There’s nothing wrong with serving straight-up breakfast-style pancakes for dinner, but through the years, The Washington Post’s Food section has offered a number of savory renditions that I tend to favor for an evening meal.
Here, nubby corn kernels, black beans and scallions shore up the pancakes’ heartiness, and sweet chili powder lends an orange hue plus mild heat.
The recipe comes by way of Ken Albala’s scholarly volume “Pancakes” (Reaktion Books, 2008), and although it’s slim on the shelf, it is mighty in its scope. While the pats of butter melt on your short stacks, feel free to discuss:
The first recipe printed in English for pancakes dates to 1588, and, according to Albala, following the directions to the letter results in a hot mess.Queen Victoria’s chef served pancakes in the royal household.Speaking of things British, a centuries-old women-only pancake race is held in Buckinghamshire, England. Once participants hear a bellringer’s call, they must run with a skillet containing a hot pancake, flipping it three times along the way. The one who first reaches the bellringer, serves him that pancake and receives his kiss, wins. The race takes place on March 5 this year.
Chili Corn Pancakes
Servings: 3 to 4 (makes about nine 4 1/2-inch pancakes)
Serve with your favorite red salsa and maybe some freshly cooked chorizo sausage on the side. Albala recommends serving these pancakes with guacamole and a shot of añejo tequila. Come to think of it, this whole enterprise would make a nice brunch, too.INGREDIENTS:½ cup frozen corn kernels3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving1 tablespoon tomato paste, or more as needed (see NOTE)2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika (sweet)½ cup no-salt-added canned black beans (see NOTE)2 scallions1 cup dried polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal¾ cup flour1 tablespoon baking powder¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed (see NOTE)1½ cups half-and-half, or more as neededVegetable or extra-virgin olive oil, for the panMethod:
Place a small baking sheet in the oven; preheat to 200 degrees.
Place the corn in one microwave-safe bowl and the butter, tomato paste and smoked paprika in a separate bowl. Microwave them simultaneously on DEFROST for about 3 minutes, or until the butter has melted. Stir to combine the butter mixture; it will look like a loose red paste.
Drain and rinse the beans. You’ll use 1/2 cup for the pancakes; reserve the rest for another use, such as a spread (see NOTE, below). Trim the scallions and cut crosswise into thin slices.
Use a fork to stir together the dried polenta or cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the seasoned butter mixture and the half-and-half to form a thick yet spreadable batter, adding a bit more of the half-and-half, as needed.
Stir in the corn, black beans and half the scallions until evenly distributed.
Brush a large nonstick skillet lightly with oil, then place it over medium heat. Once it’s hot, drop about 1/3 cup of the batter to form each pancake; 4 should fit. Cook for about 1-1/2 minutes on the first side until lightly browned and just set on the bottom, sprinkling each one with a small pinch of salt. Gently flip them over (two spatulas works well) and finish cooking for 2 to 3 minutes on the second sides, until lightly browned and puffed. You may need to add a bit more oil to the pan between batches, or reduce the heat if the pancakes are browning too quickly. As they are done, transfer all the pancakes (but the last batch) to the baking sheet in the oven to keep them warm.
Divide among individual plates. Garnish each stack with the remaining scallions. Serve with salsa, and more butter at the table.
NOTE: If you would like to use the remaining black beans in this recipe, heat them in a microwave-safe bowl on HIGH in 30-second increments, until quite hot. Use a potato masher to mash them into a paste, then add a teaspoon or two of tomato paste and season lightly with salt, stirring to incorporate. Coarsely chop the scallions (to taste), then stir into the mashed beans. After the pancakes are done, re-grease the skillet with a little oil, then quickly add the mashed mixture to the pan and heat through, stirring just a bit. Serve as a spread or accompaniment alongside the pancakes.
Source: Adapted from “Pancakes,” by Ken Albala (Reaktion, 2008).
Nutrition (based on 4 servings): Calories: 510; Total Fat: 22 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 70 mg; Sodium: 270 mg; Carbohydrates: 63 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 11 g.