There are many ways to say I love you, and in my family, some folks have decided that pancakes are the way to show they care.
First there was my grandfather, who you’d find every Saturday flipping fat fluffy pancakes stuffed with blueberries and pecans. Then there’s my uncle and his famous Mexican pancakes, a concoction so outrageous that he’s been known to travel with a special skillet that’s used especially for these large pancakes loaded with pineapple and coconut. My brother has also taken to making pancakes, and on Christmas morning the family visited in the kitchen as he made stack after stack after stack.
Pancakes and love have been on my mind this week, as it’s not only the first week of Lent but Valentine’s Day is happening, too.
Shrove Tuesday, which in England is known as Pancake Tuesday, is that last hurrah before Lent begins. Of course, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Mardi Gras. And growing up in Houston, which is close to Galveston and New Orleans, two places rich with Mardi Gras traditions, I always felt a little strange spending that particular Tuesday hanging out in my church’s parish hall eating pancakes instead.
A few years ago, however, some British friends of mine were adamant about celebrating Shrove Tuesday and we emptied our refrigerators and pantries and came up with all sorts of crazy pancakes, both savory and sweet. It might not have been a parade down Bourbon Street, but it was still pretty wild.
The spirit of that evening lived on recently, as I found myself with too many bananas. While my first thought was to make banana bread, I decided that banana pancakes sounded far superior. And as I was already frying up some bacon, I figured I’d chuck a few pieces of it into the batter. Then a little research lead me to a Bon Appetit recipe for a caramel banana topping, which I dolled up with even more bacon along with some fresh pecans for a bit of crunch, too.
Sweet, smoky, salty, and nutty. These are tremendous pancakes. You could certainly eat a stack on Shrove Tuesday and feel like you’ve indulged quite a bit. Though they also make for a fine special day breakfast. And whoever is lucky enough to eat them will know immediately how you feel, as these banana, bacon, and pecan pancakes are a perfect way to show you care.
Ingredients for the ranchera salsa:
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1/4 medium yellow onion, peeled
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapeños, cut in half, stemmed, seeded, and cut in half
1/2 cup cilantro
Ingredients for the shrimp queso flameado:
4 cups (16 ounces) Monterey Jack, shredded
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1 clove garlic, minced
Warm corn tortillas or flour tortillas, for serving
To make the ranchera salsa, place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and jalapeños in a medium pot. (Don’t worry about chopping the garlic, onion or jalapeños as you’ll be putting it in a blender or food processor after it cooks.) Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the onion, garlic and jalapeño are softened. Turn off the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the queso flameado, lightly grease a medium-sized, ovenproof skillet and add to the skillet the shredded cheese. Don’t put it in the oven just yet. Meanwhile, as the salsa is cooling, toss the shrimp with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. After the salsa has cooled, pour it into a blender or a food processor, along with the cilantro, scraping the sides of the pan to get out all of the salsa. Pulse the salsa until roughly chopped. Add salt to taste.
At this point, place the skillet with the cheese in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10-15 minutes.
While the cheese is baking, in the same pot that cooked the salsa, heat up the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium-low heat. Add the garlic and shrimp along with any marinade juices, and while occasionally stirring cook until the shrimp are pink and firm, about 3-5 minutes. Pour into the pot the ranchera salsa and stir to combine the shrimp with the salsa. Continue to cook for a couple more minutes or until the sauce has warmed up again. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Remove the cheese from the oven and spoon on top of the cheese the shrimp and ranchera salsa. Serve warm with tortillas.
Yield: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Fain