There's an old joke: A Jewish gentleman and a Chinese gentleman are talking. The Chinese gentleman says, "Our civilization has been around since 2000 B.C.E." The Jew says, "That's nothing. Our civilization has been around since 3000 B.C.E." The Chinese gentleman replies, "What did you people eat for the first 1000 years?"
It's an old joke, from the Borscht Belt and beyond, but it rings true enough. We Chosen People, while wishing that G-d would choose someone else for a while, have comforted ourselves with Dim Sum and other Asian deliciousness and delicacies for quite some time. Heck, my ex-boyfriend's family used to go to Chinatown in Manhattan for Thanksgiving dinner, and two of the synagogues I sing for have Chinese Food and a Movie nights on Christmas Eve.
For these reasons, and because the recipe sounded quick, easy and filling, I figured I'd give David Lebovitz's scallion pancakes a try, as recommended by Denison Farm's crew supervisor and blogger, Rebecca Torres-Rose. Reading over the comments section for the recipe on David's blog, I saw discussions on the texture and density of the batter. There were also notes comparing it to frittatas and other eggs dishes from around the globe.
I decided to take a look at Helen Chen's recipe to see what her take on it was. Chen's recipe called for a higher ratio of flour to liquid, and for chicken broth instead of water. It recommended adding bacon or dried shrimp, finely sliced, and did not require cooking the scallions beforehand. Now, I rarely mess with recipes the first time out of the gate. Honest. However, this time I had a hunch. I had pulled the milk out of the fridge for the sake of a drink, and the recipe for my dad's frittatas started running through my head. My father makes amazing breakfasts, and these omelets are one of his specialties. What would happen if I added milk to these pancakes, and treated them like an omelet?
To begin with, the batter came out very thick. This may be due to Chinese vs. Korean styles, or it may be Leah's Yiddishe nonsense vs. All Asian tradition. It took a little finagling to get it to spread thinly across the pan, but it was a very forgiving cooking process. The pancake flipped very easily, cooked very quickly and smelled delicious.
The taste reminded me of popovers, crepes and latkes all at the same time. I have never thought of latkes as the Jewish version of a frittata, but maybe I've been mistaken. Regardless, this was a filling, nutritious meal especially when partnered with a salad of Mesculin Mix. It cooked up quickly with a respectable number of dirty dishes remaining. It will be added to our "end of a long day" repertoire. I want to try the same batter sans scallions, with a pinch of sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Maybe then it would be closer to matzah brei or a German pancake. Or is that just sacrilege?
Leah's Scallion Pancakes
Adapted from Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking "Quick Pan Fried Scallion Pancakes"
Makes 3-4 pancakes
1 1/3 cups flour
1 cup milk
3/4 tsp salt or to taste
4 scallions, sliced thinly (someone toss in garlic scapes and tell me how it turns out!!)
1. Mix all ingredients, except the olive oil. Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Add oil, spread so it coats the bottom of the pan and heat until it shimmers.
2. Add 1/4 of the batter to the pan and spread thinly across the bottom. When the top begins to bubble and dry out, flip. Let it cook for another minute or two, until both sides are golden. Slice it as you would a pie, into 6ths. Serve it to your toddler and tell her it's egg pizza. She might not buy it, but it's worth a shot. Share and enjoy.