La cuisine du souvenir

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Movie Review: Les saveurs du palais (Haute Cuisine in English)

This charming movie is based on the true story of a woman who served as personal chef to the French president Francois Mitterrand. As Danièle Laborie arrives at the Elysee palace accompanied by suited men in a limousine, she thinks there must be some mistake. Why has she, an untrained cook from the countryside who runs a small French cooking school for foreigners, been chosen for such a formal position? Her insecurities quickly dissipate, however, as we see signs of the polite but unwavering self-assuredness that she will bring to the job. First she requests an unorthodox meeting with the president in order to discuss what he “likes to eat,” a curious question for these men in suits, with their concern for protocol and palace procedure. As she leaves her first seated lunch with her colleagues from the “main kitchen,” (the large area where chefs trained in the fanciest schools prepare the formal state meals) she says to her assistant, “that’s the first and last time I eat with those machos.”

As time goes on, she learns that Mitterrand shares her passion for the traditional regional foods of France, and wants nothing more than to be served simple food that his grandmother would have cooked. He reveals to her that as a child, he read cookbooks with great passion, even committing some pages to heart as one might poetry. At that moment, Danièle understands perfectly what the president wants from her and proceeds to disregard palace norms trying to deliver it- calling up aging farmers instead of the regular suppliers, overspending on artisanal products, and ruffling the feathers of those in the main kitchen. Through the meals she sends to the dining room, the two form an affectionate relationship that lies completely outside the world of politics.

One of the things I loved about the movie was the way that it shows different ways of conceiving of the act of culinary creation. On one side is the masculine-dominated world of professional chefs, with well-crafted and intellectualized dishes suitable for fine restaurant tables. On the other is a woman trying to come into that world with something very different- home-style dishes that will recall childhood, jog memories, and honor the loving labor of family cooks past. In an interview with France Culture, the woman whose life the film is based on calls this “la cuisine du souvenir,” or the cooking of memory.

Yet she is a woman who stands her ground, and who would rather work on her own terms in anonymity than be controlled by others. In the end, the palace becomes too confining. The beginning of the end comes when yet another set of suit-clad bureaucrats arrives out of the blue and dictates to Danièle a rigid new dietary regime for the president, a response no doubt to his failing health. Having won against palace protocol and haute cuisine pomp, she finally loses to the medicalization of food in the 1980s, which, perhaps naively (or even arrogantly), recommended abandoning traditional cooking wisdom.

A film about a political figure and yet devoid of politics, it is mostly a portrait of a woman with a passion for the tastes and traditions of rural France, and a president who broke with tradition in order to bring her into the inner sanctum of political power. We might think of her as an early disciple of the food movement that promotes a closer relationship to the land and a return to a more intimate and meaningful relationship to the food we eat. When she is asked for the rundown of her first menu, she announces, under the glaring pressure of the President’s social secretary, “Chou farci au saumon d’ecosse; et carottes du val de Loire. J’aime bien quand les choses viennent de quelque part.” (“Cabbage stuffed with Scottish salmon, and carrots from the Loire valley. I prefer when things come from someplace.”)

In that spirit, I offer you a meal that pulls on some of my personal favorite traditional French country recipes. The first is a salad that can be found in almost every restaurant in Lyon, and it one of my all time favorite salads. It is a play of contrasts between the bitter greens, the sharp, mustardy dressing, the smoky bacon and smooth, creamy egg yolks. Second is a take on coq au vin from my mother-in-law, and it’s a cinch to put together any night of the week. The chicken is stewed for a short time in white wine, and green olives give a briny punch at the end. Last, I give you one of my all time favorite desserts, which I often make for holidays and when entertaining. It is simple, magnificently beautiful, and wonderfully delicious. I guarantee shock and awe from your guests when you put it on the table.

Salade Lyonnaise (recipe adapted from Lucy Schnucks for the Eat-In Ethnic)

Serves 4

  • 1 lb frisée, mixed greens, or baby kale
  • 3/4 lb thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 inch crosswise strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped finely
  • 5 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch of granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • White vinegar
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • Croutons (homemade or store-bought)

Put mixed greens in large salad bowl. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the olive oil to the pan and reduce heat to medium low. Add shallots and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vinegar and mustard to the skillet and bring just to a boil, stirring, then turn off heat.

Meanwhile, bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a small sauce pan and add about a tablespoon of white vinegar. One at a time, break eggs into a shallow bowl and slip them into the boiling water. Cover the pot and remove from heat. Cook eggs for 3 to 4 minutes, just until the white is set and the yolk has filmed over. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on a paper towel.

Add the bacon to the greens. If necessary, gently reheat dressing, then pour over greens (they should wilt just a bit), toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each portion with a poached egg, croutons, and pepper and serve.

Poulet au vin blanc et aux olives vertes (Chicken with white wine and green olives)

  • 1.5- 2 lbs boneless chicken meat, cut into chunks
  • all purpose flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup pitted, canned green olives
  • 6-8 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper

Toss chicken in flour and shake to remove excess.  In a large skillet, brown chicken in oil or butter over high heat and remove. Add sliced onion and fry for 2-3 minutes in the pan. Next add wine and chicken broth to cover and stir with a wooden spoon to remove brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add mushrooms and thyme. Simmer on low, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Add green olives, cream, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for an addition 2-3 minutes.

Tarte aux pommes alsacienne 

  • 1 recipe pâte sablée
  • 3 large fuji or gala apples
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425. Roll the pastry out and place into an 11 inch tart pan. The dough is very forgiving so feel free to patch up as needed. Punch several holes in the bottom with a fork. Lay sliced apples into tart in whatever design you wish, overlapping each slice so that more fit in. Bake until crust just begins to firm, about 8-10 minutes. This pre- baking allows the crust to brown on the bottom and ensures that shrinkage will not occur after liquid has been added, leading to filling seeping out. This is especially important if you are using a 2 piece tart pan. While the tart is baking, mix next 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Next remove the tart from the oven, and pour filling evenly over the apples. Return to the oven, reduce heat to 400, and bake until the whole tart is golden brown. If the top seems to be browning too fast, reduce heat.

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Auntie Char’s Cinnamon Soft Pretzel

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There are certain things that you love to eat as a kid and never stop loving. This is one for me. If I could, I would eat a cinnamon pretzel every day. To me, it has everything you need to feel good: warm bread, cinnamon sugar, and butter. A warm pretzel makes a great breakfast treat or after school snack, and can be made easily at home if you buy ready-made pizza dough. If you are so inclined, it is also a great use for homemade bread dough – you could use a basic bread dough recipe or something like the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day technique which allows you to store the dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

I don’t give quantities here, just use the amount you need!

Cinnamon Soft Pretzel

  • bread dough of your choice – I use whole wheat
  • salted butter
  • cinnamon sugar

Roll bread dough into a snake and twist into a pretzel shape, or into a ring for quicker baking time. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes on the pan if you have the time, but this is not necessary.

Bake at 400 until golden brown, around 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness. When it comes out of the oven, brush on both sides with butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. The more the better…duh!

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Instant Curry

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I want to share a family-style dish that you may not think of as Japanese but it is very popular in Japan, especially among young people. It’s the Japanese version of a curry, and you can easily find packaged squares  of curry roux that are really a great little weeknight secret. Just look in the Asian section of your grocery store, and you might well find a product that looks something like this:

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S & B is the most common brand to find, but I went to an Asian store and picked out a brand called Vermont Curry (apparently it gets its name from the apples!). The cubes melt into the pot, instantly becoming a rich, mild and slightly sweet sauce for anything you put it in. This is very different from Indian or Thai curries that blow your socks off. Just a soft curry flavor.

The classic Japanese curry uses potatoes, carrots, onions, and any meat you choose. Simply brown your ingredients in oil and add a stock of your choice just to cover. Simmer until the ingredients have reached the level of doneness that you desire. Then add roux squares and watch as the broth becomes a silky sauce. You can experiment with how many roux squares to use in order to get the sauce you want. Simmer for another 5 minutes and serve. Yum!

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Update: It appears that very few regular grocery stores carry this type of product, so you may need to find your nearest Asian market if you’d like to try it.

Memories of Morocco

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When I arrived at Northwestern University to do my graduate work, I had relatively little knowledge or experience of North Africa. Within a few short years, this changed as I studied the French-language literature of the region with a prominent specialist who happened to be teaching there, gained a close friend who was raised in Morocco, and finally chose North African Jewish writers as my field of study.

I finally went to Morocco in 2007, staying mostly in Marrakech, but also traveling across the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate.  Marrakech remains in my memory a vividly saturated and almost surreal city. Part of this comes from the snow capped Atlas mountains that dramatically flank the hot city, and part may have come from the fact that, at the time, I was coming out of a rather lengthy period of anxiety during which I had hardly slept for weeks and weeks.  I will always remember the quiet riad where we stayed (a riad is a residence with an inner courtyard common in Muslim countries where women were traditionally kept out of public as much as possible) as a place that brought me some peace at an unsettled time. The extraordinary contrast between the chaos of the casbah and the intense calm of the riad’s inner sanctum after dark reminded me that quiet can be found in the strangest of places. 

Here are a few pictures from our trip.

A vegetable seller in the Casbah

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Place Jama El Fnaa food stands

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I also have a number of food memories that stand out from that trip. Each morning, we sat alone in the mosaic-tiled courtyard and a young woman brought us one of the most wonderful breakfasts I can ever remember eating. There was a flaky pancake (m’semen)  that we saturated in butter and honey, along with French croissants and dark, rich coffee. In the afternoon, we got a small plate of salty/sweet cookies, scented with anise or orange flower water. Lastly, I remember the semolina encrusted flat bread that was sold in the street and which I have tried to find again, to no avail. While home ovens are no match for the high heat stone ovens that this kind of bread is traditionally baked in, I will offer you a quick and delicious recipe for Moroccan bread at home.

North Africa has an amazingly diverse and ancient culture, distinct from the rest of the Arab world, and this is reflected in the cuisine. Moroccan cuisine is quite different from classic Middle Eastern cuisine, and typically does not include things like hummus, baba ghannouj, and falafel.  Instead, the flavors of Morocco tend towards the sweet- dried fruit, cinnamon, and honey, with many savory dishes having just a hint of sweetness from sweet spices or the addition of raisins, prunes, or dates. One of my favorite Moroccan dishes is a very unusual meat pie called Pastilla or B’stilla, which is made with chicken, cinnamon and a flaky pastry, and while I would not venture to make it at home, you should try it if you ever find yourself in a Moroccan restaurant that serves it. In Morocco, you also find lots of dishes with couscous, preserved lemon, as well as rich earthy stews made with cumin and paprika, and a vast range of honey-soaked pastries.

My friend Taieb, who spent his youth in Rabat, also happens to be a solid cook, and over the course of our PhD, we spent many evenings around the table, sharing his versions of various Moroccan dishes. This very much influenced my own cooking, and some of his techniques became part of my repertoire. Watching Taieb cook, I have noticed a few specific things he does that I think make a dish taste Moroccan. First, add more than you think you should of two spices: paprika and cumin. Yes,  you will find recipes that also call for cinnamon, ginger, and other spices, but paprika and cumin are the workhorses of the Moroccan spice cabinet and you need little else. Second- grate the onion and tomato, or blend it in a food processor. Using fresh tomatoes instead of canned mellows the tomato intensity, and the grating distributes both ingredients so that they meld together to create a smooth, flavorful sauce. Third- don’t be shy with the olive oil. The first time Taieb cooked at my house, I nearly cried watching my extra virgin olive oil being poured glug after glug (‘what is that, like a dollar per glug?’ I thought) into the pot. But this makes for such a glorious sauce that it’s worth it, and if you want to cook like a true Mediterranean, you need to go heavy on the olive oil.

So I will offer you a few recipes today. One is Taieb’s recipe for keftas (meatballs). They are great on their own, but I have jazzed them up just a bit here and integrated them into a classic meatball tajine (a simmered dish). The idea for serving the meatballs as a tajine came from a recipe from Rick Stein Cooks on the BBC. The recipe calls for browning the meatballs in oil first, and this does give the best flavor. As you can see from the picture, however, we cut corners this time and put them straight it. This works too. If you’re going to make the meatballs on their own, however, stick with the pan method. Next, I give you a Moroccan bread recipe that can be quickly put together in under 2 hours.

Other things I suggest you try are mint tea and argan oil.  Yes, there seems to be an argan oil craze right now in America (have you noticed that it is now in EVERYTHING in the beauty aisle?), and yet you still rarely see it as a food product. But argan oil has a rich, nutty flavor that is worth trying if you can find it. For years, I questioned the tale that Taieb fed me about argan oil, which involves goats in trees and…ahem, predigested, shall we say, seeds being pressed for their oil. Well, I’ll be damned if it’s not true. Here’s a picture your kids will find hilarious.

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In any case, I love it mixed into almond butter and drizzled with honey, as shown in this recipe I cut out of a French magazine:

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Lastly, no virtual trip to Morocco would be complete without a cup of sweet Moroccan mint tea. Everything about the service of mint tea in Morocco is delightfully impractical. The tea is poured from blazing hot metal teapots (towels are sometimes rubber banded to the handle to make handling possible) from a distance of 2 feet or more. The boiling liquid arcs past your face and into tiny etched glass cups, also impossible to handle without burning your fingers. If you want to make authentic Moroccan tea, make sure the blend is made with gunpowder tea and be sure to sweeten it generously.

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Keftas Egg Tajine 

For keftas:

  • 1 lb ground beef (80/20)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch mint (or a teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper

For sauce:

  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced, or 1 can
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • chopped parsley and/or cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion (grated or diced)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 eggs
  • salt and pepper

Fry meatballs in a generous amount of olive oil on high heat until just browned. Remove and put aside. Add onion, garlic and spices and fry in oil. Next add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer until tomatoes begin to break down. Add the meatballs back and simmer for another 5 minutes.

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Lastly, crack an egg for each person eating with you and simmer until egg whites are cooked. Sprinkle with more parsley or cilantro as a garnish.

Moroccan Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups white flour (1/2 cup toasted if desired, see note)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • additional flour for kneading
  • cornmeal or semolina

Oil a large baking sheet. Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture, and begin adding lukewarm water. Incorporate water little by little until the dough is sticky but can be handled. Continue working in the bowl or on a floured surface, sprinkling just enough flour to keep hands from sticking too much. Continue kneading for 10 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Allow the dough to rest, covered with a tea towel, for 10 minutes.

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After the dough has rested, form into 2 or 3 balls and flatten balls into a disk shape. Cover with plastic and then the tea towel, and leave to rise about one hour, or until the dough springs back when pressed lightly with a finger.

Preheat an oven to 425°F.

Score the top of the bread with a very sharp knife, or poke the dough with a fork in several places. Sprinkle the tops with cornmeal or semolina and a sprinkling of salt.

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Bake for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through baking, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer the bread to a rack or towel-lined basket to cool.

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* I tried a neat little trick to help make your bread taste  a little more like its been wood-fired. Basically you toast just a bit of flour and either add it to the rest of the flour or use it for dusting while you knead. It also helps to add a little dimension to a quick yeasted bread, since lengthy fermenting times are usually a major source of flavor in artisanal breads. Quick breads are more likely to just taste floury. Take about 1/2 cup of flour and put it in a bare frying pan. Turn heat to medium and stir until the flour turns golden. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely before using.

 

Goldfish

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Today I want to share something that I made for my son’s birthday party and that turned out to be a big hit.  Homemade goldfish crackers! Truth be told, I have never been a great lover of classic goldfish crackers, but it occurred to me that they would be a really fun food to recreate with nothing but good, simple ingredients. It does require one accessory, however, and that is a small goldfish cookie cutter or some other kind of small cookie cutter. For my first attempt, I tried to be all crafty and make one from a cut soda can (per instructions I found online) but I really advise against this as I found it maddening and unsatisfactory, not to mention dangerous. Thankfully, my mom found a set of copper goldfish-shaped cookie cutters online and sent them to me, perhaps primarily so she could stop worrying about me severing a finger in the (albeit noble) pursuit of a suitable homemade goldfish cracker.

This recipe is very adaptable as well, and I can think of several variations that would be great. For one, you could use any cheese you like, although I would always include at least some of a sharp cheese. Instead of cheddar, you could use parmesan, gruyère, or Old Amsterdam, for example. Then, you could change things up with spices. Chipotle is wonderful with cheddar, and I’m sure garlic powder and black pepper would also be great additions to any batch of these.

Here’s the basic recipe, which I based on one by Amy Johnson at Tasty Kitchen:

  • 8 ounces of cheese,  shredded (cheddar, parmesan, gouda, etc., or a blend)
  • 4 T chilled butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 cup ‘white’ whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 T water (a bit less if you’re using white flour)
  • 1/2 tsp or to taste of chipotle, paprika, garlic or black pepper (optional)

Put everything except water in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the consistency of wet sand. Add water and blend until a dough forms.

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Place the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. When chilled, roll out dough to about 1/4 inch and cut into shapes. Feel free to only roll out as much dough as you think will be consumed within a day or two. The rest can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days or the freezer for longer. Line goldfish up on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. 

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I love the little rows of goldfish lined up like soldiers. And they really are delicious little treats!

Sopa de Pasta

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There is a category of home cooking that rarely makes its appearance in restaurants. They are the recipes that are made by grandmas everywhere and uniformly loved, but that no one would think to put on a menu. I suspect that this soup is that kind of thing in Mexico. It is a recipe I came across in Mexico: The Beautiful Cookbook and is a very simple but unique take on tomato soup, using toasted pasta. If you have access to Mexican products, you can use a pasta called fideo, which are basically like vermicelli, and if not, broken spaghetti, orzo, or stars.  Whole wheat works great as well.

Before adding the liquid, you lightly toast the pasta, giving it a slightly nutty flavor. (Just be careful not to burn the pasta, as I may have done in the one pictured) Next you add pureed tomato, onion and broth and simmer until the pasta is cooked and you get a flavorful, comforting soup. It takes just a few minutes to put together but will be so much more delicious than any canned soup! 

If you’re in a rush, I’m sure canned tomato sauce would work, just don’t add too much or you will end up with something like spaghetti-os.

Sopa de Pasta

  • about 5 oz or half a package of vermicelli, orzo, etc
  • 2 large tomatoes or 3 to 4 romas
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock (or water and chicken bouillon cube)

In a blender, food processor or cup with immersion blender, blend tomatoes, onion, garlic, and water until pureed.

Heat oil over a medium high heat and add pasta. Toss in the oil and stir until beginning to brown. Be careful not to burn the pasta. Add tomato mixture and broth and bring to a boil. Continue to cook on medium heat until pasta is cooked.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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Pancakelette

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Today I wanted to share a great breakfast trick that I recently discovered and it has become a staple in our house. I’m always looking for good breakfast recipes that are satisfying enough for Sunday morning, but not overly decadent and carb-laden. I tend to like breakfast foods that are on the sweet side, but a plate of pancakes with syrup is often overkill, and I always seem to feel a tad queasy after I eat them.

So here it is: You use pancake mix, but instead of following the formula given, you use more egg and less pancake mix. The final product is fluffy and moist, but not as bread-y as pancakes. It’s almost like a cross between an omelette and pancake, and tastes faintly like a flan.  This is also a great way to get egg-averse kids, if you happen to have one, to eat an egg! You can play with this idea and adapt it to your own tastes, but the only thing to keep in mind is that the more egg you add, the longer it will take to cook through. And a very eggy pancake batter doesn’t cook exactly like a regular pancake.  If you try to cook it like a regular pancake, it will brown on the bottom and be completely liquid in the middle. Trust me. So if you have the time, the best way to do it is start it on the stovetop, then let it firm up for a few minutes in the oven, and finally return it to the stove top to flip over. It sounds complicated but it really isn’t if you have your oven heated. It only takes about 5 or 6 minutes total.

Just a note of caution, though, and that is to not burn yourself on the pan. If you’re like me, you’re not used to your frying pan being screaming hot on the handle and it’s easy to forget. This happened to me and the result was a second degree burn on my hand. If you have a handle sleeve, use it, if not, remind yourself by leaving the mitt on your hand until you’ve plated your pancake.

If you’re in a rush, you can stir the batter as you would scrambled eggs until it begins to set, then form into a pancake, allow to brown, and flip. It will not look as lovely, though. 

Here’s my recipe. Feel free to adapt it as you please.

Pancakelette (serves 2)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 yogurt cup, vanilla or maple flavor is good (or 1/3 cup milk)
  • 1/2 cup pancake mix
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • cinnamon sugar/dash of salt (optional)
  • butter, as needed

Preheat the oven to 350 and heat a nonstick omelette pan or small frying pan on medium heat. Beat eggs. Add all the other ingredients except cinnamon sugar and stir. You should have a batter that is eggy and not too thick. Melt a pat of butter in the pan and then ladle about a 1/2 inch layer of batter into the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the top lightly with cinnamon sugar and allow to brown, about 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake 3-4 minutes until just set. Return to stovetop and flip, cooking the other side until lightly browned, about 1 minute.

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Alternatively, stir until the mixture begins to be chunky but still has plenty of liquid to cover the bottom of the pan, leave to cook untouched until brown. Flip carefully and brown on the other side.

Transfer to a plate, cut into wedges and serve plain, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, or with syrup.

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This same idea can also be used to make a savory breakfast casserole. I find that the baking mix gives this casserole a bit of substance that plain eggs don’t have, and it offers the flexibility of cooking a bit in advance if you’re having guests.  Great additions include: chopped tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, or diced turkey. If you want to use bacon, I do recommend that you brown it first, as it will be soggy otherwise. This goes for any ingredients that give off a lot of water (spinach and mushrooms) or that are best browned (bacon).

Egg Biscuit Casserole (serves 3-4)

  • 1 cup all-purpose biscuit or baking mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of cheese (a little gruyère will give it a French flair)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 or 1 1/2 cups of any add-ins that you feel like putting in (chopped vegetables, etc)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan, asiago, or other dry, pungent cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cheese and melted butter in a mixing bowl. Add the baking mix and stir until blended. Season with salt and pepper and any herbs you choose. Use the traces of butter left in the bowl that you melted the butter in to butter a square baking dish.

Distribute your add-ins, along with onion, over the bottom of the dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Finish with a sprinkling of cheese.

Bake until golden and a knife comes out relatively clean. Allow to cool slightly and then slice into squares to serve.