Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Savory Corn Pancakes with Pickled Chiles

Hello, my darlings! I am writing you from smack-dab in the middle of my least favorite month. Even under the best of circumstances--e.g. all the other years, when my beloved firstborn child has not left our home for college--I hate September. As you can imagine, this one sucks indescribably.

If you have miserable, bereft dogs, I really don't know how you're coping. Birdy and I only *pretend* the cats miss Ben, and still end up making each other cry.
I mean, literally indescribably. I haven't written anything about it, save on Facebook, where I wrote something like, "It's hard to grieve something while simultaneously being forced to reckon with how incredibly lucky you are," and mostly I was carried up with love, but some folks thought to scold me for not appreciating how incredibly lucky I am. Believe me, I know. I really do. And yet! A very lovely friend referred, in an email, to the "Ben-shaped hole" in our lives, and that was it exactly.

Who? Whatever.
So, yeah. If you're in it too, please know that I feel you. It's been a little rough on all sides, this transition, especially after I seemed to be quite happy spending the entire month of August myopically focused on Ben's bedding--"What's a mattress topper? Do you need a mattress topper? Does the mattress topper need to be twin xl, or only the fitted sheet?" It reminded me of counting and recounting the little socks before the baby's born. And then, boom, there's an actual baby, and fuck the socks. "Would it work to have a twin xl fitted sheet and then a regular twin top sheet? Do you need a mattress cover on top of the mattress topper?" And now he's gone. I can say in all honesty that I abstractly hope Ben is comfortable in his dorm bed, but I don't actually give more than a shit or two.

A pretty nice g-damn bed.
There. I wrote about it. Birdy is great. We are surviving. Ben is adjusting. We are very lucky, we really are. The world is a flawed and beautiful place, and I get to work with my beautiful, badass political girl on a state ballot question protecting trans folks, which is, yes, heaven on earth. (Vote Yes on 3, Mass folks!)

#recipenotes
Plus, these corn pancakes. I am obsessed with them. They are so absurdly, outrageously savory. Yeasty and cheesy. A little spicy and tangy and bursting with sweet corn kernels. All in all, the perfect way to use up the last ear or two of summer corn. Summer! Those were the days. Love to you.

This was the leftover batter. The big batch I fry on the griddle, for the sake of expedience.
Savory Corn Pancakes with Pickled Chiles
This recipe, like pretty much everything I want to be making right now, is inspired by the “Corn Fritters with Pickled Chiles” in the marvelous Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables cookbook. In that book, these are deep-fried dough balls, kind of like hush puppies. Here, you’re arriving in medias res, recipewise, because I started off shallow-frying these in vegetable oil, kind of like latkes. But at this point, I just cook them in a little slick of oil, like pancakes. It is so much easier, and—despite my great love of fried things and crispy edges—I don’t think the taste or texture suffers enough to return to the deeper oil with its attendant oil-smell kitchen and the oil-smell hair. But you do what you want! Because I’m pancaking these, I add egg and buttermilk to make a very liquidy batter. Note: I have only made these with fresh corn, but I’m sure enough they’d be fantastic with frozen too that I include that as an option.

This makes lots. Like, enough for 4 to 6 people to eat for dinner (or breakfast).

1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free)
1 cup cornmeal
Kosher salt
½ whole-milk yogurt
½ cup lukewarmish water (more if you’re using Greek yogurt)
1 egg
½  cup buttermilk (plus more to thin the batter)
The kernels from 2 ears of corn (or 1-2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels)
½ cup finely chopped pickled chiles (I use mostly mild pepperoncini, but with some jalapenos for heat. I also stir in a spoonful of Hoagie Relish, if you happen to have such a thing in your fridge)
3 scallions, slivered (include an inch or so of the greens)
½ cup grated sharp cheddar
Vegetable oil, for frying
Sour cream and/or maple syrup for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, flour, cornmeal, and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt. Whisk in the yogurt and water to make a smooth batter, adding more water as you need to to make a moist batter. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm place for an hour or two, until it is puffed and bubbling.

Beat together the egg and buttermilk and stir this into the batter with the corn kernels, chiles, scallions, and cheddar. The batter should be quite thin—more pourable than pasty. If it’s not, then stir in more buttermilk.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat and, when it’s hot, add a big glug of vegetable oil. When the oil is shimmering, pour tablespoons of batter into the pan to make small pancakes. Cook until they’re pocked with yeasty holes and you can see that the undersides are nice and golden-brown, around 2 or 3 minutes. Flip them over and cook another minute or two.  Add a little more oil to the pan between batches.


If you want to make all the batter at once, keep the pancakes warm on a heatproof platter in a 250 oven until they’re all cooked. You can also store leftover batter in the fridge for a day or two and cook it another time.


50 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:20 PM

    We also have a new young-adult shaped hole in our household. I, too, spent July and August focused almost exclusively on getting just the right bedding and shower caddy. Then all at once we are a family of three.
    So this recipe that you say "feeds 4-6" would have fed the family once. But now, the three of us get two meals out of this one batch. I am not sure that getting more meals of corn pancakes is worth this letting-go-process.

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    1. OMG! Yes! The shower caddy. I can't believe I forgot to mention that too. LOL, re. more corn pancakes. Sigh. xo

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  2. Hugs to you, friend. It's hard. I know it's what's supposed to happen, and I know there are many, many people who haven't had the luxury of seeing their precious children grow up and move on. Doesn't mean it's not still hard and painful.

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  3. Anonymous2:22 PM

    We have a high school senior at our house and can't imagine how it is possible that she will be gone.

    This is off topic but have you watched the netflix special Hannah Gadsby: Nanette? She is an Australian gay comedian who does a show about why she is quitting comedy, it is amazing and powerful and angry and funny all at once. I think it should be required watching for everyone.

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  4. I can't relate to my child leaving as she is only 14 and I am NOT READY to even prepare for that yet...But I think I need to make these corn cakes this weekend.

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    1. No. Rachel. Don't even think about it yet! xo

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  5. My girl actually had the nerve to leave two weeks early for college to attend a science program! The missing her has gotten better (mostly) as in I'm don't cry most days, but it's still hard. I also feel you on the bedding we got a mattress pad, mattress topper, better sheets than I have on my bed and she still doesn't think the bed is comfortable! Hopefully that will just be incentive for her to visit more often...

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    1. The nerve! : ) And yes, you should secretly keep her home bed a couple notches comfier than the college one. . .

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  6. Favorite part: "It reminded me of counting and recounting the little socks before the baby's born. And then, boom, there's an actual baby, and fuck the socks."

    I too focused very hard on the shopping element beforehand.

    I don't know if it will be the same for you. But. I am in a group of moms, and last year we all had college freshman. And we had varying degrees of reaction to the kids going to college. But we all felt a lot better after Christmas break---again, to our own varying degrees. But much better than we had before.

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    1. Anonymous9:27 AM

      My favorite part, too! And I can swap out socks for so many things--like the diaper genie. F the diaper genie. What was I thinking? Once the actual baby was there, if the rolled up diapers made it off of the dining room where they accumulated next to the diaper pad (F the changing table) and into the trash, I was lucky! --Cathy K

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    2. I am laughing. Love you Swistle and Cathy K. xo

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  7. I've been waiting for this post and thinking about you this month (in a completely non-stalker way). :) My two are two years behind Ben and Birdy and I am in denial that we are this close. I am right there with you hoping that perhaps they will fly back to the nest for a bit after college.

    Even two years out I can already feel the change coming and am finding it tougher than the enormous change that came in those early days of motherhood. Please keep writing about all these things. It helps so much! Sending hugs your way.

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  8. Yes, you described it so well. We packed up our son to college (about 5 hours away) and I was NOT prepared for the mourning. But still telling myself, "this is what we planned for and raised him to be: independent, smart, pursuing an education!" To be so sad, and yet so excited for him to embark on this amazing time in his life. What did mothers do before FACETIME!???? Every day I try a little bit harder not to text/call/email him. I mean, I don't even know what he ate for dinner last night. sigh. You get it.

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    1. Exactly! At some point, a few days in, I thought, "How will we ever catch up on all the day-to-day stuff" before realizing that we never will. It is so hard.

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  9. My first born just started kindergarten, so I get to squeeze her each day, but I only get worse at transitions as I get older, and I can't even imagine how much I'll miss mine when they're gone for good. Hugs to you and thank you for a recipe to keep my hands(if not my heart) busy.

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  10. Oh thank god other people were as obsessed with bedding as I was. I was ridiculous. And now it is on my son's bed & who cares. LOL.

    It certainly is a mish-mash of conflicting feelings. So excited for him, but quietly deeply sad & miss him. It's been a month now so it gets easier. I remember driving away & feeling like it just didn't feel right to be leaving my first born baby boy 6 hours away. Of course I know this is--hopefully--supposed to happen. Of course I know we are lucky to be able to even have this experience. But this truly is a major transition in our life. It's not nothing. It's okay for us to feel sad & still be grateful.

    Now I kind of want to buy myself a mattress topper & replace my shitty-ass pillows.

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    1. Ha ha ha! You should! And I am really feeling you on the "Of course. . . Of course. . . "

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  11. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Hi Catherine
    I have been thinking of you and also waiting for this post to help me grapple with the maelstrom of emotions involved in sending our firstborns off to college (in our case a plane ride away). Of course I am thrilled and excited for him and truly it is a blessing that he has this opportunity... but still. Though veteran parents warned me I was unprepared for the pain of saying goodbye and how much I miss him still. It has been a month and I am JUST NOW to the point that I don't cry daily. Indescribable is the perfect word. Sending love and hugs to all the Moms out there who are happy and heartbroken at the same time. Veteran parents also tell me it gets better so holding on to that!!!

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    1. I'm holding onto that too! Yes, happy and heartbroken. xo

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  12. Oh, I have been waiting for this post. My son is the same age as Ben and I have followed along with you guys since baby center. My son left for college about a month ago in New York City -- 10 hours from here! I think I cried through most of PA until we got to Ohio. I spent most of July and August poring over lists and lists of supplies just making sure he had EVERYTHING he needed, suffice to say, I think he is covered on toiletries, bedding and dorm kitchen supplies until he is at least 25.

    The luck/sadness debate wages in my head constantly, like some sort of grief check -- don't let your self get too sad, you're lucky! and I know I am (I really am, my Will is the coolest) Since the day he was born, I knew this time would come and no matter how many times I thought I would be ready, I wasn't. I miss my boy, our family seems so out of balance right now.... but I'm so lucky....sigh..

    Lots of love to all the mamas out there trying to find the balance :-)

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  13. My son started his first year of college at the end of August, 10 hours away from us, and in a completely different (very cold and snowy) climate. I spent most of the summer trying to find him a parka (on the internet, from NC) and ended up buying a down filled coat for way too much money that looked super warm online and ended up being a glorified puffy jacket in reality. It will probably get him through Thanksgiving. But that is a gd nice jacket.
    Some time ago you wrote about zen of snowsuit donning and trying to get through this pesky life to something much less excruciatingly dull. We have gotten through it, too soon, after all.

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    1. THE PARKA. If he has the perfect parka he will be safe and happy. Exactly.

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    2. too soon after all

      Sob.

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  14. Wish I could just wrap you up in a big fat hug and cry with you. Imagining it one day with my own beloved firstborn has made me grow a whole new empathetic chamber of my heart for my parents. Love is a kick in the head, yo! xoxoxo

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    1. Oh, Luisa. I love that. I have a whole new empathetic chamber for my parents too!
      Love is a fucking kick in the head. It really is.
      xo

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  15. Sending love.
    And oy! Working at a college and being complicit in this for so many other families--the sting of it! (I work with college kids and the irony does not escape me.)
    He will be fine. You will too. But that doesn't always help the hurt right now. Hugs to you.

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  16. It is a happy thing but oh so hard. I kept having that feeling like you've misplaced your purse. Only bigger. Much bigger.

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    1. That made me laugh. Thank you for that. xo

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  17. Hugs to you all!!! ❤️

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  18. I often think of a post you wrote back in the day about arriving home after an outing with hungry infant Birdie and Ben who needed your attention. I was doing the same thing with my little ones. Doesn't seem real that those kids are old enough to be out in the world by themselves.

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  19. Anonymous2:17 AM

    I too have been waiting for this post. Our oldest went to orientation August 12 (WTF semester schools??). Notice that I still can't write "Our oldest moved out August 12?" Sob.

    The real kicker is that he is attending the same university I work for and he is *literally* physically closer to me during the day than he was in high school. But that doesn't seem to matter. He has a whole group of new friends and I don't know them, or their parents. I don't know what he had for dinner last night or even if he had dinner. I'm really trying, but I still am surprised at how hard it has been. Friends of ours can't believe we are paying ridiculous amounts of money for him to be in a residence hall when he could just live at home, but I keep telling them (and saying it loud enough for the hole in my heart to hear also) "we wanted him to have this experience. We wanted him to meet new people, have a roommate, make his own choices, figure things out for himself. We raised him to go. We wanted him to go. We just didn't know it was going to be so hard."

    I'm so glad there is this community of folks who are loving and letting go, feeling grateful (so fucking grateful) and sad simultaneously, and working to find our new normal. Sending love to you all!

    --Long time reader (Mommyneedsanap) who can never remember her password.

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    1. Mine, too, started at the university where I work, and I have to stop myself from popping in at his dorm just to say hi! And he's loving every minute of it so far, and we know it's exactly where he should be in time an space, but I so miss knowing what he's doing day to day. Hugs to you and all of us.

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  20. Yes, I've been thinking about you too. I feel lucky because my kids are a bit younger than yours and you've always been there, showing the way ahead. I still feel like a clueless bumbler at each new stage, but at least I've had your wise and heartfelt example of how to do this. Thank you.

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  21. Lindsay2:23 PM

    As a mom of an infant and a toddler, I especially love these lines this week:

    "It's been a little rough on all sides, this transition, especially after I seemed to be quite happy spending the entire month of August myopically focused on Ben's bedding--"What's a mattress topper? Do you need a mattress topper? Does the mattress topper need to be twin xl, or only the fitted sheet?" It reminded me of counting and recounting the little socks before the baby's born. And then, boom, there's an actual baby, and fuck the socks."

    Fuck the socks, indeed. My kids are still young and I can't imagine them ever leaving home, but of course the day will come. To echo other readers, thank you for sharing your experiences. Hoping October is a bit better for everyone.

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  22. Yes to the socks and bedding. Now that my kids are adolescents, I tell my younger colleagues, "There is no possible way to prepare your head for a baby, so you get obsessed with preparing your house." And then, as you say, the STUFF turns out not to be the point. Hard enough to send my youngest off to middle school, but I feel with you.

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  23. I told him he need a mattress topper. He rolled his eyes. Hard. After one night sleeping without it, he texted and asked for one. Then complained about the one I sent him. Fuck the socks, indeed!

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  24. Ah, Catherine!!! Little Ben is all grown up <3
    My Julian is a senior, and I dread and expect next year in a way that can't be possible for a person to feel and keep going, which explains a lot.
    thanks for your recipes! Your buttermilk pancakes have been a staple in my house for years.

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  25. Over the past two days, I've seen Donald Trump twice. (His motorcade passes near my office when he travels to/from the UN.) I flipped him off both times. Yesterday, I was holding an umbrella, but today, I flipped him off with BOTH HANDS, and he was looking right at me. I'm prepping my protest signs now, in case lightning strikes three times in two days. Just a little "thinking of you." xox #believesurvivors #resist

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    1. Anonymous4:40 PM

      thank you for this! I'm in Palo Alto, where we're doing our best to hold up Christine. So, extra thank you.

      Also, Catherine, thank you as always. My eldest is ten, I work at a university, and I actually cried on the move-in day last week, identifying with the proud weary heartbroken parents and imagining eight short years from now...

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    3. I was ready this morning. My sign said:
      "You are a
      BAD PRESIDENT
      & a
      TERRIBLE PERSON
      #believesurvivors"

      Solidarity, sisters. superXOX

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  26. I, too, focused on the bedding, and then we got to the room and set him up and realized we had COMPLETELY forgotten towels. Like it never even crossed our minds. A quick trip to Target solved that, and we realized we could have just bought everything there on our way to drop him off that day and it would have been fine. But it kept my mind on something. Thanks for posting, Catherine, for all of us going through it together. It's been great reading everyone's comments of camaraderie and joy and heartbreak.

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  27. Sorry for your loss, life is sad and joyful and yes we are so lucky, imagine being a refuge woman for 20 years. Have you thought about getting an air fryer?

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