Grate Expectations

I was a late blooming chef and didn’t start cooking until my senior year of college. It was not the best time to dive into the world of cuisine, as my budget was tight and the kitchen facilities were a bit lacking inside the dorm apartments. Though not quite as desolate as a young Pip in Charles Dickens’s Great Expecations, I immediately recognized the importance of a meal that required few ingredients, less pots and pans, and almost no finesse in the kitchen. I’ve held onto what I learned during those years as a fledgling chef, and now that I’ve had formal training, I am able to dress up the minimalist recipes I mastered early on. For example, a simple potato pancake of three basic ingredients can be brightened by the right amount of seasoning and a citrusy dip.

Dickens was paid by the word, and it’s definitely apparent in his verbose character descriptions and minute observations. But like each potato shaving in the pancake, every single word in Great Expectations plays a vital role. Though easy to write any one morsel off as superfluous, one must recognize the importance of each and every part to the cohesiveness of the final product.

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Grated potato pancakes:

4 Maris Piper potatoes (can use another starchy potato)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 tbsp salt

1 stick clarified butter (to clarify, melt a stick of unsalted butter on very low heat and skim off white fats)

Sour cream dip:

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

Chives to garnish

Instruction:

1. Grate potatoes onto a tea towel. Squeeze over sink to extract moisture.

2. Combine potatoes, breadcrumbs, egg, and salt.

3. Heat three or so tablespoons of clarified butter over medium heat. Form potato mixture into very thin pancakes and place in skillet. Fry for several minutes, until golden brown. Occasionally press down on pancakes with spatula to flatten. Flip and fry other side of pancake for two or so minutes (until golden brown). Repeat until mixture has been used up, adding a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter into the pan for each new batch.

(For extra crispiness – dry out pancakes in a 300 degree oven for five to ten minutes.)

4. Combine sour cream and lemon juice; garnish with chives.

Enjoy potato pancakes with Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and check in at warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Pancakening

I’ve been assigned to read The Awakening for several classes during many phases of life. Because of the times during which it’s cropped up in my life – early high school, early college, and finally late college – the novel has become a vehicle for reflecting on my own coming of age. For instance, the first time I read the book was during my freshman year of high school. This was the time in my life when my journal entries bemoaned personal flaws and the reasons no boys liked me. Like Chopin’s protagonist, Edna, it is easy to feel trapped in a situation, unable to see the bright future because the current situation seems so bleak.

Several weeks ago, I attempted to make pancakes for my boyfriend. I woke up early, went to the store, and came back with all what I thought were all the ingredients. Leaving out baking powder and several other essential elements, the end result was a weird gooey almost styrofoam-like mess. We chucked the evidence, ordered Chipotle, and didn’t look back. There were no subsequent journal entries about how my dreamboat crush would hate me because my pancakes didn’t turn out perfectly. It didn’t mean I was trapped in my own horrible, baking powder-less cage. (It did, however, make me determined to learn how to make good pancakes.)

The Awakening has followed me through many phases of life – ups, downs, failed pancakes, amazing pancakes. And depending on how much red wine you put in that syrup, you might go through these phases feeling like Edna, drifting away on the waves.

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Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/4 cup flour

2 tsp sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup milk

2 tbsp veg oil (plus extra to coat the fry pan)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 lemon’s zest

1/2 cup blueberries

Instruction:

1. In small bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

2. In large bowl, whisk milk, egg, vanilla extract.

3. In three separate batches, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet. When combined, add veg oil and whisk again. The batter should be a bit lumpy. Fold in blueberries until incorporated.

4. Add a bit of veg oil to a large fry pan and ladle pancake batter in. (I make three at a time.) Flip when small bubbles begin to form on the top and cook for about a minute further on the second side (until light brown).

Red Wine Syrup:

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

Instruction:

1. In small saucepan on medium heat, dissolve sugar in water and red wine. Allow liquid to reduce until a syrupy consistency. Pour on top of lemon blueberry pancakes and enjoy a decadent breakfast!

Red wine for breakfast? It’s 5:00 somewhere! Enjoy Lemon Blueberry Pancakes in Red Wine Syrup with Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!