Monday, March 5, 2007

Fork need not apply- Savory Pancakes

Thursday was unusually warm for New England March and I returned home from work, in a noticeably better mood then usual (it’s amazing what a little sunshine can do for you.) Alex suggested that Friday evening we go to his friend’s for a barbeque and that sounded just about perfect to me. What a wonderful way to usher in what must be early spring.

Before I get too far into this story I have to explain barbeque as there seems to be some confusion over the word. I grew up believing whole heartedly that the term barbeque referred to anything marinated in barbeque sauce prior to grilling. To me, the best kind of barbeque was always chicken drumsticks. However I’ve since learned that many people use the term to describe grilling and far too often (at least in my opinion) it refers to steaks and other beefs. My beloved spicy tart sauce is no where to be found. Alex is one of those people who describe grilling outside as barbequing and I therefore knew to assume that this cook out would result in a pile of steaks. While this realization was quite a let down the first few times when I anticipated messy chicken, it’s now helpful because I know what expect. I also know what to bring that will pair well with steak and that I definitely do need to bring a dish if I want a full meal. (Like I said before I don’t enjoy steak all that much, if at all.)

Being that I spent Saturday of last weekend browsing through cookbooks, I had plenty of recipes in mind that would work for such an occasion but one stuck out, Spinach Pancakes. This hand held appetizer could be served before or during the meal depending on what else they had, and I assumed it was something everyone would like. It’s not spicy, it’s relatively plain, and it’s identifiable. I could explain and compare it to scallion pancakes and I was relatively certain they’d be gobbled up with a comparison like that. (While these are characteristics I usually ignore, I’ve learned that they are important if I want other people to eat what I bring.) So, I set off to Whole Foods to buy the ingredients and decided I’d throw it together right before we left so they’d still be warm.

Friday morning I awoke to a screaming alarm clock and room so dark I swore it couldn’t be six. Rain pelted the windows and I wanted nothing more then to stay in bed and forget all about my promise to go to the gym. That’s exactly what I did, but when I woke up at a leisurely 8:00, I thought of our dear outdoor barbeque and wondered if we’d be going after all.

The rain stopped at 3:00 and the barbeque survived. The host even stuck to his promise of grilling outdoors although with a little less excitement, as it was freezing. However, everything was delicious and these pancakes were a hit.

Next time I’d make them thinner and use less filling. These were more like quesadillas which are good but I think they’d be tastier if they were lighter. Alex liked them as is so it’s just a preference thing.
Whether you go thin or filling, make sure to try this recipe out. It’s versatile and would be good with other fillings as well. I was thinking of trying olive, tomato, and feta next time…..
Pancakes with Spinach and Cheese:
4 eggs - salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup carbonated mineral water
10 ounces leaf spinach (frozen)
1 onion - 1 garlic clove
4 ounces hard cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup creme fraiche
freshly ground pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
butter for the pan
1. For the pancakes, put the eggs, a pinch of salt, the flour, milk and mineral water into a small bowl and mix into a smooth batter with a hand mixer. Cover and let stand for about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile allow the spinach to defrost. Peel the onion and garlic and dice finely. Grate the cheese finely. Melt the butter in a pan and cook the diced onion and garlic until translucent. Add the spinach and fry briefly.
3. Stir in the cheese and creme fraiche, then season the spinach-cheese mixture to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
4. Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan. Fill in a little of the batter, spread over the pan and make a pancake. Make 8 pancakes this way. Spread a little spinach-cheese mix on each pancake, fold the pancakes together, press the sides together firmly and cut into pieces.

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