I love recipes like this, pared down to their most basic elements, pure of flavor and intent. You can find a million recipes for cornmeal pancakes, made soft with wheat flour, fluffy with baking soda, sweet with sugar. And while they’re all utterly delicious, it’s hard to beat the pure corn flavor of pancakes made with cornmeal alone. I personally love them best plain, enhanced with nothing but salty Hope Creamery butter. And maybe a pile of softly scrambled eggs. Gosh.
But for those who’d like a bit of a flavor punch, I offer two variations, one sweet, one savory. I grated orange zest into the sweet version and served them with warm maple syrup and plenty of butter for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. For the savory version, I stirred in chopped bacon and green onions and ate them hot off the pan. I can’t wait to eat them topped with slices of perfectly ripe tomatoes and a sprinkle of coarse salt.
Cornmeal Pancakes: Sweet or Savory
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman, New York Times
1 1/2 c. fine or medium cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk, or more as needed
For sweet version:
1 tsp. grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
warm maple syrup for serving
For savory version:
3 slices bacon, fried crispy and crumbled
1/4 c. chopped green onions
2 Tbsp. bacon drippings
Combine the cornmeal, salt, and 1 1/2 cups boiling water in a bowl and let it sit until the cornmeal absorbs the water and softens, 5 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the milk, a little at a time, until the batter is spreadable but still thick.
For the sweet version: Stir in the butter, vanilla, and orange peel. For the savory version: Stir in the bacon, green onions, and bacon drippings.
Put a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of oil to the pan. Spoon out the batter, making any size pancakes you like. Cook until edges and underside are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and cook on the other side until golden.