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.
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.