Posts Tagged ‘Oracio Molina’

Kitchen Staples: Blue Corn Pancakes

I’ve written before about the wonderful blue cornmeal that’s available at the Los Ranchos Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. A local couple, the Molinas, grow the blue corn, shell the kernels off the ear, then (this is the important part) roast the kernels to bring out their flavor before grinding them to a flour-fine meal. I feel rather proud of having discovered this cornmeal because you can’t tell from any distance that they have it. Their small and unassuming booth is recognizable by the display of rocks that Oracio has picked up over the years. If you try to use another blue cornmeal, make sure it’s ground very finely, and if it has chunky bits in it, grind it again in the blender. Then toast the meal lightly in the oven until it has a light toasty smell, making sure not to burn it or let it darken. Personally, I buy it at the market and let Oracio and Lourdes do the work. It makes pancakes that will light up your weekend morning.

1 cup blue cornmeal, very finely ground
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon agave nectar or light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
3 real free-range eggs
clarified butter for frying (I seldom bother to clarify mine, but you have to fry more carefully with unclarified)
butter and maple syrup

Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar if using together in a mixing bowl. Get your cast-iron skillet or other big heavy skillet heating over medium heat at least 5 minutes before you want to start cooking. Beat the eggs, the melted butter, and 1 cup of buttermilk together lightly. If using agave nectar instead of sugar, add it to the egg mixture. When the skillet is hot, mix the wet ingredients quickly and roughly into the dry ingredients, and add enough of the second cup of buttermilk to make a pourable batter. Film the skillet with clarified butter, pour in about a third of a cup of batter, and spread it out a little to make a pancake. Cook on the first side until the upper side shows little holes from the leavening, then flip skillfully and cook the other side until done. Slather with the best butter you can get, repeat to make a stack, and serve with real maple syrup.
A pancake is a very personal thing, and any recipe will need adjusting to your preference. I like the batter a little on the thick side and I can only judge this by eye, so I don’t measure the buttermilk after the first cup, I just mix enough in to make the texture right. I cook the first side until it’s lightly browned, as shown above, and then cook the second side to about the same color. I prod them a little with my finger to test for any uncooked dough in the center, but if you haven’t been doing this for a few decades, you may need to cut the first one open to make sure you’re cooking them through. I don’t cook over high heat because the outside gets too brown before the inside cooks through. I hate chunky inclusions of any kind, like berries and fruit. I like real maple syrup and don’t eat any other type. Other cooks say that thin batter is good, that browner is better, that oil or lard or bacon grease are the best cooking mediums, that honey is better than syrup, and I understand that some people are so lost to decency as to put cheese, chocolate chips, or big hunks of fruit in pancakes. Suit yourself. That’s the joy of cooking at home.
By the way, it is possible and even fun to cook with two skillets, or with a big griddle, and get pancakes on the table more quickly.

The Perfect Brunch, and notes on the Los Ranchos Farmers’ Market

For the gardener and urban homesteader weekend mornings are a busy worktime, with plenty to do and (usually) cool and pretty weather in which to do it. But after a few hours, it feels good to relax with a perfect brunch. To me, the essence of the perfect breakfast or lunch is simplicity. This is not the time for fuss. Its simpicity relies on perfect ingredients, and that gives me a chance to showcase some of my favorites. Please let these good suppliers know that Local Food Albuquerque sent you.

Corn bread: All Southerners and a lot of other people feel strongly about cornbread. I’m no exception. I give my recipe below, but cornbread preferences are very individual, so use your own favorite. The quality of the cornmeal is essential, and in my opinion there is none better than the roasted blue cornmeal sold by Oracio and Lourdes Molina at the Los Ranchos Farmers Market. They grow the blue corn, shell the kernels off the cob, roast the kernels, and grind them finely. The result is full of toasty corn flavor and makes cornbread that fills the kitchen with irresistable scent as it bakes. Oracio also sells his self-published book Hidden Village, which contains some fascinating bits of old New Mexico. Incidentally, their cornmeal makes the best blue corn tortillas imaginable.

Scones: if you don’t happen to be a cornbread fan, or even if you are, visit Hand to Mouth Foods at the Los Ranchos farmers Market (they are at the Corrales market too.) Jeffrey has a great hand for pastry, and his scones are very delicious. I also love his date and pine nut tarts, and my husband is an addict of the cranberry-pecan biscotti. They make a perfect finish to a perfect brunch. Email Jeffrey and Elaine at and ask to be on their email list; you’ll get useful reminders of market times and products available.

The Best Butter: Good cornbread deserves to be slathered with good butter, and I use the only completely grass-fed butter that I know of, Pastureland. It’s made by the Pastureland Dairy Co-op in Minnesota that makes butter and cheese only in the summer, when the cows are eating 100% grass and nothing else. It’s shipped frozen in styrofoam cartons, and a prepaid UPS label is included so that you can send back the carton for reuse, free of charge. They also offer 100% grassfed cheeses. Grassfed butter is a good source of CLA, and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s important to you. I eat Pastureland butter because it’s wonderfully delicious and because the grass-fed life is best for the cows. To arguments that it isn’t local, I can only respond that if a local dairy changed to 100% grass-feeding in season, I’d buy their products.

Blood orange marmalade: my favorite thing to dress up hot or toasted bread. See my post for the recipe.

Freshly squeezed orange juice: I used the very last blood oranges of the season. Any very good orange makes very good juice. In my view, the idea of adulterating something so perfect with champagne is sacrilegious, but suit yourself.

Eggs: The Los Ranchos Farmers Market has at least three egg vendors, and these are real free range eggs, not the pale imitations sold as free-range in grocery stores. Fry them according to your favorite method. Like cornbread, preferences are very personal. I’ve seen directions in cookbooks about how to avoid “undesirable brown crusting” at the rims, while to others that delicate crispy rim is the best possible contrast to the sapidity of the rest of the egg. Again, suit yourself. Next year I hope to be eating home-produced eggs, but right now my future laying hens are bouncy little fluffballs, so thank goodness for the farmers markets.

Put it all together and you have a simple and perfect meal. Enjoy it with people you really care about, who can be counted on to contribute to the general harmony.

Corn bread:
2 cups fine cornmeal, preferably Oracio’s
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 scant tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 12-inch iron skillet in it (without a hot heavy pan, your crust will never be what it could be.) Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly in one bowl and all the wet ingredients in another. When the oven and the skillet are thoroughly hot, mix the wet ingredients into the dry with a few quick strokes. Stirring too much activates the gluten and makes your cornbread tough. Pull the skillet out of the oven, swirl a couple of tablespoons of butter in it until melted and the skillet is greased all over, pour in the batter, and pop back in the oven. Bake until done, ie the top crust is browning and an inserted knife comes out clean. Take out of the oven, invert the skillet over a clean towel to turn out the cornbread, then use the towel to invert the cornbread again onto a rack. This requires dexterity and practice but is worth dooing because both the bottom and the top crust stay crisp. Let rest a couple of minutes, then cut into wedges and bring on the butter.