My folks moved last year from their sleepy little golf community in east Tennessee to a sleepy little farm community in western P-A, and Thanksgiving was our first time visiting them in their new house. We were there for three days. We spent all day Thursday doing Thanksgiving. And all day Friday doing Black Friday (the thought of which would usually make me want to gouge my eyes out, but the population density of my folks’ area is sparse enough that Black Friday at the Westmoreland Mall was more like a Tuesday afternoon at Lenox: busy, but not soul destroying). By Saturday, we had pretty much exhausted everything there was to do in Greensburg, P-A.
While Mom, Dad and David sat around Saturday morning hemming and hawing over what we should do that day, I meandered about my parents’ oversized and underused kitchen, thinking about what kind of fancy cooking I could make happen in there before the weekend was over (my arrogance continues to blossom). It was still breakfast time and I was starving so I started opening drawers and cabinets looking for inspiration. Then I saw the mound of leftover sweet potato soufflé/casserole in the fridge and genius happened: sweet potato pancakes. Gen-ius. And even though David usually has cereal and my mom usually has four cups of coffee for breakfast, I was pretty sure that as soon as I announced my grand plan everyone would come running to the kitchen to watch genius unfold, then the pure deliciousness I was dreaming up in my head would happen magically and translate seamlessly to our plates (completely trumping coffee and cereal), and then we would all live happily ever after.
“Hey you guys, I’m going to make sweet potato pancakes, want some?”
They looked at me like I had two heads. David said, “Eh, I already ate.” Mom said, “Oh, that sounds interesting, honey, thank you, baby, but I don’t think so, sweetie.” My dad didn’t even feign interest; he just walked away. “No thanks.”
But I was pretty fucking sure I was on to something. The Internet agreed. We consulted on a few different variations of the many, many sweet potato pancake recipes out there, all of which start with sweet potatoes as the main ingredient, but since I was starting with soufflé/casserole as the main ingredient, I chose several recipes to work with so I could pick and choose the rest of the bits and parts until I thought it looked right. Very scientific. Fucking genius is what it was.
Following is one of the more basic sweet potato pancake recipes with my genius modifications:
- 1 1/4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (I used about two cups of the soufflé/casserole.)
- 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt (I added the flour, baking powder and salt exactly as prescribed.)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I don’t really like nutmeg, so I didn’t use it.)
- 1/4 cup butter, melted (I figured the casserole/soufflé had enough butter, so I didn’t add any more.)
- 2 eggs, beaten (Same with the eggs.)
- 1 1/2 cups milk (Same with the milk, but then the batter was looking kind of gloppy, so I added a little milk here and there to moisten it up a bit.)
- Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Drop by tablespoons onto hot greased griddle or skillet and fry, turning once, until browned on both sides.
The actual preparation of the batter was pretty standard and didn’t draw a lot of attention from my house full of naysayers, but once I dropped the first dollop of sweetness onto the skillet and the smell of yummy goodness began to fill the kitchen, those naysayers changed their tune. Sweet potato pancakes smell good. One by one my suddenly hungry family filed into the kitchen, “just to see.” Then my mom, who really is a trooper and quite likes trying new things, was the first to shed her hesitation and jumped right on my genius bandwagon. “Julie! Those look great! Let me get my camera!” Flash! Flash! Snap.
And they were fantastic. I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea how they would turn out. I had never in my life had a sweet potato pancake and only knew they existed because I’d seen them on a menu at a ‘frou-frou’ brunch place a few weeks before, but I would never dare order it, and I would have given my folks the same look they gave me if they said that’s what they were making for breakfast. But this is my project and I’m the judgy genius around here, so if I say it will be a masterpiece, it will be. And it was.