How Did This Happen?


Today’s creation requires little elaboration, as it’s a savory herbed pancake covered in a delicious mixture of mushrooms sautéed with leeks, then topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and lemon zest.  Sound good?  It is, clearly so, yet things become murky when it comes to the name, Dutch Baby.  Wait…what?

All right, here are details.  A restaurant popular in the Seattle area in the 1920s featured a sweet confection, a buttery German pancake loaded with apples grown in the area.  On the menu it was listed as, “Deutsche Pfannkuchen,” German for “German Pancakes.”  The owners’ daughter, seven or eight, loved the import, but its name confounded her.  She made a great effort, pronouncing the first part, “Dutch,” and then, wisely, not even attempting the “Pfannkuchen” part.  Instead, noticing the pancake resembled a soft mattress in a crib, she thought of an infant.  Thus, “Dutch Baby” it became.

The name has persisted for nearly a century now, and it’s come to encompass a broad range of fillings, some sweet, others savory.  One of the latter made its way onto the pages of Fine Cooking‘s April/May 2019 issue.   Today’s effort is generously herbed, and is topped with luscious sautéed mushrooms.  All quite enthusiastically on the “savory” side of the equation.

One starts with melting butter in a cast iron skillet, then pouring in a batter well supplied with herbs.  The skillet then goes into the oven.  The secret is to mix the butter and the batter thoroughly, which promotes even browning and creates and abundance of “hills and valleys” to hold as much of the savory sautéed mushrooms and leeks as possible.

Now that you know how Dutch Baby acquired its name, the only mystery remaining is determining how a pancake got so much flavor.  There are the mushrooms, of course, the vegetable boasting more umami than does any steak.  All that butter is another reason, naturally, the oven giving it a golden-brown patina.  OK then, we’re clear now on the name, but the other riddle, how a puffy pancake is so tasty, persists – deliciously.

*****

Herbed Dutch Baby with Creamy Mushrooms, Leeks, Parmesan and Lemon

For the pancake:

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1-and-1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (*1)
  • 1/4 cup sliced chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise then sliced thinly
  • 5 cups mushrooms, quartered (*2)
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish (*1)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for garnish
  • grated lemon zest, to taste, for garnish (*3)

Position a rack in the center of the oven, then preheat to 425°.  Next, make the pancake.  In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, flour, milk and salt.  Then whisk in the parsley, chives, dill and thyme.

Place a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over a medium flame and melt the butter in it.  Pour in the batter, taking care to mix it with the butter.  Transfer skillet to the oven.  Bake until the pancake puffs and turns golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, start making the topping.  Place another large skillet over a medium flame, then add the butter and olive oil.  When butter is melted, add the mushrooms and leeks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cream.  Cook until the sauce thickens, about five minutes, then stir in the cheese and parsley.

Remove the Dutch Baby from the oven.  Wait a moment for it to deflate a bit, then top with the mushroom mixture.  Garnish with the lemon zest, extra cheese and extra parsley, then serve.

NOTES:

1 – I went with cilantro for both the pancake and the topping, as it has a milder taste profile than does parsley, even the flat-leaf variety.

2 – This blog often delights in trying different kinds of mushrooms, but in this particular case, “plain” snowcap mushrooms work best.

3 – If you can, use a Meyer lemon.  It has the requisite zing, but also a pleasing sweetness.

23 thoughts on “How Did This Happen?

    1. Oh, you betcha, sister!

      At first, I was a bit dubious. A poultry fiend and a confirmed shellfish addict enjoying something without meat? Absurd.

      Yet, there was deeply satisfying umami seven ways to Sunday. This would’ve been savory and comforting amidst July’s swelter. In December, watching snowflakes scurry? Divine.

      Wouldn’t you agree, Crystal, a dish’s excellence conveys only part of the message? The setting is what puts it over the top. It’s what makes the meal a memory, and then a craving. This Dutch Baby will leave you yearning more.

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      1. Could be I’m missing something, including the “pitfall,” as nothing you wrote needs explanation. Oh, unless you refer to the text ending abruptly.

        In any event, if I ever fall into veganism’s embrace, mushrooms are the one thing which will cushion the landing. Add to those artichokes and asparagus, and you have the big three.

        If it’s not too personal to reveal, what motivated you to switch to, then from, a vegan lifestyle?

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      2. Ah, that makes perfect sense, Crystal. Actually, your situation is the most typical case in my personal experience.

        In other words, you’re among four people in my immediate circle who have opted into or out of veganism/vegetarianism because that’s what their significant other is doing.

        As for the stereotypical reason, someone going vegan to make a grand principle-driven statement, I know of only one person, and she since has moved back to the full culinary spectrum.

        Naturally, I respect anyone who lives up to his/her ideals. Our world can use a few more of such people, no? It is interesting, though, how many people have gone the other direction because their spouse/BF/GF led the way. The heart outpulls the mind.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Good for you, Crystal, and it means you can appreciate just how satisfying and how soothing mushrooms, leeks, et al., can be.

        You also can attest to how unencumbered plant-leaning foods are, meaning visiting a Dutch Baby would be a delight, even in the dog days. T-minus-eleven to Christmas, though? The delight becomes rapture.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Will have to try this one of these days. I used to love making savory tarts, which I haven’t made in a long time either. This looks even better though. I think I had something like it at Disney’s Food and Wine festival several years ago. It was crazy delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, JoAnn!

      It wouldn’t be surprising if the F&W Festival featured Dutch Babies, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Definitely enough whimsy for Disney (at least the Disney of memory, in the happy days before Bob Chapek), while there’s enough good eating to do any food celebration proud.

      Wow, savory tarts! Flavor me impressed, JoAnn! Did you ever try pot pies? Come on, my English and Scottish heritages want to know if you ever attempted WASP ethnic food!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been quite a while now but I once made chicken pot pie in a Dutch oven the old fashioned way using hot coals. It was to die for. I need to see if I can remember that recipe as now I’m going to have a craving for it… aside from your many other talents, you’re a great memory jogger.

        I got really into making tarts for a while. They are much easier than I ever thought and very versatile. WASP ethnic food sounds interesting. I think I attempted to make Yorkshire pudding once… or maybe I just thought about it because I don’t remember how it turned out. My mom used to make popovers when I was a kid… I think that is somewhat similar. Will you be featuring more of these kinds of recipes soon?

        I do miss the Food & Wine festival. It wasn’t cheap but it sure was delicious and fun to sample so many different kinds of foods. I miss the awesome free concerts as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hot coals, JoAnn? Wow! You are definitely, 100%, a foodie.

        When the blog featured savillum (the ancient Roman version of cheesecake) it was noted cooks in millennia past baked theirs in a container set amidst hot coals, but there was no expectation anyone today would try that method. No expectation, that is, until three minutes ago. Again, wow!

        Long before you started reading, one article covered pot pie, and the effort was based on a recipe found in the Colonial Williamsburg cookbook. As I recall, the cookbook mentioned people in the 1750s cooked theirs over coals, but no attempt was made to adopt that method. The cookbook (and I, for that matter) assumed readers were using conventional ovens, and modernized the instructions accordingly.

        Yeah, my Mom made popovers too! No kidding. In fact, I’m almost certain the popover mold is in the parents’ basement somewhere. One of these days, if I’m feeling super-ambitious, I’ll have to try Yorkshire Pudding. If so, I expect it to be a Christmas project one of these years.

        That’s a good idea, JoAnn, a focus on WASP cookery! As the food tends to encourage warm contentment, it’s a natural fit for winter. As you know, recipes are planned through late 2025 (Keith’s Report: What I Did During Lockdown), but I’m not sure I want to wait all the way until then to give it a go!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well yes, since it seems most WASP food would hail from regions where it is often frigid cold much of the year it would make perfect sense to have weather-appropriate dishes. Thick soups and stews and savory pies. Yum!

        My Dutch oven chicken pot pie was actually from a Dutch oven cooking class I took while in college believe it or not. One of those easy A classes to bump up the GPA and also have some fun. Outside of that class or sans a larger group of people I don’t think it would be that much fun, just a whole lot of work.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah, I’d say so, JoAnn.

        Sure, cooking in a Dutch oven is nothing unusual, but doing so with coals….is. What an interesting concept, though! Easy A or not, major props to you for choosing the most fascinating route possible to that stellar grade.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the story behind the name! How do you find these things out, anyway? Do you do a bit of research before the post (or the attempt), or are they just things you’ve picked up?

    Looks delicious too, though the prospect of a savory pancake puts my mind dangerously close to exploding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Rachel!

      Of course, it wouldn’t do for your brain to detonate. What would we do then for our poetry fix? I mean, sure, you still could write about monster truck rallies and the Kardashians, but that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

      As for the backstories, sometimes it’s quite easy, and it amounts just to relating the tale which came with the original recipe.

      As with all else in life, though things usually aren’t that straightforward. Often, it takes some research to suss out the details, and sometimes I draw from my own recollections.

      In this case specifically, the recipe I actually used mentioned the Dutch Baby originated in a Seattle restaurant. Of course. whenever possible, I “audition” several recipes, and choose the best among them. One of the other possibilities specified it was the owners’ daughter who came up with the name “Dutch Baby.” Finally, a third recipe (one which I had no intention of using) did relate that she was a little kid , and that “Dutch Baby” was her attempt to get around pronouncing the original German beast of a name for the dish.

      Put all three together and…voila!

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    1. You’ll be glad yod did, Mar! Don’t forget the leeks too. As their gentle taste profile is similar to shallots’, leeks are among the more civilized alliums.

      Still, mushrooms are the superstars here. With all that savory excellence, they’re a great way to begin the day.

      Like

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