If you’ve been keeping up, you know these two things about me by now:
- I’m a walking disaster in the kitchen.
- I absolutely must use up every last little bit of anything leftover in my refrigerator.
Yes, I’m a Depression-era housewife scavenging scraps in a minefield. Nothing gets thrown away if I can help it, but I just might die in an explosion one day.
So tonight, for supper, Micah and I had an interesting challenge. Our leftovers included a big hunk of ham steak and some Branston pickle from the ploughman’s platter I enjoyed at the Royal Peasant Friday night, about two cups of potlikker (the last of it, unfortunately), and four cornmeal pancakes from last Sunday’s breakfast.
Yeah, about those pancakes….they were a disaster.
Here’s what happened: while looking for cornmeal pancake recipes a few weeks ago, I came across two that I really wanted to make. One from Hillbilly Housewife, which turned out quite tasty, and one from Mark Bittman in the New York Times, which I didn’t get around to trying until last Sunday.
I didn’t have pine nuts and didn’t want vanilla (in case we might use leftovers in some savory dish later)–but otherwise, I followed Mr. Bittman’s directions exactly, because he’s kind of a smart dude who knows what he’s talking about.
Where did I go wrong? I have no idea. But somehow, when I got to the step where Mark Bittman’s batter was described as “spreadable but still thick,” my batter was a watery, soupy mess. I retraced my steps, double-checked my measurements…and I still can’t tell you what my mistake was.
Skeptically optimistic, I tried spooning a bit of my runny batter on the griddle. It spread super thin and bubbled like cornmeal lava. Undaunted, I let my test pancake cook for about five minutes (thinking that the longer side of Bittman’s “3-5 minutes” would probably serve me best).
After five minutes, I decided to check and see if my pancake’s underside was golden brown like Bittman said it would be. I can’t tell you whether it was golden brown or not, because my pancake turner did not succeed in flipping this little disc of cornmeal. Instead, I ended up with a strange, mushy polenta nugget, which tasted very good when I finally gave up on cooking it, but was most definitely not a pancake.
The batter is too thin, I decided….so I added more cornmeal.
Too much, apparently, because my end product tasted fine, but it was dense like a sope, not fluffy like a pancake. Copious amounts of maple syrup were needed, and the cakes were still pretty heavy and dry.
The recipe ended up making 12 pancakes, so the extras went into the fridge.
(There’s something so demoralizing about having leftovers of something you didn’t enjoy the first time around…especially if you’re neurotic about using those leftovers whether you like them or not….)
Fast forward to tonight, when I saw those stupid corn pucks taunting me from their little square plastic container in the fridge: Betcha can’t make us into a delicious dinner!
Armed with my potlikker (the elixir of the gods), and a few other quality ingredients, I set out to turn last week’s kitchen disaster into some kind of edible supper.
What’s in it:
- 4 leftover cornmeal pancakes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- about 4.5 ounces of ham, cubed
- 3 small carrots, sliced on the bias
- 1/4 pound mushrooms
- 2 cups potlikker (you could sub your favorite broth/stock)
- 1 tablespoon Branston pickle (you could sub a different tangy relish or chutney)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Wrap the pancakes in foil and throw the packet in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
- While the corn cakes warm, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
- Add the diced ham and cook for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add the potlikker and Branston pickle. Simmer and reduce until your potlikker broth is good and thick and syrupy.
- Put two pancakes on each plate and top with the mixture from your skillet.
The verdict? Dodged another mine tonight. No explosions. It really wasnt bad at all. The sauce was sweet, salty, tangy, smoky; the mushrooms and ham, hearty and savory; the carrots, sweet and tender. It was almost enough to redeem those disastrous pancakes.