Today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday as my husband grew up calling it. He grew up in Belfast in the troubled 60’s and 70’s on the wrong side of town, meaning in the Catholic neighborhood. I tell ya, he and his family have some wild stories that would give Roddy Mc Doyle or Frank Mc Court a run for their money. But then again, amazingly, everyone living there at the time dealt with police raids and bullets as a part of normal life. The tamest of his stories is how his school let out half an hour earlier than the Protestant school since they had to go through the Protestant neighborhood to get home. The staggered closing would prevent the Catholic kids getting beat up by the Protestant kids (he tells me this so matter-of-factly, it makes me sick). This was most important on Ash Wednesday, as they ran home from school with ashes on their foreheads (no hiding the fact that they were Catholic with that bull’s-eye smeared on). But on Fat, or Pancake Tuesday, they also hurried home (not that they ever dawdled with the threat of a thrashing), I bet you can guess why. Pancakes were on the menu! Tonight we’re making pancakes for dinner. I prefer the thin variety of pancake. That’s my Scandinavian heritage coming out. My true and trusted pancake batter recipe comes from my oft-referenced, Natural Cooking the Finnish Way by Ulla Kakonen, published in 1974 by Quadrangle.
1 tsp sea salt
1 ½ tsp raw sugar (I use regular granulated sugar)
1 ½ cups milk, or 1 cup buttermilk and ½ cup water
1 tbs oil or melted butter
1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour
Oil or butter for frying
Beat the egg lightly, add salt and sugar. Pour in the milk, or buttermilk and water. Whisk in the flour, and beat well to make a thin, smooth batter. Add oil or melted butter. Let the batter stand in a warm place 1 to 2 hours. It will thicken. (I never have the patience to let the batter sit. My pancakes come out fine and I think I almost prefer the thinner batter.)
Usually the pancakes are fried in a pancake pan with small separate rings, but they can also be made in a crepe pan. (I use a regular 10” sauté pan.) fry the pancakes in a very hot pan, greasing the pan before each pancake. Try to make them brown and crisp at the edges. (If you make them thin enough, the edges will look like lace)
Serve as dessert, right from the pan. Sprinkle with sugar, or serve with strawberry or other preserves. Or mash fresh strawberries and sugar, and serve on top of the pancakes.