Yesterday taught us an important lesson – when planning a special meal over Memorial Day weekend, reserve it in advance.
We were going to kick off our summer with some lobster rolls, made in-house, of course, with some lemony homemade mayo and brioche hot dog buns. A haute lobster roll, if you will. We showed up to our local fish store, half an hour before they closed, and saw three lonely lobsters hanging out in the tank. Victory was ours. Or so we thought. It turned out the lobsters were sold to someone who, ahem unlike the writer here and her half husband, planned ahead.
So sadly, the lobster rolls chez nous weren’t happening. And our beloved Lobster Pound told us, over the phone, that it wasn’t serving lobster rolls this under the Brooklyn Bridge like it did last summer. What were we to do but to board the bus to Red Hook and take ourselves to the Lobster Pound headquarters? We were, as you can see, undeterred. Some lobster rolls and potato chips later, we walked back past the great ships docked in Red Hook, past newly opened Pok Pok (which was closed actually), past five (5!) community gardens, all full with their residents in some stage of their holiday weekend picnicking.
And what did we do that night, you might wonder? We started on the seating chart followed by unwatched episodes of Mad Men (we are really behind). We stamped our place cards, wrote out everyone’s name, and stamped their meal choice on the back of the card. There was a lot of stamping and some Excel spreadsheets involved. In other words – yawn.
Even Forrest was bored by our Sunday evening activities. Surely, we had barbecues to attend, beaches to explore, exhibits to pore over? No, no, and no. This is, amazingly enough, a quiet weekend, which can be rather nice, because the wedding is less than three weeks away!
I think the only hip and fabulous thing that I did yesterday, the one that deserves a high five, is making these pancakes. I’ve long been toying with the idea of cornmeal ricotta pancakes in the context of the spring super couple: rhubarb and strawberries. Something in the depths of my brain had decided, this past winter, that cornmeal and ricotta had to come together in the form of a pancake. I just had to be patient and wait for greenmarket strawberries and rhubarb to complete the most celebratory breakfast I’ve made in months. Andrew, it must be said, is a pancake skeptic. He finds that the most of them taste heavy and doughy, and sit in his stomach for hours. Pancakes, for the most part, he says, make him sluggish and unsatisfied. For a pancake to be worthy of Andrew’s attention, it must be lighter than air and delicate.
And they were. Andrew ate six out of the ten pancakes I made, and then we dreamt of homemade lobster rolls and our glorious plans in making them. But you know by now how that went.
And still – it was a good day: quiet and uneventful but delicious and relaxing. I suppose you can’t ask more of a summery Sunday.
Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Pancakes adapted from MJ’s Kitchen
This recipe makes more compote than you’ll have pancakes. This is okay, in my book, because you can always use the remaining compote as spread in toasted bread – never a bad thing. Or you can top shortcake with it, put a dollop of whipped cream, and voila – perfect summer dessert ready in minutes! I used buttermilk instead of milk and doubled the amount of lemon zest – when I was adapting the recipe. Otherwise, I stayed true to the recipe as written.
The compote makes about 2 cups
The batter makes about 8 to 10 pancakes
For the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:
1 pound (454 grams) rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces strawberries (227 grams; about 1 cup), hulled and quartered (small strawberries can be halved)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes:
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (60 grams) fine cornmeal
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, cut in half, plus additional butter, melted, for brushing the griddle
1 cup (125 grams) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
Zest from 1 lemon
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (120 grams) fresh ricotta
Make the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:
1. In a nonreactive pot set over medium heat, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and vanilla. Bring everything to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the rhubarb is soft, and is about to fall apart, about 15 minutes. Remove the compote from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until needed. Can be made up to 3 days ahead.
Make the Cornmeal Ricotta Pancakes:
1. When ready to make the pancakes, remove the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote from the refrigerator and set it aside. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, gently warm the buttermilk. It will try to separate but just stir it a few times, especially at the end, it’ll be fine. Do not let it come to a boil – just warm it until you see tiny bubbles at the surface. Remove the pot from heat and slowly whisk in the cornmeal so that it doesn’t clump. Add the pieces of the butter and set it on top of the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture to melt. Let it rest until ready to add to the batter.
2. Start to warm a pan or a pancake griddle on medium-low heat. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F; position the rack in the middle.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and the lemon zest. Whisk together for 1 minute to ensure that the ingredients are well combined. In another bowl, combine the eggs and the ricotta until well-mixed. Add the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture and the eggs-ricotta mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients and either whisk or stir gently until the batter is just combined. Do not over-stir. The batter will look thick and slightly lumpy – it will give you the fluffiest pancakes imaginable.
4. Lightly brush the griddle with the melted butter. Using a 1/4-cup scoop, gently place the batter onto the griddle. Cook until the bubbles on the surface of the pancakes will start to pop and not close up, about 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until the bottom is golden brown and the top of the pancake is firm to the touch, about 3 minutes longer.
5. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a shallow baking sheet and keep in the oven while you cook the rest of the pancakes. Serve the pancakes with the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, or warm maple syrup and fresh fruit of your choice.