A while ago I gave one of my Fancakes (shout-out to Grace, w00t w00t!) some homemade pancake mix. Check out this pic of her awesome pancake creations and read more about these pancakes here.

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Off the Griddle with IHOPapotamus at…the Omega Diner

I had planned to venture back into New York City for this latest review.  The chief keeps telling me about this Cinnamon Snail place, which is to say she keeps asking why I haven’t reviewed it yet.  I will get to it, (honest!) but with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, more than a few of my plans were thrown off. 

(my hurricane motto)

So, I decided to keep it local and visit the Omega Diner in New Hyde Park, on the corner of Lakeville Road and Hillside Avenue.  The Omega is a fairly typical example of what people think a diner in New York looks like: lots of booths, relatively dim lighting, that kind of ugly neon sign all those diners have on the outside, and a guy with a Greek accent ambling about the place.

Hillside Ave & Lakeville Rd, North New Hyde Park, NY 11040

(map from google maps)

Like all diners, Omega has a huge menu and serves breakfast all day.  While that’s great when you and a few friends are coming home from a concert and somebody wants eggs while someone else wants chili-cheese fries, it does mean that there is not a lot of variety with respect to pancakes.  Omega offers a short or large stack of regular pancakes or an order of silver dollar pancakes.  I chose the silver dollar pancakes.

(image from Omega’s website)

According to the menu, I was going to get ten pancakes, so I assumed they would be a little smaller.  I was mistaken.  While undoubtedly smaller than a regular pancake, these silver dollar pancakes were pretty large in terms of thickness and circumference.  I hesitate to use the word “circumference” since that would give you, dear reader, the impression that these pancakes were round.  It would be more accurate to say they were “roundish.”  These were the first pancakes that I reviewed that were not well formed.  They looked like what a child would make when his mom let him help pour the batter on the griddle.  They’re mostly round, but not round enough to win awards for presentation.

(screenshot from their menu online)

But, I assume you’re less interested in reminiscences of the culinary antics of childhood, and more interested in how these tasted.  I’m pleased to say that the Omega Diner serves some damn good silver dollar pancakes.  They were fluffy, but very filling.  The Omega only serves plain pancakes, no blueberries or “fancy toppings,” but they do it well.  The pancakes are served with butter and generic maple syrup on the side.  Both complement, which do a great job of soaking up the syrup.

(from google images)

There is something supremely satisfying about devouring ten of these silver dollar pancakes in one sitting.  It makes you feel like Paul Bunyan, eating mountains of pancakes with Babe the Blue Ox.  Speaking of which, I’ll give the Omega 3 out of 5 Paul Bunyans.

As a side note, the Omega does have a bar.  I didn’t order anything from it, due in part to there being no drink specials for breakfast or brunch.  I also drove there, so cheers to being responsible I suppose.

3 out of 5 Paul Bunyans: 

Bánh Xèo

aka Vietnamese Savory Pancakes.  The name “bánh xèo” means “sizzle cake” or “sizzling cake” which is a reference to the sound of the pancake batter as it hits the hot pan!

Word up, I was so excited to make these and they did not disappoint!  (Skip to the original recipe at adora’s box and my version here!)

If you’ve never had this style of pancake before, it’s basically an egg-based pancake stuffed with shrimp/fatty pork slices and vegetables.  The whole pancake is then wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in a spicy and sour sauce.  Sounds delicious, right?

(my ingredients: shredded carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, straw mushrooms, and shrimp)

The shrimp filling in these pancakes was probably my favorite part: light and refreshing, but definitely satisfying enough for a meal (I had 2 for dinner).  

(shrimp filling waiting to be encased in pancake!)

The sauce was really good, too, it kept things nice and tangy.  I thought the sauce could actually have been a tad spicier (which is saying a lot since I have a really low tolerance for heat), but overall, it was pretty much perf.  Both the pancakes and sauce have fish sauce in them – this was my first time working with fish sauce and I was pleasantly surprised.  I watch a lot of cooking shows and whenever cheftestants get fish sauce as a “surprise ingredient” they always freak out, so I was apprehensive when I first got it, but really, it’s just like salty concentrated fish stock, kinda weird on it’s own, but magical when used correctly.

(sauce!)

The actual pancake part of the bánh xèo was underwhelming, they’re very plain and basically just have a light eggy flavor – it’s the whole combination that really makes them a winner.  And, truth be told, I had some trouble with the pancakes, I don’t know if mine were too thin, but they would cook really fast, dry out, and then rip when I folded them in half.  Oh well.  They still tasted good.  I actually think the stiffness/dryness of the pancakes made them easier to hold, but they would’ve looked nicer if they hadn’t ripped – function over form, I suppose.

(my delicious looking platter).

So, if you’re in the mood for some deliciousness, you need to get on this recipe. ON IT.

4.25 out of 5 stackies: 

it’s BACON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have mixed reviews for this one – I’m not sure I made them to their full potential, but I believe that if done correctly, they would be amazing. (Figure out what I did, here.)

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First things first, my inspirations for these were: (1) bacon, just bacon and (2) my love of McGriddles.  Actually, even though I love McGriddles, I probably have one every other year – they taste so good while I’m eating them, but I feel instant regret about halfway through and I have a sneaking suspicion that they might not be the greatest for my health. maybe. 

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(pic from wikipedia.org) 

Anyway, I was thinking about bacon.  And pancakes.  And rereading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, specifically this passage (on pg. 277) when Blomkvist gets out of prison and goes back to his researching job for Henrik on Hedeby Island:

They looked at each other for a few seconds.  Then the old man surprised Blomkist by throwing his arms around him and giving him a bear hug.

“I was just about to eat. Join me.”

Anna produced a great quantity of bacon pancakes with lingonberries…”

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(bacon)

Where was I?  Oh, well, so that’s why I wanted to make maple-infused bacon pancake sticks.  I made sure to use thick cut bacon so that: (1) the bacon wouldn’t get overcooked and (2) so that you got a nice chunky bacon to pancake ratio.  I also went with hickory smoked, but on reflection, maple smoked would probably have been better.

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(more baaacon)

As you can see, I cooked my bacon in a pan.  I considered doing them in the oven, but I wanted to use the bacon grease to cook the pancakes (hey, when I go bacon, I go all the way).  The tricky part is not letting your pancakes soak up too much bacon grease so just make sure you empty your pan a bit before cooking the pancakes.

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The 2 main issues I had with these pancakes were with: (1) the pancake to bacon ratio and (2) my insufficient maple flavoring.  So to address issue 1, I’ve made my recipe a little thicker so that you can better control how much you add to the pan.  And, to address issue 2, I’ve also upped the amount of maple syrup in the recipe – so when you try these out, they should be better.

(random, but awesome bacon pic I found here)

I’m also wondering whether I should’ve just chopped up the bacon so that there would be bacon bits throughout the pancakes, I think that would’ve helped the bacon taste level, but I really want these to be pancake stix, so, I’m sticking with this recipe.

Oh, last thing, I promise – I totally forgot about the lingonberry jam in my fridge so I just had these with some fresh figs that my roommate had gotten the day before, but you definitely want to have these pancakes with something sweet and tart.

3 out of 5 stackies:imageimageimage

Shroomcakes

Prepare for mushroom cheesy crespelle-y awesomeness.

So, a lot of people know about crepes – but not as many people know about their Italian cousin, the crespella.   Actually, I polled a few of my Italian friends and only 2/3 of them knew what crespelle were.  Interestingly, both of the “southern Italians” had heard of the crespelle (Maurizio and Rosanna), but the “northern Italian” (ahem, Justin) had not.

(a graphical representation of where my friends are from and whether they knew what a crespella was…obviously…)

(original map from the US Department of State…pancake additions are all original)

But more on my socio-geographical pancake study another time. Back to pancakes.    So the official name for what I made is crespelle alla crema di funghi e fontina.  (Get the original (in Italian) here, and my translated version here.) They’re basically stuffed savory crepes – that is, stuffed with a delicious mascarpone-mushroom-fontina concoction that’s basically the ultimate Italian version of cream of mushroom.

(I used this many mushrooms! This many!)

This recipe is basically a mushroom lover’s dream and my roommate and I pancake’d out with our mushrooms out.  I actually thought that the pancakes would’ve been even better if there were larger chunks of mushroom throughout the filling – the recipe calls for the mushrooms to be food processed, but if I did this again, I’d probably do a rough chop instead of using my food processor.

(the pureed mushroom mix)

Oh, and another thing, I didn’t use real mascarpone cheese.  I know, I probably broke some sacred Italian cooking code, but none of the 3 grocery stores near me had mascarpone when I was grocery shopping so there really wasn’t anything I could do about it (my roommate swears 1 of the grocery stores has mascarpone, but I’ll believe it when I see it, and I haven’t seen it yet.)  So, instead, I scoured the interwebs for a suitable mascarpone substitute and I ended up with this concoction of cream cheese, sour cream, and heavy cream.

It smelled, looked, and tasted very similar to mascarpone and the pancakes were still delicious so I think it worked.  The actual pancake component of the crespelle was good, too.  The crespelle are actually a tad thicker than regular crepes, which makes them a little easier to work with and I guess a bit  pasta-ier which makes sense…they are Italian after all.

(a stack of unstuffed crespelle)

The one thing to watch out for with these pancakes is that because they’re a bit thicker, they’re prone to getting a little soggy after being left in the fridge.  I had some leftover crespelle the next day and the pancakes had soaked up a lot of moisture – it wasn’t anything a solid searing in my pan couldn’t fix, but still, I thought you’d want to be forewarned.

(parting shot of my crespelle lined up like ducks in a pond…or something like that)

If you like mushrooms, definitely try this recipe out, 4.25 out of 5 stackies: