An Edible Conundrum: The Pancake That’s Not a Pancake

April 5, 2010 · 10 comments

The perfect solution.

It’s a problem that we always face in my house: I want smoked fish in the morning, and Susan would rather have a cinnamon bun. If I yield to pancakes or waffles, I have to have them with bacon, or ham, for salt balance; if Susan had her way, her early food (anything served before 1 pm) would be slathered with honey. Or jam. And possibly sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Assuming she’s not eating a blueberry bagel.

Until fairly recently, this resulted in our eating the same thing on lazy mornings–who likes to cook two separate dishes?–and one of us always wound up feeling shortchanged. If Susan made pancakes, I’d eat pancakes, but then I’d have to have a meat product of some kind to take the edge off the sweetness. If I made poached eggs, or omelets, Susan would need something involving preserves, and if she didn’t get it, there was an inevitable midday yen for a cookie of some sort.

Both Susan and I were at home on Friday, reveling in the fact that we could sleep as late as we wanted to, and move around as slowly as we needed to, and it wasn’t even the weekend yet. By the time we were at the table, drinking tea and reading the paper, it was almost noon. By the time we decided on food, it was almost one. And by that time, Susan had decided on pancakes.

But I didn’t want pancakes. I didn’t want anything sweet first thing, because I never do. I didn’t want any toast, and we didn’t have any bagels, or fish in the house. What to make for a simple meal that could be either sweet or savory and enjoyed any time of the day?

The pancake that’s not a pancake. It takes virtually no time to put together, and when it comes out of the oven, it makes everyone happy:¬†it can be sliced in half, or in quarters, and doused in maple syrup or honey; dolloped with fresh or stewed fruit; sprinkled with cheese and shoved back into the oven for a minute or so; drenched in chile sauce; or topped with an egg; or served with a salad. The possibilities are endless. Even better: it’s cheap as air, since you don’t have to run out to the store to buy a container of buttermilk, which you will use once and then find in the bowels of your refrigerator in eight months.¬†Better still? It contains three ingredients (not including oil for the pan, and pinches of nutmeg and salt), all of which you likely have.

The best news of all? The sweet and savory battle has officially been declared a draw. Peace, at last.

Simple Baked Pancake

Variations of this recipe exist virtually everywhere; in some places, it appears to be Dutch, and in others, German. Some recipes call for the inclusion of butter in the batter, and some don’t. The only caveat: it has to be eaten immediately, and begins to fall the minute it’s removed from the oven. This version, which is one of the easiest I’ve ever seen, comes from Elizabeth Alston’s Pancakes and Waffles (HarperCollins, 1993).

Serves 2

1 tablespoon mild olive oil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup all purpose flour

pinch salt

pinch ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a nine inch cast iron skillet with the oil, and place in oven for five minutes.

2. Beat together the eggs, milk, flour, salt, and nutmeg. Pour batter into the hot pan, and bake, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes without opening the oven door, until pancake is puffed and crisp. Cut in wedges to serve.