Traditional meal on Fat Tuesday features pancakes
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's sneaking up on us again. Lent and its association of culinary parsimony begins Wednesday, the day before Valentine's Day, which is unfortunate timing for anyone who gives up chocolate for Lent.
Mardi Gras decadence and celebration are commonly associated with the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as a way to indulge before the quiet austerity of Lent, but pancakes also make a frequent appearance on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent's beginning.
The humble pancake may not seem like a celebration food today, but the tradition started because they were a good way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk and sugar before the 40 days of fasting that many people used to observe during this period.
In some cultures and faiths, people refrain from foods that give pleasure, such as meat, dairy and eggs.
Whatever your beliefs, Shrove Tuesday is a good excuse to eat pancakes. A rich recipe from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council that follows definitely doesn't skimp on dairy and eggs. The batter for Lemon and Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes includes egg yolks, butter, cheese and whipped egg whites to produce fluffy, decadent pancakes.
A Culinary SOS column reader recently requested a recipe for "the best pancakes of my life" from Clinton Street Baking Co. in New York City. In the column, which frequently runs in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, the author tracks down requested restaurant recipes for readers.
The restaurant shared the recipe, which has rich flavor, but a light texture due to whipped egg whites. The pancakes are stuffed with fruit and nuts and served with either blueberries or bananas dusted with sugar.
Delicate crepes offer a lighter pancake experience. Don't be intimidated by the French association with these light, tender cousins of pancakes. A recipe by Alton Brown, below, received nearly unanimous rave reviews with readers. Some readers said they shortened the time in the refrigerator, a crucial step for removing bubbles from the batter, and lightly tapped the batter container on the kitchen counter instead to release the bubbles.
The versatile crepe makes a sweet dessert or savory meal, depending on the filling.
Make a healthy crepe filled with spinach or baby mixed green salads that wilt when warmed in crepe with goat cheese, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and purple onion drizzled with Mediterranean dressing. Other popular savory fillings are chopped ham and cheese, chicken and mushrooms in a creamy sauce, smoked salmon or crabmeat, eggs and omelet filling combinations. Basically, you can wrap a crepe around leftovers and call it dinner.
Spread Nutella and slice some fruit over crepes for a simple sweet filling. Whipped cream, ice cream, hazelnuts, almonds, berries, pineapple, peaches, jams and bananas make wonderful fillings, topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce.
Whether your preference is a hearty stack of pancakes or a delicate crepe, Shrove Tuesday is the perfect time to indulge.
Reach Julie Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1230.
Lemon and Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
Yield: 6 portions (24 pancakes)
11/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese or drained small-curd cottage cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (yellow part only)
8 egg whites
2 cups fresh blueberries
COMBINE ricotta, butter and egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl, until blended. In a small bowl, stir together flour, sugar and lemon peel. Stir dry ingredients into ricotta mixture.
BEAT egg whites in a medium-sized bowl, until they form soft peaks. Fold egg whites and then blueberries into batter. Over medium heat, form cakes by spooning 1/4 cup of batter per pancake onto a hot lightly greased griddle or skillet. Cook cakes, turning once, until browned, about 4 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Little Blue Dynamos, http://www.littlebluedynamos.com.Neil's Pancakes from Clinton Street
Servings: About 10 (3-inch) pancakes
2 cups (8.5 ounces) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
11/2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for cooking on the griddle
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
11/4 cups fresh blueberries or sliced bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
SIFT the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
WHISK together the egg yolks, milk, melted butter and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry; the result should be a slightly lumpy batter.
WHIP the egg whites to medium peaks in another bowl, being careful not to overwhip. Using a large spatula, gently fold half of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining egg whites. The batter will be slightly lumpy with bits of egg whites not fully incorporated (it will look like white caps on the ocean with foam on top).
HEAT a griddle over medium-high heat until hot (350 to 375 degrees if using an electric griddle). Grease the hot griddle with a little butter, then drop a quarter-cup of batter onto the griddle top. Add 2 tablespoons blueberries or sliced bananas and a scant tablespoon chopped walnuts before flipping the pancake. Flip the pancake when bubbles have started to form on top and the bottom is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the heat. Cook the other side until golden brown and the pancake is fully cooked, an additional 1 to 3 minutes.
CONTINUE until all of the batter is cooked. This makes about 10 (3-inch) pancakes. Serve warm.
Nutritional information per pancake (prepared with blueberries): 272 calories, 7 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 11 grams sugar, 253 mg sodium.
Note: Recipe is adapted from Clinton Street in New York City. The restaurant serves the pancakes dusted with powdered sugar (blueberry pancakes) and cinnamon sugar (banana pancakes) and with maple butter.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Yield: 17 to 22 crepes
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan
COMBINE all of the ingredients in a blender and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
HEAT a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.
Savory Variation: Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.
Sweet Variation: Add 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.