
At the end, you’ll have a special dish for brunch, to serve perhaps with a chunk of a baguette or thick slice of toasted country bread. The sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers is contrasted by the smoky-peppery pancetta (I used a commercially available package of this instead of the bacon) and the bite of the basil. I usually sprinkle a little bit of salt, black pepper, and extra basil on top to finish it. I also made this in a regular batch and then broke it up in smaller portions to be reheated in tapas pans. This would be another way to serve it to your guests or, in my case, to eat it over several days for an extra-nice weekday breakfast.
Some very sad news hit the wires today. A friend of mine texted me about it. Sheila Lukins, of the Silver Palate, passed away from brain cancer. From the obit in the New York Times, it sounds like things went very quickly. I’m very sorry for her family.
I fell in love with The New Basics Cookbook when I started living and cooking on my own, post-college. This was also the cookbook that I gave to folks as a wedding gift, I thought it was such a useful resource. The other two books I picked up later. One of the best things about any of these books is the sidebar notes and tips. These were the references for me for all sorts of new ingredients, ones that were foreign to my suburban Virginia upbringing. I just wish I’d been able to make it to their store.
After having lived overseas and currently living in New York, I get to have ready access to most of the components of these recipes. A few recipes now seem a bit dated and overly rich, although most of my friends still swear by some of them. Many of the dishes they explain are ones that I’ve been able to enjoy at restaurants around the city, something which always inspires me to try to put them together them for myself. I feel as though the Silver Palate ladies could make that possible through their books.
I wish Ms. Lukins her place at that great big dining table in the sky.