~ Garden Fresh Brunch: Corn 'Cakes & BLT Salad ~
Skip all the cloyingly-sweet things iHOP offers and pay attention -- there is more than one way to eat a pancake, and it's not just a sugary treat for breakfast or dessert. Brunch is served, and this savory pancake meal is full of at-their-peak, in-season ingredients, all local, many from my own backyard. Mix a batch of bloody Mary's, sit back, and savor the moment -- this is a bold-flavored, fresh-tasting way to celebrate the fruits-of-your-labor and an end-of-Summer garden.
I didn't invent adding cooked corn kernels, savory herbs and/or spices to pancake batter. Our Native Americans are credited with that, the precursor to our present-day pancakes. They were called "nokchick", translated to mean "no (or not) cake" by the European colonists (who arrived with a host of their own pancake recipes which had existed in Europe for centuries, dating all the way back to the Romans who called them "alita docia", which is Latin for "another sweet".)
In the American colonies, pancakes were known as hoe cakes or johnny cakes, and, flapjacks or slapjacks, made with buckwheat flour or cornmeal. In Amelia Simmon's American Cookery, published in 1796, hoe cakes and johnny cakes used milk, cornmeal and molasses. Recipes for flapjacks or slapjacks dropped molasses and added eggs. George Washington's favorite breakfast was 'pancakes' literally swimming in all-American maple syrup. By Thomas Jefferson's time, the early 1800's, griddlecakes came into play -- they were lighter due to baking soda invented by French and Belgian chemists. After the invention of baking powder by a British chemist in the 1840's, our modern-day pancake was born.
For my quick & easy chile-lime yogurt dressing:
Feel free to use any dressing you like -- even store-bought ranch dressing drizzled over this corn 'cake BLT salad is great. Trust me on one point though, now is not the time to use a vinaigrette, as, it will render the crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the inside corn cakes mushy. This recipe requires creamy dressing, and, in my kitchen, this dish screams for full-throttle chile-lime and jalapeño flavor. Typically I make this dressing with mayo (feel free to do that), but, yogurt is more in the spirit of breakfast or brunch, so I use it in mayo's place today.
Make the chile-lime dressing before the corn 'cakes, and place it in the refrigerator, to allow it time to to chill and thicken. To prepare it, in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree until smooth (about 30 seconds):
1 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup minced cilantro, a well-drained 8-ounce jar pickled jalapenos, the juice and zest of 1 lime, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.
For the BLT (bacon, lettuce & tomato salad):
BLT salad, it goes without saying, requires crisply-fried and chopped bits of bacon, a chiffonade of crunchy iceberg or romaine lettuce, and, diced garden-ripe tomatoes. In addition to those, I add some diced red onion and grated cotija or queso fresco cheese. Avocado is an option too, but, since it discolors so quickly and contributes little taste compared to the other ingredients, I do not bother with it (trust me, you will not miss the avocado).
Whatever ingredients you use, in any quantity that makes you happy, when prepping them, aim for user-friendly bits and bites, not chunks and hunks. Depending on whether you are serving one or two corn 'cakes per person, plan on needing a generous 1/2-3/4 cup salad per serving.
For my easy-to-make modern-day sweet corn (pan)'cakes:
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1 3/4 cups milk
4 cups cooked (boiled or grilled) corn kernels
corn or peanut oil, for frying pancakes, not butter (Note: Frying pancakes in butter is just plain wrong. Just in case you don't know, if you fry pancakes in oil instead, they will fry up with seriously-crispy-and-light doughnut-esque edges. You can thank me for this tip later.)
~Step 1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper. Add eggs and give them a quick whisk, about 10-15 seconds. Don't try to thoroughly incorporate eggs. Whisk in the milk. You'll have a smooth drizzly batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the corn.
Tip about mixing batter: Allow batter to rest about 5 minutes -- about the time it takes to heat the skillet in the next step. No matter what anyone else tells you or what you read elsewhere, do not mix your pancake batter any farther ahead of time than that. In order to save time in the morning, do what I do: Mix the dry ingredients together the night before, and, mix the wet ingredients together too. Let the dry ingredients sit on the counter overnight and refrigerate the wet ingredients. Mix the two together just before proceeding with the recipe as directed below.
~ Step 2. In a 16" electric skillet, heat a thin, 1/16" coating of oil, not butter, to 350 degrees (medium on my gas stovetop). Note: I prefer the electric skillet over the traditional griddle. It's got a big, flat surface area, which gives me plenty of space to cook and flip 3-4-5-6 even-sized pancakes and it makes heat control a breeze.
~ Step 3. Using a 3-ounce (1/3 cup) ladle, add ladlefuls of batter for 5 pancakes to skillet. Do not overcrowd skillet. This batter, because of the chunks of corn, will not spread out on its own. Use a spoon to help it form 5, 4"-round pancakes.
Tips on cooking and flipping: The heat should be hot enough that you hear and see an initial sizzle around the edges of each pancake, but, not hear or see a sizzle throughout the cooking process. Sometimes it is necessary to adjust the heat as they cook, but, my skillet never leaves the 325-350- degree range. Pancakes should not be rushed. When bubbles rise to the surface, which can take 1-2 minutes, they are approaching being ready to gently flip -- but not quite. Pancakes are ready to flip when the bubbles begin to burst and no or little batter fills the holes back up. When it comes to flipping, be gentle. Skip the drama -- don't throw them up in the air or slap them over. The object of the pancake game is to protect their hole-y-ness.
~ Step 4. Cook pancakes, in batches of 5, turning only once, until golden on both sides, about 3-3 1/2 minutes on the first side and 1 1/2-2 minutes on the second, but, once again, time is not as important as those bubbles. This recipe yields 14 pancakes -- two are missing from the photo. Joe and I each ate one hot right out of the skillet.
Crispy outside & creamy-corn-kernel-crunchy inside:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; whisk; large rubber spatula; 16" electric skillet; nonstick spatula; ordinary tablespoon
Cook's Note: If you want to serve a BLT salad alongside a corn muffin instead of atop a corn 'cake (a great alternative for a picnic or tailgate, my recipe for ~ It's a Triple-Corn Jalapeño Corn-Muffin Kinda Day ~, is in Categories 5, 9 & 20.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)