On Chicagoans & Breakfast
July 11, 2008
One of my favorite things about Chicagoans is that they (we) take summer very seriously. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I challenge you to find empty tables in a beer garden, free patches of sand at North Avenue Beach, Lake Michigan’s blue expanse undotted with sails, or ice cream parlors without lines out the door. It just won’t happen, as long as the sun is shining. When winter is so vicious and summer is so fleeting, Chicagoans understand that you really have to get your bang for your buck.
Chicagoans take other things seriously too: baseball, neighborhood pride, and the predictable foods like hot dogs, pizza and Italian beef (a healthy lot, we are). But you might not know that there’s another culinary subject about which Chicagoans, at least in the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, are very serious: breakfast. Every weekend morning, then, is greeted with an enticing set of choices: unfurl cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather, much on Milk Duds while you wait in line at Lou Mitchells, take your omelet with a side of sliced tomatoes at Tempo, wait forever for your famous apple pancake at Walker Bros., or order your breakfast in, shall we say, liquid form (I suppose there are vegetables in bloody marys, right?) at any number of neighborhood bars?
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
Whatever your choice, though, you can be guaranteed one thing: a wait. A loooong wait. I’m talking: you could do your grocery shopping and clean your house in the time it takes a table to open up. And sometimes, I kind of enjoy this wait—provided I have coffee and a newspaper in hand and a granola bar stashed in my purse, should my blood sugar plummet to sub-cranky levels. And other times, I find it irritating. As you might have guessed from the many mentions on this site of my ongoing struggle with patience (if you missed those, the recap is this: I always lose), I find myself irritated more often than not.
That’s probably because I know that I could be whipping up a delicious breakfast at home. And that it could involve items as delicious as these lemon-blueberry ricotta pancakes. And that said pancakes could be served with a side of grilled breakfast sausage, juicy watermelon and, last Sunday at least, the Wimbledon finals. I can get on board with the whole summer thing and I certainly take my baseball, cased meats and pizza quite seriously, but breakfast? Sometimes, I’d rather just stay home.
Lemon-Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes
These pancakes are definitely not traditional: they are more dense and moist than their standard buttermilk counterparts. They’re also infused with a bright lemony flavor and studded with juicy blueberries. I say below that syrup is optional, but in case you have any doubt: I strongly recommend it.
2 large eggs, whites and yolks divided
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup ricotta (I used part-skim)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries
pure maple syrup, optional
Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer until stiff, but not dry. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, ricotta, brown sugar and vanilla. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until combined. Next, gently fold in the egg whites, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
Heat a griddle over moderately low heat. Brush the griddle with vegetable or canola oil. Scoop the batter onto the griddle, using about 2 tablespoons per pancake, allowing room for the pancakes to spread out. With the back of a spoon, help the batter spread into a round form. Scatter about a tablespoon of blueberries on top of each round heap of batter. Cook the pancakes until they are set and browned on the bottom, then flip and cook the other side until brown. Repeat with the remaining batter.