It can be a fine line, the difference between not caring and effortless cool. Sometimes, for instance, I don’t really care about making dinner. I don’t have the energy. I’m over it. These are the times when it’s great to say: “Hey, everyone, we’re having breakfast for dinner!” Then my not caring feels fun and whimsical, and people are all “Yay! Pancakes!,” and I quietly stir together some batter while savoring the secret lackadaisicalness hidden in my heart. A short time later, everyone’s full and happy, and I can go back to “Schitt’s Creek,” all of us savoring the joy of harmlessly breaking the rules and getting away with it.
In truth, breakfast for dinner is also great when I do care about making dinner.
Particularly nowadays, when I may not have many fresh ingredients available, but eggs, flour, and milk are usually on hand. Eggs, it seems to me, are miscategorized as mainly a breakfast food. They are so good for lunch and dinner: a quick protein source, always in the fridge, infinitely customizable. I love an egg salad sandwich, huevos rancheros, a fried egg on rice with kimchi. The omelet is one of the world’s perfect foods; serve with simple greens in vinaigrette and a glass of wine and you’re suddenly so chic. Shakshuka, eggs cooked in tomato sauce fragrant with spices, is delicious at any time of day — and a reliably appealing thing to whip up when your grocery stash is pretty depleted.
When it comes to dough, I’m definitely Team Waffle for breakfast. Chicken and waffles: yes please. You can also use your waffle iron to cook everything from tater tots to leftover rice to falafel (fawaffle?).
But as a utility player, the pancake wins handily. Japan’s okonomiyaki, Eastern Europe’s latke, Vietnam’s banh xeo, Nice’s socca, India’s dosa — I could go on. All illustrate the wondrous versatility of the pancake.
Something useful I discovered when my son was little and didn’t want to eat what I had cooked: You can pancake that. It doesn’t matter what “that” is, it can pretty much always be made into a pancake. Don’t want the shrimp, rice, and greens? Chop them up; mix them with an egg or two, some flour, and some milk; form the chunky batter into fritters; and fry them. Throw a little Parmesan in there for extra measure; it browns nicely and tastes good. This is as useful for dispatching leftovers as it is for feeding reluctant eaters. I think fritters, in general, are underrated and deserve more respect.
A few years back, the folks behind Montreal restaurant Joe Beef put out a cookbook called “Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse.” (That title hits different now.) It was part survivalist manifesto, with recipes for spruce cough drops and hardtack, but part simply about ignoring the superficial and focusing on what really matters. In short: relevant to our interests.
The recipes aren’t all pickled deer necks. There’s also cabbage apple bacon pie, Minute rice risotto, oeufs mayonnaise, and this Dutch baby. I’ve made the puffy pancake countless times now. It’s lovely spread with blackberry jam, served with syrup and sausages, as a side with beef stew, or topped with a slice of soft and stinky cheese, piping hot sauteed mushrooms, and a scattering of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Breakfast for dinner: You can’t go wrong.
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup flour (or 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
1 pinch cinnamon (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Place an 8- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet on a middle rack in the oven. Set the oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a blender, combine the milk, flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon (if using), and eggs. Blend until uniform, about 30 seconds.
3. When the oven comes to temperature, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and coat it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour in the batter and return the pan immediately to the oven.
4. Bake undisturbed for 15 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, place on a trivet, and put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter on top to melt.Adapted from “Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse,” by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan, and Meredith Erickson. Photo by Jennifer May.
Other things to try
- Sofra’s recipe for shakshuka.
- Sheryl Julian’s recipe for shakshuka.
- These baked eggs on creamy spinach.
- Smitten Kitchen’s boozy baked French toast, assembled the night before.
Question of the day: What do you cook when you don’t really feel like cooking?
Thinking of you, good people.