Saturday, February 28, 2009

Special Edition Mac & Cheese Pancakes, rev. ed.

Remember when we made Kenny Shopsin's lemon-ricotta pancakes a few months back? At the time I noted that we had found the recipe in the New York Times Magazine alongside Shopsin's infinitely more delirious Mac & Cheese Pancakes, but when it came time to choose, "it really wasn't much of a decision" because we had farm-fresh ricotta on-hand. What I didn't mention was that at the time, we couldn't for the life of us imagine what the taste and textural qualities of Mac & Cheese Pancakes might be like. We certainly were intrigued, though. So intrigued, in fact, that when we got back home, we made picking up a copy of Shopsin's Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin a top priority. Not because we needed the Mac & Cheese Pancakes recipe--it was right there in black & white in the New York Times Magazine--but because we wanted to further acquaint ourselves with the philosophy behind the Mac & Cheese Pancakes and the rest of Kenny Shopsin's ridiculously huge and hilariously inventive repertoire. And if we happened to learn the origin of the Mac & Cheese Pancake, all the better.*

eat me 1 fig. a: before

eat me 2 fig. b: after (accidents will happen)

Not only is Eat Me one of the best-looking cookbooks we've seen in quite some time (maybe ever), but it's been one of our absolute favorite reads of the last few months, and, perhaps not surprisingly, Shopsin's Mac & Cheese Pancakes were among the very first recipes that we tried out. All I can say is that--I admit it--I was a little skeptical about the Mac & Cheese Pancakes, but now, when I think of pancakes, I think of these first. I'm not even kidding. And I don't care if it's Lent and to even dream about these pancakes amounts to impure thoughts. Just mention the word "pancake" and these are all I see.

The funny thing is, the first time we made them, we read the recipe in Eat Me carefully, but somehow, unconsciously, we ended up making them not as the recipe actually instructed, but as we imagined they'd be made. [Later, I was reminded of a story: In describing Kenny's Egyptian Burrito, Calvin Trillin once wrote: "An Egyptian Burrito is a burrito, and inside is sort of what Kenny thinks Egyptians might eat."] You see, Kenny's original recipe calls for cooked elbow macaroni tossed with olive oil, with the cheddar cheese added separately. We, on the other hand, began with a pretty deluxe batch of leftover mac & cheese. Anyway, this was totally accidental, but our Mac & Cheese Pancakes ended up being at least twice as cheesy as Shopsin's, and quite a bit more savory. Problem? I don't think so. Having now read Eat Me, we know all too well what Kenny thinks of bacon in pancakes. We have a feeling he'd give his blessing to our Special Edition Mac & Cheese Pancakes.

What you need:

leftover mac & cheese fig. c: leftover mac & cheese

1. leftover macaroni & cheese, preferably leftovers from a batch of E & D Special Mac & Cheese.

pancake batter fig. d: pancake batter

2. pancake batter, such as this one:

Pancake Batter

7 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the butter and milk until the butter melts. Set aside until lukewarm. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture into the eggs while stirring. Stir in the remaining milk mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, a little at a time, stirring slowly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy and will start to bubble.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

cheddar cheese fig. e: cheddar cheese

3. a block of medium-sharp cheddar cheese

What you need to know:

Special Edition Mac & Cheese Pancakes**

butter for the skillet and for serving
3 cups pancake batter
1 heaping cup macaroni & cheese, preferably E & D Special Mac & Cheese, at room temperature
1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese
medium Grade A (or B--Kenny prefers B) maple syrup

Heat your skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the butter and run it across the skillet surface, then use a small ladle to pour the batter on the skillet. When small bubbles cover 40-50% of the surface of your pancakes (after about 2 minutes), drop about 1 tablespoon of the mac & cheese on each pancake, and then, as if that wasn't enough, sprinkle a layer of cheddar on top, before using a thin spatula to quickly and artfully flip the pancakes. Turn the heat down a little, use the spatula to press down on the pancakes a bit, and when the undersides are golden, about 2 minutes later, use the spatula to transfer the pancakes to a plate, mac & cheese & cheese side up.

Serve with butter and maple syrup. Makes roughly 12 4-inch pancakes.

[inspired by Kenny Shopsin's Mac n Cheese Pancakes, Eat Me]

If all goes well they should look something like this:

mac & cheese pancakes fig. f: the finished product

And they should taste outrageously good. You see, our E & D Special Mac & Cheese has a copious amount of thick-cut bacon in it, so what you end up with is a Mac & Cheese Pancake with bacon built right into it. Then, with a knob of butter and a little maple syrup... As Kenny might say: "It's really very sexy."


* We did: it was a dish specially invented for a regular customer who only ever ordered one of two dishes at Shopsin's, the mac & cheese or the pancakes, and who one day asked Kenny to decide which he should have.

** Now with extra cheese!


Leigh said...

These look soooo good. Why have'nt i thought of this?!?! genius, guys, genius.

Geoff said...

Jesus H. Christ, those look fantastic. Mac and Cheese is just not a thing here in NZ, but I reckon this is a goer.

leedav said...

OMG! Just ordered the book from the library. Thanks!

ito said...

i trust you've seen the documentary about shopsin's called "i like killing flies"?
if not, it will definitely give you insight into the man behind the recipes.