Saturday, March 7, 2015

Michael Smith's Weekend Pancakes with Strawberry Compote


Cooking with kids, especially ones who aren't your own, is always a bit of a challenge. You never know what their previous experience with food is; do they have issues with textures? Are they used to only eating white food? Will they have a meltdown if you cut out sugar? I feel like everything is always a gamble-and that's totally okay, I'm up for the challenge.

Back in 2013 I sat in a hotel lobby with Chef Michael Smith and he lit up as he told me about his family's weekly pancake ritual; how his daughter fishes around the bowl for the egg yolks and has become the expert egg cracker. This stayed with me for so long that when I was asked to put together a cooking program from my students at work, the first thing I had to make (as an homage to my inspiration, of course) was his pancakes from Family Meals.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure how they'd go over with the kids. Would they revolt at whole wheat pancakes? Besides THAT, I had greatly reduced their beloved syrup and made a strawberry compote to top the hot pancakes with. Would that be something to cause a mutiny?  Well. if anything, I've been reminded this week that kids will surprise you, especially if you just throw stuff out there and let them decide for themselves. Never assume they won't like something-one day they wanted to eat a Meyer lemon!

pancake by Zach
Pancake cooked and plated by one of my lovely 10 yr olds
We mixed and flipped and the kids were so into it and excited (and took it so seriously!) that when it came time to eat, they sat around the table and each gobbled no less than THREE pancakes each, declaring them delicious. Not just that but they took giant spoonfuls of strawberries and begged for more. They couldn't believe that the sweet compote was just berries with a little sugar.

"That's it? Just berries? They are YUMMY."  I'm quite sure they would've eaten it by the spoonful.

Calling our introduction into cooking a giant success doesn't even come close to the happiness that was in the kitchen that morning.

Thank you so much for the inspiration, Michael. I can't think of a better way to kick off our twice weekly cooking adventures. (and for the rest of you, buy Family Meals. It's a GREAT cookbook)

Ingredients for the pancakes:

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups milk (I like buttermilk but regular milk will do)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp vanilla

Ingredients for the strawberry compote:

4 cups frozen strawberries
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp sugar (more or less to taste)


1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. In a different bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, honey and vanilla.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

4. On  a hot, greased griddle, drop 1/4 cupfuls of the batter, spreading it out a little. These pancakes cook up nice and thick. Wait until you see some little bubbles forming on the pancake before checking the underside to see if it's browned. When it is, flip the pancake over and cook the other side.

5. Keep your pancakes warm on a baking sheet in a 200 F oven until you are finished cooking them all, or give them to the kids hot off the griddle. Serve with the berry compote, fresh bananas, and real maple syrup.


Strawberry Compote:

1. Thaw the strawberries. Pour them and the juice in a medium sized pot over medium low heat and bring them to a simmer. Mash them up with a potato masher, leaving some chunks. Add in the sugar to taste. If you want to get all fancy, you could add a little lemon juice and zest, too. Simmer the strawberries for about 5 minutes, stirring.

2. In a small dish combine the cornstarch and cold water. Stirring, pour it into the strawberries and continue to cook them until they thicken slightly . Remove from the heat and let them cool.

**make ahead** you can make the strawberry compote with just about any kind of frozen berry, let it cool, and store in an airtight container in the fridge to be used the next day. When you want to use it just heat it up on low, stirring.
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