pancakes, english muffins, frisee salad

Catch-up time! Yet another glorious side-effect of having my nose buried in and my psyche over-identifying with Julia Child’s life in France is that I find myself questioning why so often, we opt for the simple over the fantastic. Why the bagel from Murray’s on a Saturday morning when we could be enjoying our lazy mornings with inordinately good homemade fare? Plus, I tend to wake up hours before my more sleep-skilled roommate, and isn’t cooking a more noble investment of my time than reading the internets and watch the food teevee? Well, we opt for the simple because, unlike Mrs. Child, we have day jobs and I spend my mornings loafing because er, I’m not exactly the most earnest individual, yet sure enough in the last couple weekends breakfast around here had been sublime.

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Last Saturday morning, just like my mother did almost every weekend when we were kids, I made pancakes, just plain-old, oat bran, yogurt, nut, seed and dried fruit-free pancakes before running out to catch the last day of the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Whitney. Mark Bittman’s recipe in the New York Times last month was almost exactly like the Joy of Cooking on my mother always used, replete with the confusing step of adding melted butter to cool ingredients, causing odd clumpage, which is of course quickly rectified in a hot griddle, but still. It always made me feel, and still does, like I did something wrong.

In true Bittman form, this is simply a core recipe and he encourages you to add what you wish to it to adjust it to your tastes; for me, some orange zest and a splash of vanilla. (no, not Baileys, and yes, I was a little surprised too), but he has suggested everything from a mashed-up banana to frozen blueberries or a partial substitution of whole grains. In my pancakes, at least, I embrace the KISS method.

a very spoiled weekend

Last Sunday, I made a “dump it” frittata, as in, “time to clean out the fridge!” One of the things I love about frittatas is that by jacking it up with vegetables and assorted goodies, you end up with a plate of healthful things bound lightly by some egg, versus a terrifying three-egg omelet with some vegetables added at the end, like an after-thought. The other thing that I like is that they’re nearly impossible to mess up. This one started with two strips of bacon (I’ve taken to keeping the extra we buy individually wrapped in parchment paper, then thrown in a freezer bag. Is this odd?), crisped and slivered into lardons, a sautéed shallot, two tiny microwaved-and-chopped-up red potatoes, a handful of defrosted and squeezed-out spinach, a tomato, three beaten eggs and a small pile of Jarlsberg before topping it with some green onions. Sadly, I have no recipe for you beyond this outline, nor a picture because at the time we dove in, I didn’t expect anything spectacular, but you’ll have to trust me that it was the best breakfast we’d had in weeks.

oozy english muffins

Breakfasts three and four were supposed to join together in some glorious, transcendent harmony yesterday, alas, after washing a sinkful of dishes (oh yes, and they were more than a day old) and preparing the yeast, I realized that we were pretty much out of flour and I had completely wasted my energy leading to all sorts of crankiness and a scowled face when Alex finally emerged from his slumber. Once this situation, and my attitude, was adjusted (also, the bathroom scrubbed, we are nothing if not spastic around here), I started the dough for English muffins. I had been inspired by a newsletter from Ruth Reichl I’d received earlier in the week about the glories of Eggs Benedict, which she said was really only perfect on a homemade muffin. Frankly, I’ve never even once considered making something already so good from the store, but she made it sound so simple, I couldn’t resist.

Her recipe is a cinch, perfect for you no-knead fantastics, but it goes awry near the end where she suggests you form the dough into discs and dredge them in cornmeal. There is nothing form-able about this dough, it’s nearly as wet as thick pancake batter, so I quickly consulted Google who brought me a savior in Alton Brown form. Alton Brown gets you to the same place in the recipe, but then suggest you cook the muffins in greased baking rings (shockingly, I have four, but he also says that a tuna can with the top and bottom removed will do). After much, much trial and error as I kept over-filling the rings, and over-cooking the exterior only to leave a still-raw center, I got a few right and I must say, they’re delicious. I mean, stellar, pure English muffin bliss. Too bad it was 3 p.m. and we’d had breakfast hours ago!

sad little english muffins

Breakfast on Saturday — and I’ll make this speedy as I’m well over my word-count here — was an absolute favorite of mine, as well as (in a story I’m sure I’ve told countless times) The Dish That Made Me No Longer a Vegetarian, Salad Lyonnaise. Unable to resist a poached egg, ever, I ordered this salad at Balthazar years ago, only to realize later that it came with bacon, only to realize that I loved bacon endlessly and would savor it, morals and laurels be damned. A bed of frisee is topped with a poached egg, lardons (thick-cut bacon slivers) and a vinaigrette made quickly from pan drippings and that’s it. Serve it immediately and eat it quickly and if you’re me, determine there is no cause more worthy of your allegiance in this life than the consumption of bacon with vigor. Or, just love your weekend breakfasts lunches once again.

two eggs for alex

And with that, I think it’s officially time for my lazy favorite weekend breakfast. I believe I’ve earned it.

a meal, not homemade

Everyday Pancakes
Adapted from Mark Bittman, New York Times 12/20/06

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
2 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter (optional), plus unmelted butter for cooking, or use neutral oil.

1. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Beat eggs into 1 1/2 cups milk, then stir in 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, if using it. Gently stir this mixture into dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten flour; don’t worry about a few lumps. If batter seems thick, add a little more milk.

2. Place a teaspoon or 2 of butter or oil on griddle or skillet. When butter foam subsides or oil shimmers, ladle batter onto griddle or skillet, making pancakes of any size you like. Adjust heat as necessary; usually, first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms brown, after 2 to 4 minutes.

3. Cook until second side is lightly browned. Serve, or hold on an ovenproof plate in a 200-degree oven for up to 15 minutes.

Blueberry or Banana Pancakes: Use fresh or frozen (not defrosted) blueberries; overripe bananas are great. Just before cooking, stir blueberries into batter. For bananas, slice them and press into surface of cooking pancakes. Cook pancakes a little more slowly than you would other pancakes as they burn more easily.

Whole-Grain Pancakes: Substitute whole wheat flour, cornmeal, rolled oats or a combination for up to 1 cup of flour and proceed with recipe.

English Muffins
Recipe from Ruth Reichl, cooking technique from Alton Brown

Mix 1/3 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 package active dry yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in 1 2/3 cups milk. When cool, add to yeast mixture along with 1 egg, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Add 2 1/2 cups flour and mix, at medium speed, 5 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups more flour and mix well. Cover and let rise 1 hour.*

Preheat a griddle to 300 degrees F.

Place metal rings onto the griddle and coat lightly with vegetable spray. Using #20 ice cream scoop**, place 2 scoops into each ring and cover with a pot lid or cookie sheet and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid and flip rings using tongs. Cover with the lid and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a cooling rack, remove rings and cool. Split with fork and serve.

* I mixed this by hand, adding all of the flour at once and not for five minutes and had no trouble with the dough.
** Unable to figure out what size scoop this was, I can only caution you to not fill the ring more than halfway. It puffs plenty while cooking.

Frisee Salad With Lardons and Poached Eggs (Salad Lyonnaise)
Gourmet, February 1999

Makes 4 servings

1/2 pound frisee (French curly endive)
6 ounces slab bacon or thick-cut bacon slices
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Tear frisee into bite-size pieces and put in a large bowl. If using slab bacon, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks (lardons).

In a heavy skillet cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and remove skillet from heat.

Have ready another skillet with 1 inch warm water. Half-fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a bare simmer. Break each egg into a teacup. Slide 1 egg into simmering liquid and immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, moving egg gently. (Egg will become oval, with yolk completely covered by white.) Add remaining 3 eggs in same manner. Simmer eggs about 1 1/2 minutes for runny yolks to about 3 minutes for firm yolks. (Serving this salad with runny “not fully cooked” yolks may be of concern if there is a problem with salmonella in your area.) Immediately transfer eggs to skillet of warm water.

Reheat bacon in its skillet over moderate heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add red-wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisee and toss with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper and serve salad immediately.

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55 comments on pancakes, english muffins, frisee salad

  1. I love breakfast! I’d be happy with one of these for lunch right now! I understand your feelings on English muffins. Not sure I’ve thought about trying but these look really great.

  2. Hi!

    Danes have no idea what Eggs Benedict is, so when I served it at brunch for some friends a few weeks ago, the crowd went wild. No muffin though. Just a bed of spinach salad, bacon, the poached egg and…hollandaise. Truly fattastic. Apropos poaching those eggs, mine were fine the old-fashioned way, but I read somewhere to take a small bowl, line it with cling film, crack the egg in it, seal, cook et voilá! And none of the egg goes to waste.

    I’ve got the World Peace cookie dough in the fridge right now, and am counting the minutes…

  3. Marie

    Hi Deb — Two questions — just between us. I promise I won’t tell a soul.

    What brand cocoa powder and what chocolate did you use for your World Peace cookies?

    And — I can never get one pancake to be just like the other. How do you do it?

    Thanks so much.

  4. I have a solution for your melted butter to cold ingredients problem, and was in such a rush to tell you about it I stopped reading at that sentence. Whisk up your egg, then drizzle and whisk the melted butter into it. The egg yolk acts as an emulsifier. Then add the other wet ingredients (I use the America’s Test Kitchen buttermilk pancake recipe, it rocks) and proceed.

    Back to the rest of your entry!

  5. Agreed. Breakfast is fabu! I’ve never made english muffins, the recipe intrigues me. I kind of wished that I lived at home so that I could make them for my mother, who developed her love for this bread in England.

    PS. I made B vote for you! All hail Cooking Queen Deb!

  6. I love Julia Child’s Life in France. It makes me want to cook and eat like wonderful, glorious things every day. Like these breakfasts which look wonderful.

  7. sam

    great post – 4 x more delicious than a regular post. frissee lardons is a staple in our household. we have it for dinner. I didn’t have it at Blathazar when I was there, but it was my favourite dining experience in NYC.
    i also find english muffins hard to shape – mine usually turn out flat and mishapen, but they always taste good! I made some in Tahoe last week

  8. Oh, I can’t wait to try the bacon salad (that seems beautifully wrong, somehow), and the english muffins, wow. Oh and the from-scratch pizza dough, too! One tip (from the Joy of Cooking) that I find makes the most amazing, airy pancakes is to separate the eggs, whip up the whites, and fold them into the batter at the last second — it really has amazing, angel-cloud style results. Big thanks for your all lovely advice and photos, it’s always such a fun, drooly read!

  9. Yvo

    Mmmm, looks so delish. Funny, I glanced at the pictures first and thought “Must ask her where she got the ring molds”- so, where DID you get them? Thanks :)

    I love breakfast!

  10. I about died from hunger caused by the thought of the salad. That looks delicious! Now I’ll have to find a way to convince my husband that we can eat eggs on salad, something at which he normally turns up his nose.

  11. deb

    Jennie – My current choice method for poaching, and I’ve tried them all except that plastic one, is the Whirlpool, which works surprisingly well. (You make a whirlpool in a pot of not-quite simmering water with a splash of vinegar, and drop the egg in the middle. It wraps wonderfully around itself, perfectly poached.) What I haven’t been able to do with it, however, is make more than one at a time. I love to hear everyones suggestions.

    Marie – I used Droste Dutch-process cocoa because I had it, but I’m not beholden to it. When did cocoa get so expensive? We used the Hershey’s stuff growing up, which I still have in the apartment. If I making a recipe with a ton of cocoa — 1 cup or so — I’ll use the cheaper stuff. That is, until I find the Droste for less than $10/box. Gulp. For the chocolate I used a 4 oz Ghirdelli bar and a little of another chocolate we had around. I’m not a fan at all of mini-chips, I think they taste too waxy and barely of chocolate, as they have a ton of stabilizers in them. The pancakes just look like they’re all the same size, I can assure you, they weren’t. (But, if you wanted them to be, a ice-cream scoop would do the trick.)

    WendyP – Thanks! I made buttermilk pancakes last year, and loved them. A perfect excuse to use up leftover buttermilk whenever I get it! Now I need to find the ATC recipe.

    Sam – I just looked up the English muffin recipe you used and am amused that this is now the second recipe that suggests you form a very soft dough into discs. How is this possible? I tried twice, got gook all over my fingers, and switched techniques. But they are delicious. I’m having one now with leftover soup. :)

    Luisa – I am flattered, coming from the woman who makes elaborate dishes several times a week! I do hope you make them and we compare notes. Also, note the recent comment which suggests you use but a 3+ tablespoons of batter, as in, a heck of a lot less than I did, explain much of the inner-stickiness. They really are delicious, either way.

    Shuna – Aw. I think you have earned a vacation after the couple weeks you’ve had. Bagels are on me! (P.S. I totally want to make these one day, too, but it makes no sense to do so with the best bagels on earth but blocks away, y’know?)

    evany – Not just a bacon salad, but someone sat there and said, you know, why use olive oil in the salad dressing when there is perfectly good bacon grease right here? This person is wonderfully subversive.

    Liz – Her stuff always looks gorgeous, no? Plus, I think we have almost the exact same taste in food — dumplings, pastas, breads, tarts, sweets. Siiigh. Plus, I’ll make almost anything with a poached egg on top.

    Eily – Thank you! Oh, how I wished I hadn’t given up on my Googling so quickly when trying to figure this out. I would have had far fewer muffin dramas!

    Yvo – I think from Williams-Sonoma. After trying almost every technique under the sun to correctly poach eggs, I bought these and they did the trick, sorta but were IMPOSSIBLE to clean once the egg got cooked on. I went back to the drawing board after that.

  12. Breakfast good… there’s nothing quite like a good breakfast. It seems like such a treat sometimes , doesn’t it?

    Your pictures are fantastic and your write up was great!

  13. I’ve had homemade english muffins in recipe file forever but I still haven’t gotten around to them- thanks for the inspiration! Pancakes look great, I like mine with beaten egg whites- fluffier.

  14. Gorgeous pictures, particularly the pictures of the Salad Lyonnaise. The Salad Lyonnaise is making me a little sad because everything about it looks so delicious and I like everything in it except I completely dislike poached eggs, and yet I have a feeling that the poached egg is what really makes the salad.

    Oh, the irony. Or something.

  15. Posts like this make me sad for people who view food only as fuel. A non-foodie friend of mine reads my blog out of loyalty and befuddled curiosity; he takes the view of why spend an hour to cook something you’re going to eat in five minutes. I like him otherwise. Gorgeous photographs! And the idea of orange zest in pancakes is inspired.

  16. Was trying to find your site via Google, and kept coming up with sites for ‘cat urine’ and ‘cat diseases’. Then I realized I was typing ‘kitten’ instead of ‘kitchen’.

    You site is much more appetizing that what I previously found!

  17. Hey deb, as to your whirlpool, poaching one at a time thing, just keep the little darlings warm as you poach each one, then pop them all back in the pot for about a minute to rewarm. Personally, I like the Mattbites trick of lowering the egg in a teacup and pausing for a few seconds until it starts to set before tipping it out. I’ve even seen a tv chef pour in five eggs at once off a plate and each one came out perfect – I hate him now.

  18. Amber

    I made the salad lyonnaise and the english muffins for brunch for friends today. I had a weird experience, in that my English muffin dough actually came out form-able! At first, I thought I did something wrong, but they came out fine, and without rings (which I did have on hand) once I got past the first batch, which I burned on the outside, as I didn’t have a griddle and so was guessing about the temp. My dough was goopy at first, but after I added the second 2 1/2 cups of flour, it was fine. Now I’m perplexed… Oh, well. This was delicious. Thanks so much for the recipes and especially for the drool-worthy photos that inspired me to try them!

  19. deb

    That’s awesome. It is every bit possible, as it was the first time I had made them, that I had done something to make the batter too wet. I should have added that caveat. I’m eager to try them again — if we ever get through our ridiculous supply — without the rings.

    One other thought: how was your nook-and-cranny-age? I was wondering if the rings, in forcing the muffins to rise straight up, contributed to a well-nooked center.

  20. Amber

    I will admit that they could have been a bit nook-and-crannier. The nooks were definitely there, but they weren’t quite as prevalent as I would have liked. Not that anyone complained, but my perfectionsit self noticed.

    The delicious bacon dressing, on the other hand? I would have licked the bowl if we hadn’t had company. My boyfriend, who I subscribed to the Bacon of the Month Club (do you know about this?) for Christmas, thanks you, too.

  21. loti

    You have inspired me to try the english muffins, I went out and bought the egg rings at WS (they are 3″, too small I think), and I tried the Joy of Cooking version. My dough was soft but manageable, didn’t coat them with cornmeal, (wasn’t wearing my glasses when I checked the flour… it was semolina). I mixed everything in my Kitchenaid, and scooped it out with the ice cream scoop. I greased my hands with a little oil, and plopped the mixture on a lightly floured surface, shaped them into rounds. Baked on a teflon pan between 3 or 4. The ones in the rings I think probably bake better because the heat pulls up the sides of the muffin, but the ones without rings look more like the traditional English muffins with a slight crease around the edges. I am hooked and am now waiting for the 4″ rings that Norpro makes. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  22. Jen McLeod

    how much is in a package of active dry yeast? The packages that we buy has enough to make many batches of bread, I would like to make the english muffins but if you mess up the amount of yeast it isn’t the same

  23. sarah

    Who knew these were: A) SOOOO much better than store bought,and B) SOOOO much fun to make???

    I made the muffins with no alterations, kneaded by hand a little bit b/c I don’t have a mixer, and had no problems forming the dough into balls. Dredged them in cornmeal, placed them atop a little pad of butter so the outside was crunchy and delicious, and plopped a cookie sheet over them while they cooked. The crumb was fairly flat (compared to Thomas’), though.

    Right off the griddle, with a little honey, they just might be the best thing ever.

    Followed the poached egg tips, and they came out brilliantly. Served the muffins with poached eggs and basil oil, along side the frisee salad.

    Thanks for the amazing photos, tips, and recipes. I’m having a blast this summer making my way through your site :)

  24. Lacy O.

    Oh my GOODNESS! I just finished making the english muffins and my husband and I agree they will become a new staple for breakfast with friends! We used a skillet heated to medium-low and they had the perfect dark brown toast color! We made breakfast sandwiches with extra sharp white cheddar, an egg cooked in one of the muffin rings to make it the perfect size, and some leftover turkey bacon. WHOA! SO SO SO good!

  25. Liz

    I’m in pastry school, and my incredible breads teacher makes us homemade english muffins for breakfast sometimes…only instead of a traditional english muffin recipe, he used cibatta dough, with a little cornmeal on the outside, then put into a well buttered skillet. AMAZING!!

  26. Rhonda

    I just slapped my forehead for not looking here for the english muffins. My husband is on a toasted muffin/peanutbutter/raisin kick and wondered why I haven’t made english muffins. After searching I went with Alton Brown’s recipe and style but mixed in 1 teaspoon of baking soda (sort of like Michael Ruhlman’s) after the initial rise and used semolina flour on the pan and sprinkled on top before flipping. I also filled the first batch too full (2 scoops way too much) and I didn’t like the flat edges so I took the rings off after flipping the second batch. I had great nooks and crannies and my boys scarfed them. I was lucky to toast a couple. So I will try your version or rather Ruth’s and Michael’s just to compare. Amazing that there are so many ways to make a muffin.

  27. I saw english muffins being made from scratch on an episode of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and have been dying to try for myself ever since!

    Just one question before I jump into things: can they be stored? Or they really only delicious fresh? Thanks!

  28. Danielle

    Just curious, but do you have a preference for Joy of Cooking original or 75th anniversary edition with “modern updates” – which actually sound a little scary?

  29. Sophia

    I know this post is 6+ years old, but I just made the English muffins and they are delicious. I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of all-purpose. The dough seemed to form pretty easily and I used a little flour to make it less sticky. I’ll definitely make them again! Thanks!

  30. Matt

    I’ve always wanted to say “long time listener, first time commenter” because it reminds me of the Delilah show. So yea, that first.

    Also, I don’t own an electric griddle, can I assume that 300F is about medium heat on a gas range?

  31. Megan

    I think you read comments even on very old recipes. I use this recipe for English muffins a lot, but it’s not really up to your current (really really good) recipe writing standards. I wonder if you’d consider reworking this one?

    1. deb

      Megan — I do read! (Even though I’m behind this week.) And I agree it should be reworked. I’m including a riff on an English muffin recipe in my next book so I’ve been fiddling a lot. I’ll see if I can use some of what I learned to improve this one.

  32. I am so glad this was what came up when I clicked “Surprise me!” I have been really getting onto english muffin kicks lately, and am so excited to try these out. The only thing is that I don’t have any steel rings. Do you have any that are tried and true?

    Also, my husband and I received your cookbook as a gift and we love it! Our favorite recipe is the horseradish apple cider dill pork chops. We just made them for some friends the other night and were a total hit! :)

  33. Delicious! I made the English muffins, but had no rings. I didn’t need to add any extra flour for this, but I kneaded it longer in my stand mixer to make sure it wasn’t too sticky. After rising, I formed patties smooshing the dough as little as possible, and let them rise ~10 minutes before frying. (This is easy to do if working in batches, since each takes ~10 minutes.) Also I found that for stove-top, the temperature seems to be between medium-low to medium; I also burned my first batch.

    Definitely less nook-and-cranny, but we’ll be using these for breakfast sandwiches so that doesn’t bother me too much. Thanks!

  34. jjjeanie

    About how many English muffins should this recipe make?
    Did you use AP or some other kind of flour?
    [My dough is still rising, but I used about half AP and half WW Pasty, with maybe 1/2 C of WW bread flour–cuz that’s what I had in the cupboard!]

  35. Leah

    I can say with confidence that this is the worst pancake recipe on the Smitten Kitchen site; in fact, this is the only pancake recipe that I’d describe as not very good. The texture is chewy, and the flavor isn’t sweet enough for my taste. Do yourself a favor and make any other pancake recipe on here. The rest of them are delicious.