Pancakes are his thing, crepes are mine. He makes cinnamon buns like nobodies business, and I get to eat them. Tofu scramble is his, cake is mine, we share egg scramble, but on occasion we get into a friendly dispute over who's is better. These are the roles that we assume. Maybe one day this will change, but for now, this is how we roll. Growing up, my mom cooked 9 out of 10 times, but on the rare occasion that my dad would step into the kitchen, he really knew how to make a few dishes to perfection. The classic Shepherd's Pie, gravy, BLT's, french toast, and baked spaghetti were always on the menu. They were absolutely delicious, mostly because he used a ton of butter (being British, of course, every meal includes a hefty chuck of butter - the reason why my mom would rarely let him cook). Young and hungry, I could have cared less about the role of butter in cardiovascular health. My mom, on the other hand, looked out for us always. Not being a hypocrite, she rarely ate fatty foods herself. As children, my sisters and I would beg and plead for McDonald's. She would eventually give in, and take us as a treat, but then she would go to Mr. Sub afterwards for herself. My dad liked a big greasy English breakfast, and my mom said the smell of bacon and grease made her nauseous. I, on the other hand, loved a greasy fry-up, and begged my dad to cook whenever I had the chance. My mom, refusing to have any part of our delicious shenanigans, stuck to her oatmeal.
When it comes to carb-y breakfast treats, we were a french toast family. Extra crispy, I would ask for, with no respect or trust for soggy egg bread. When I reached the age of 13, I tried to assert myself in the family - to assume my place in the kitchen. My first endeavor was Uncle Ben's 5 minute rice with soy sauce. I made this oh-so-very-complicated snack every day after school for my sister - on her request. After rice, I started making beans in a can, and then took a big leap to frying pierogies. I started to dabble in baking, meaning I made the pre-mixed blueberry muffin recipe from the box - just add water and eggs! Sometimes I would switch it up and make carrot or banana, but the recipes always came from the side of the box. In our childhood kitchen, we had a few cupboards that were hard to reach. The ones that required standing on a chair. Those were the cupboards with the good treats. The cupboard that was reachable for a 3 foot child stored cans, bottles of oil, cookbooks, maple syrup, and pancake mix. It also stored breakfast cereal, but I was never really into that - I always preferred a warm, cooked, meal for breakfast. My mom would occasionally make pancakes from that box, but not enough to call them 'her' thing, because the box usually lasted for years. I quickly discovered that making pancakes was so easy. Something approachable. So obviously, I tried to 'own' it. Being a kid, I lost interest fast, and eventually we were back to being a 'french toast' family.
When we did eat pancakes, we preferred Aunt Jemima syrup over the real stuff, which is mostly just high fructose corn syrup. We were kids, what can I say. We had very unrefined taste buds. A shame really, because our neighbour used to tap his maple trees out back of our house, and I'm pretty sure he gave us a few bottles each year. The distrust I once had for maple syrup is now gone, and I basically put in on and in everything. Two years ago, Brent and I went to Peru for 3 weeks. We asked one of our friends to water our plants, and he graciously accepted. When we returned, we found that he had hidden 7 bottles of maple syrup around our apartment. It was intended to be a prank, but it was basically like Christmas for me. On a slightly hilarious side note, my friends G/G went away on holidays, and returned home to an apartment filled with coconuts. Over the course of a year, they have managed to find all, except two. I often take it on as my personal mission to find these 2 remaining coconuts, but after a few minutes of searching all of the spots that I have already checked a million times, I give up, and am left to stew in annoyance. The guy who hid them, says that maybe one day he'll let us know where they are. arghhhh.
Like I said before, Brent has pancakes and I have crepes, except the lines were crossed this past weekend, when I decided to step into the kitchen and steal pancakes from him. He can have egg scramble for the next while, I thought, but I want to learn the secrets of pancakes. I want him to share and pass on his knowledge and all those good family secrets. Because his family is a true-to-the-bone pancake family. I really wanted him to share with me the secrets to making a good pancake, thin and delicate, perfectly browned on the outside, soft on the inside. He gave me a recipe, one that he has memorized. A set of very specific instructions, the right temp, the right amount of time for frying. I followed it to a tee, and sure enough, the pancakes came out the way I had always dreamed they would. They weren't thick and starchy, the kind that require a sip of water after each bite. They were thin and soft. And now I have his pancake recipe documented on my blog, all his tips and secrets to a perfect pancake, and I am so excited to share them with you. Because in each family, there is room for two pancake experts.
The concord grape syrup turned out to be a perfect accompaniment. An alternative to maple syrup, sweet and fruity, with an intensely grapey flavor, but in a good way. When the timing is right, I like to buy up as many concord grapes as possible, because they don't last too long on the shelves before everyone is buying them up. After taking a million pictures of them, because they really are the prettiest of all grapes, I boiled the heck out of them, and then aggressively mashed them in a big pot, added some sugar, and reduced them into a sweet syrup full of grape-i-ness. I have been adding it to ice cream, yogurt, waffles, smoothies, and salad dressing. Also, if you put a couple of teaspoons into a glass with carbonated water, you can pretend that summer is still going strong. We can deny that fall is right around the corner, and bask in what little sun we have left. Total denial.
PANCAKES WITH CONCORD GRAPE SYRUP
makes 10 medium pancakes and 1 1/2 cups syrup
notes: If you don't have access to concord grapes, you can substitute regular green or red grapes. Concord grape syrup is also delicious on ice cream, yogurt, waffles, used in smoothies, and for salad dressing. You can also put a couple of tsp into a glass with the carbonated water for a refreshing drink.
2 lb concord grapes
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled (unsalted or salted)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
butter for frying
Remove the grapes from their stems and wash. Place into a large pot with 1/4 cup of water. Bring the grapes to a boil, and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Most of the grapes will have begun to seep their juices into the pot by 10 minutes, but if not, continue cooking until you have a liquid slurry, with grape mash. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool.
Strain the initial grape juice with a colander. Then, with a damp piece of cheesecloth, folded in half, strain the rest of the juice until you have 2 cups. This can take up to 30 minutes if you just let the cheesecloth hang and drip. Alternatively, you can squeeze the grapes in the cheesecloth to speed up the process, but you will likely need to strain it through the cheesecloth a second time, because of the tiny bits that have pushed through the cloth into the juice. Discard the grape mash, wash the cheesecloth, and then reuse.
Place the juice and 1 1/2 cups of sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the juice has begun to thicken. Remove the syrup from the heat and then place into a glass jar, and then in the fridge to cool. Can be stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed glass jar for up to two weeks.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, with a wire whisk, beat the eggs with melted butter. Add the eggs and butter to the flour mixture and combine. Slowly drizzle in the milk, while stirring with the whisk. Once combined, the consistency should resemble buttermilk. This will make a nice thin pancake. If you prefer your pancakes thicker, add less milk.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on low-medium heat, leaning more towards medium. Place a small dab of butter into the pan. Once the butter begins to sizzle, ladle the pancake batter into the pan in whatever size you prefer. Tiny pin sized bubbles will quickly begin to form on top of the pancakes. Once the bubbles start to get a bit bigger, flip the pancake and cook on the other side for only 30 seconds. Place a small dab of butter in the pan before cooking each batch. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.