JeJu

Cast Iron Pancakes

In food on 02/28/2009 at 7:55 pm

We missed the free pancakes at IHOP (yes there’s an IHOP in Manhattan on 135th St) on Shrove Tuesday, so we made some for breakfast this morning. It was an opportunity to bust out our newest Goodwill kitchen appliance treasure, a Lodge Reversible ProGrid/Iron Griddle. It’s a classic American brand, like Levi’s. Cowboys used to wear Levi’s while cooking on their Lodge cast iron pots hanging over the fire under the moonlight.

Pancake Day is the day before Lent where religion butted in and said, clean out your cupboards of egg, fat, sugar and butter, because by golly, you gotta suffer like your boy Jesus wandering in the desert. If he’s your homeboy, then eat that humble pie. It’ll be 40 days until you get some of that good stuff again. Ah, S&M at its finest. Some people,  like the Germans, make fasnacht, literally, fatty donut. Love those Catholics!

Pre-seasoned cast iron is fantastic. No fuss or muss over seasoning it by baking in the oven and leaving a foul-ish stench of burning oil in the air. “Oil is baked into the pores of the iron to prevent rusting and to eventually provide a natural, non-stick cooking surface.” If you’ve ever used your artificial teflon coating cooking pot or skillet until it started peeling off, you would appreciate unknowingly eating bits of old grease over flakes of industrial metal.

lodge, the man not the pan

Cast iron is all about tradition. “Nestled alongside the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains is the town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee (population 3,300). Yet out of this tiny community comes the finest cast iron cookware in the world. Lodge Cast Iron began making cookware during the first presidential term of William McKinley.” People pass down their cast iron cookware for generations even though it’s really cheap because it represents real sweat-on-the-brow over a hot stove cooking. Plus, cast iron heats up evenly, and keeps its heat really well. When it gets rusted in spots, just scrub it out and start the seasoning process over. Cast iron is also a useful weapon when thwarting home invasions. That is some sturdy cookware.

Those characteristics make it perfect to cook up a coupla flapjacks. You know why diner pancakes are the best? The huge, evenly heated stainless steel, flat surface that is used to cook ’em. Kenny Shopsin souped his puppy up on high blast so when he drops the batter down, he loses less heat than with conventional setups. Someday I want a mini-version in my dream kitchen. But until then, the cast iron griddle will have to do.

The other half surprisingly stands by Bisquick pancake mix. We’ve tried making pancakes from scratch before, but they turned out to be really mushy. Puke city. Some people say pre-mixing is bad, but then, how is it you get a perfect fluffy pancake from the box every time?

For the homemade cook, the two tricks are: don’t mix the batter too long (leave the tiny lumps be), and separate the eggs. We turned to our favorite food geek, Alton Brown, for his instant mix recipe. Here it is, with a few mods.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (urban legend has it that Bisquick adds a secret portion of powdered milk. If it works for Momofuku Milk Bar cakes, it must work here. Add 1 cup in addition)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 tablespoon table salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.

“INSTANT” PANCAKES:

  • 2 eggs, separated (yes, it’s worth the trouble!)
  • 2 cups buttermilk (alt: one cup half and half, one cup milk, 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 cups “Instant” Pancake Mix, recipe above

Heat cast iron griddle or frying pan until hot to touch. Turn heat down to medium low.

Batter: Whisk together egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a fork, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don’t try to work all the lumps out. It’ll make the pancake tough and mushy!

Ladle pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on extras now, if desired. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Cook 1 minute or until pancake is set.

Serve immediately. Cold pancake is yucky. A perfect pancake has height, is dry and hole-y in the middle, a perfect vehicle for Grade B maple syrup, and golden brown on the outside.

no you din-it!

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