This year, 21 February is Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Fastnact Day! Historically, this is the day that Christians would eat all the rich food in their cupboards like eggs, butter and milk in preparation for the fasting of Lent. In the UK we use it as an excuse to celebrate the pancake as well.
In the US, pancakes are thick and fluffy and melty and served with fruit compote (as in Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity), whip cream and most likely maple syrup (or all of the above if you’re being really fat at IHOP)but in the UK, pancakes are thin and flimsy, resembling French crepes, served sweet or savory. Interestingly, in the UK flapjacks are oatmeal granola bars and not pancakes (so confusing).
Having been to Paris, where you can buy crepes on just about every corner, I’ve learned that they are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner and they never get boring. Throw in some scrambled eggs and bacon and you’ve got a handy breakfast you can eat on your commute. Try sliced bananas and Nutella for a tastier alternative to toast. Stuff the pancake with ham, cheese and sautéed mushrooms and onions for a quick lunch or dinner. Add strawberries in sugar syrup rolled up with a dollop of whipped cream and you’ve got an easy dessert for your dinner party. The only limit is your imagination.
Crepes (AKA English Pancakes)
Prep Time 5 minutes + 1 hour to chill
Cooking time 10 minutes
Makes four 10-inch crepes
A large non-stick pan (at least 12 inches in diameter)
A ladle or ¼ cup measuring cup
Wax paper to separate cooked crepes
A large non-metallic bowl and spoon for mixing
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
½ cup water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp butter melted
Mix all ingredients in bowl in the order listed. To avoid lumps, add milk to flour slowly while continuously stirring. Add the butter to the mixture in the same way to avoid cooking the batter. Once mixed, cover and place in fridge for an hour (or make the night before).
When the batter is ready, heat the pan to medium high heat. When pan is hot, ladle or spoon about ¼ cup of batter. Pick up the pan and swirl batter around so that there is a thin layer of batter across the whole pan.
When the edges look dry and there are bubbles across the entire surface, it’s time to flip. If you’re really skillful you can flip it in the pan, I don’t have that many skills. Using the spatula ease the pancake out of the pan and flip. If you don’t quite make it, just straighten it out with your hands. Cook for a minute more and then place on a plate. Separate pancakes with wax paper to keep them from sticking.
Fill the pancakes with your favorite flavors.
Carmelised Apple & Pears (serves 2 )
In a non-stick pan, combine 2 skin on apples (cored and sliced into wedges), 1 tbls butter, and 2 heaping tbls sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon. Cover and cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes until fruit has begun to soften. Add 2 pears (seeds and stem removed sliced into wedges) cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the fruit has soften and sugar has turned into a syrup. This is about another 10 minutes. Increase the recipe as needed.
Chocolate Banana(serves 2)
Cover 1/2 of crepe with 1 tbls Nutella spread. Thinly slice two small bananas and place on top of Nutella and roll crepe.
Strawberries and Cream (serves 2)
Remove the leaves and slice 1 pint strawberries. Place strawberries in a non-metallic bowl and cover with 1/2 cup sugar. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, use Cool Whip or beat 1/4 cup whipping cream or double cream until stiff. Fill crepe with strawberries, roll crepe and place a dollop of cream on top. Drizzle strawberry syrup on crepe.
Ham & Cheese
Using deli counter ham, cover half of crepe immediately after flipping the crepe. Add 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese. When crepe has cooked, fold uncovered side of crepe over meat and cheese and then fold crepe in half. Let crepe stand in hot pan until cheese melts.
My husband loves fried chicken. No, I mean he’s really in love with fried chicken! I don’t think you understand how serious this is. If it were possible to marry fried chicken, I would be kicked to the curb. And I really can’t blame him. Fried chicken is one of those pleasures in life that the vegan, healthy eating, everything-that-you-put-in-your-mouth-that-even-remotely-tastes-good people have waged war against.
I’m not talking about the fried chicken that comes from the Chinese carry-out with a bit of mambo sauce on the side (what is mambo sauce anyway?) or the faux home cooked, mechanically shaped stuff that you get from KFC. I mean the juicy, salty, sweet, crispy deep fried hugs that your Grandma would stand over the stove for hours cooking in that old black iron skillet. Chicken that’s so good you would seriously contemplate selling one of your kidneys for just one juicy leg. Because you always have another kidney, but fried chicken like Grandma made is hard to come by.
I don’t remember my first experience with fried chicken because, like a loyal friend, it’s always been in my life. And it always makes me smile. Most of my best memories revolve around food, and more specifically around fried chicken. I suspect, if you are Black and from America, yours do too. Remember your loyal friend lovingly nestled in the shoe box when you took those long car trips (or was that just my husband’s family)? Remember those family picnics where the fried chicken took center stage? Everyone’s Grandma had a Crisco can on the stove full of bacon grease. For many of us, our first experience with cooking was shaking the chicken and flour in the brown paper bag. And that first bite of chicken hot from the grease, the crunch giving way to the juicy molten goodness dripping between your fingers. Fried chicken has just always been part of the family.
I don’t fry chicken often now. Even on the best of days, it’s not that great for you. This is really interesting since our grandparents ate it at least once every week and they lived well into their gray old chicken eatin’ days. Nonetheless, the health gods tell us that we shouldn’t eat it at all or “oven fry” it without the skin because it tastes just the same. Yeah right… who ever said this has never had a Grandma that fried chicken. So now, in my effort to keep my husband around for at least the next 80 years, I save it for special occasions – birthdays, family get-togethers, the first Eagles football game of the season, or when I just feel down. And of course, anytime a little extra happy won’t hurt. I will continue to fry chicken and making wonderful memories. One day, I’ll be the old grandma in the kitchen with the iron skillet frying up a batch with plenty of oil, plenty of seasoning and plenty of love.
You’ll need several basic tools which you should have already.
A high sided heavy gauge pan (high enough to hold 1 inch of oil and the chicken without spilling over) with a well fitted lid
Tongs for turning the chicken (you don’t want to pierce the chicken with a fork as you’ll lose all the juicy goodness).
Paper towels and a heat proof bowl for drying grease from the chicken
Paper towels or a clean dishtowel to dry the chicken after cleaning
A plastic bag for coating the chicken with flour
A kitchen thermometer to test the temperature of the oil
2 lbs (1 kg) chicken parts
1 cup plain flour
3 tbls seasoning (plain salt and pepper, Lawry’s, Season-All, All Purpose seasoning, or my chicken seasoning described below)
1 ltr oil (any oil with a high smoking point and no flavor like sunflower, peanut, canola, or vegetable)
Wash chicken and pluck any stray feathers (yes in the UK you must do this) and use clean paper towel or dishtowel to completely dry it. If you’ve chosen to make chicken breasts, cut the breasts in half to ensure the meat gets thoroughly cooked. Season chicken with your preferred seasoning and refrigerate for at least an hour.
When ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge and set aside. Place the dry pan on the stove on medium heat (5 on electric stoves) for 2 to 3 minutes. NOTE: If you have a pan lined with Teflon or you are unsure whether the pan is lined with Teflon do not follow this step (Teflon can be toxic when burnt). While waiting for pan to heat, add about 1 cup of flour to a plastic bag and add two generous pinches of seasoning to the flour and shake. When done, fill the pan to a depth of about 1 inch and increase heat to medium high (7 on electric stove). While the oil is heating, place chicken in flour a few pieces at a time and shake to coat. Once all the chicken is coated, check the heat of the oil by using the kitchen thermometer. The temperature should be between 350 and 375F. Another method is to add a piece of bread to the oil, if it turns golden brown within a minute the oil is hot enough. If the oil is too hot, move the pan away from heat for a minute or two and test the temperature again. Once the oil is hot, it’s time to cook!
Carefully place the chicken in the pan one piece at a time. Make sure that the pieces are not touching. Once the pan is full, cover it tightly. The oil will be rapidly bubbling at this point. Remember this sound. When the bubbling slows down, it’s time to check the chicken. This should be about 15 minutes. If the chicken is the proper crispness, careful turn each piece, and continue to cook uncovered. Again, you should hear rapid bubbling. When it slows down (about 5 to 10 minutes), check again by removing the largest piece and piercing the meatiest part with a sharp knife. If the juice comes out tinged red or pink, put the piece back in and cook some more. Once done, remove the pieces and place them in paper towel lined bowl.
Seneca’s Fried Chicken Seasoning
2 tbls sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp mustard powder