Family Recipe Series: Marisa McClellan
In anticipation of our April 11th Edible World event, Sunday Supper and Family Lore, the First Person Blog will feature the stories and family recipes of Philly food personalities. This was going to an every-other-day happening, but we’ve had so many great foodies writing in with recipes, that you can find recipes every day till our event from the likes of chefs, writers and people who just love eating, making and talking about food and family. Click here to see our other foodie recipes.
Marisa McClellan is another Philly food blogger and canning goddess, known for her super successful blog Food in Jars and canning classes at Foster’s Homewares. The story she shares with First Person Arts is an updated version of an earlier post on Food in Jars. Her family story centers around her dad’s pancake recipe, one built on culinary drive, experimentation and instinct. Oh and the desire for a delicious way to start the day.
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As far as I’m concerned, my father is the king of pancakes (and waffles too). During his early twenties, he spent a spell working as a short order cook at the International House of Pancakes. After eating one doughy pancake too many, he determined that he could do better than the sorry mix that IHOP used. So, for a period spanning multiple years, he wholly devoted himself to the creation of a better pancake mix.
By the time my sister and I entered the scene (1979 and 1982), Mo was a self-declared pancake master. There was always a batch of dry mix in the fridge, ready to be combined with eggs, milk and glug of vegetable oil. It was perfect for those Saturday mornings, when nothing but a stack of pancakes would do.
During my lifetime, I’ve put in many hours studying the art of the pancake at my dad’s elbow. He taught me how to tell when a pancake was ready to flip (bubbles around the edges that stay open after popping) and to cook over a medium-low heat, so that cake gets cooked all the way through (to prevent the horror of a pancake where the outside is burnt, but the inside drips with raw batter).
Those pancake lessons were also my first instruction in the art of cooking by feel, as Mo eschewed exact measures when it came to batter mixing. Pulling out his favorite batter bowl, he’d beat an egg for each eater (and an extra for a leftover cake or two), add a nice pour of milk and a quick dollop of canola oil or melted butter. Once he had a loose emulsion, he’d scoop in a couple of serving spoonfuls of dry mix at a time, stirring until the batter was right. He’d look for something that wasn’t runny, but wasn’t stiff either. It’s something that you figure out over time, he’d say.
Since I’ve had my own kitchen in which to play, I’ve altered the sacred dry mix recipe a bit. Luckily, this is just the sort of creative thinking my father encourages, so all toes are intact. My favorite addition is the bit of toasted millet, as it adds a wonderful nutty crunch. This mix is a wonderful thing to keep stashed in a jar at the back of the fridge, because it means that a friend and family pleasing meal is always just a couple of minutes away. I occasionally make these for dinner and add a few chopped pecans and some sliced banana to each cake just after I spoon the batter on the griddle. By adding that bit of protein and some fruit, I convince myself that they’re a healthy and balanced meal (which I then drown in grade b maple syrup).
The mix recipe is below. I make it entirely with whole wheat flour (a combo of regular and pastry), but if you like a lighter pancake, sub in some unbleached all-purpose. These are also divine if you splash a bit of vanilla extract into the batter just before griddling. The dry mix also makes a lovely housewarming or hostess gift, particularly for the pancake lovers in your crowd.
Marisa’s version of Mo’s Famous Pancakes
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups honey toasted wheat germ (regular toasted wheat germ can be substituted if you can’t find the honey stuff)
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons baking powder
Mix it all together and store in an airtight jar or container in the fridge (all those whole grains can go rancid quickly, but cold storage will extend their life).
To use, whisk together three eggs, 1 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter. Fold in two cups of mix*. If it seems to thick, add a bit more milk. Heat a griddle to medium heat and oil it lightly (a precisely folded paper towel is Mo’s favorite tool for this job). The pancakes are ready to flip when the bubbles around the edges of the cakes pop and stay open. Cook just another minute or two on the other side. Serve with maple syrup (real only, please), jam and yogurt or honey.
*It’s at this point that I add about 1/3 a cup of toasted millet. Toasting it is easy, just spread it on a small baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Let it cool a little and then fold it into the batter. It adds a wonderful, nutty crunch.