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!)

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.