This Tuesday, February 21st is Shrove Tuesday on the Christian calendar. It is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. You may be familiar with the traditions of Mardi Gras, which literally means “Fat Tuesday”. It is the day where people indulge in the richer foods which they will be abstaining from during the Lenten season. In my house, we celebrate it as “Pancake Day”, which is a tradition common in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In this iteration, the idea is to use up your stores of flour and eggs before you begin your fast. And the best way to do that is to make a big batch of pancakes.
I married into this practice—as kids, our “Pancake Day” was Dad getting out the griddle on Sunday morning. My very English husband introduced me to his holiday while we were dating. He seemed surprised to find I had never heard of it. But, as an avid student of food traditions, I leaped at the idea of having a short stack for a weeknight dinner. However, his pancake is not the one slathered with maple syrup that we know in these parts; but instead it is very thin and light, resembling a French crepe. They are served either with a lemon and sugar mixture or Lyle’s golden syrup (a yummy brown sugary tasting syrup imported from England and which you can find in the (alas) very small English foods section of Woodman’s or Logli).
The process is a tad fussy, but the results are amazing. They are the lightest, most elegant pancake I’ve ever come across. With just a drizzle of the golden syrup, they are sublime. They are best hot, right out of the pan; so we generally just huddle around the stove with a plate and a fork and share each one as it comes off, savoring it while the next one is cooking.
Ah, traditions! Now if only there were an Ice Cream day…
Have you ever heard of Pancake Day? Do you do have a Mardi Gras celebration? Let us know.
½ cup AP flour
Pinch of salt
7 oz milk (skim or 1% ok) mixed with 3 oz of water
4 Tbsp melted butter, cooled to room temp
Sift flour and salt in a large bowl with the sieve held high. (Apparently it make the flour lighter. I don’t question my mother-in-law’s recipe.)
Make a well in the center and break the eggs into it. Begin whisking.
Gradually add small quantities of the milk/water mixture. When all is added scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and whisk smooth.
Spoon 2 Tbsp of the melted butter into the pancake mixture and stir to combine. Put the remaining 2 Tbsp in a bowl. This will be used to grease the pan between cakes.
Using a paper towel dipped in the melted butter, lightly grease an 7 inch non-stick frying pan (or better yet, crepe pan, if you have one) and heat the pan on high. Ladle 2 Tbsp of the batter into the pan in one go. Tip the pan from side to side to cover the bottom of the pan.
Cook the pancake for about 30 seconds, wiggling the pan to free it. Then, flip the pancake over and cook for an additional 30 seconds. (If you are not a confident flipper, go ahead and use a spatula to turn it. I’ve made my share of flippin’ messes in my day.) FYI, the first pancake never turns out. Save that one for Fido.
Regrease the pan with butter and continue the process. Serve with the condiment of your choice.