March 29, 2011

Blueberry Polenta Pancakes

Sunday was Michael's birthday. We had been planning for quite some time to have dinner at Frances Restaurant in San Francisco. "Quite some time" was six weeks - that's how far ahead I called, and I was lucky to get a reservation at 6:30 on a Sunday! I wore makeup and heels, and Michael put mousse in his hair. And it was worth it. We were impressed with the service, and the fact that they have house wine for a dollar an ounce. We had a "market shot" - some fruit fresh from the farmer's market (in our case it was asian pear), squeezed and spiked with something (in our case pommeau - which we had never heard of but liked very much). We ate chickpea fritters with harissa sauce, and a lovely asparagus salad with fried shallots, and a perfectly cooked steak with mushrooms and farro...but, we're not here to talk about our dinner.

We're here to talk about our brunch. 6:30 is a little earlier than we usually eat for dinner so it seemed that a brunch would be appropriate. The first of the local blueberries have just appeared so it seemed like a good time to try out these polenta pancakes that we had read about in the New York Times.

Basically, the recipe involves making polenta, then stirring it into flour to make a batter. We made a few significant changes to the original: we cooked the polenta in milk instead of water, added a bit of butter, and used buttermilk to bring the batter together (because pancakes are always better with buttermilk). We also put blueberries in the pancakes and then made a little blueberry compote to top it off. They were very good - the polenta adds some sweet corn flavor and a little crunch to the texture, and the sauce is super easy to make (compote = fancy word for fruit cooked in a pan with some sugar).

Blueberry Polenta Pancakes (serves 2)
Adapted from the New York Times

- 1/4 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- Blueberries (we used half of a half pint, but could probably have used more)
- Butter for cooking
- Blueberry compote (see below), syrup, powdered sugar, or your preferred topping

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it is very hot (not quite at a boil but at a good simmer - you should see steam coming off the top), whisk in the polenta, and stir until the mixture thickens (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat, and stir in the egg and butter, and let cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, then fold in the polenta. Add the buttermilk and incorporate. 

Preheat the oven to 250 to keep the pancakes warm as you cook. Melt some butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and when it is hot pour about a quarter cup of batter for each pancake. Press some blueberries into the batter, distributing them more or less evenly on the surface. Make sure to press them down into the pancake - otherwise they will prevent the other side from cooking when you flip them over.

When the pancakes are nice and browned and you see some bubbles on the upper surface, flip them over and cook until the other side is browned. Transfer to the oven to keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes (we made 6; four of them were about four inches in diameter and two were a bit bigger).

Serve topped with blueberry compote and a dusting of powdered sugar, or as you wish.

Blueberry Compote

- 1/2 pint blueberries
- Zest of one lemon
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tsp brown sugar

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries have broken apart and turned into a thick sauce. You may need to mash them up a bit with a spatula if they don't fall apart properly on their own. Add a little water if you want to thin it a little bit.


  1. Happy Birthday to Michael! I hope the rain let up for you guys, I know my family up north was getting just hammered! Shaun would love these pancakes, I think. Thanks for the suggestion to bake in regards to writer's block... I think I will!

  2. Thanks Kelsey! The rain finally has let up, and we're supposed to hit the 70s this week. Time for some great spring produce!

  3. at the rate y'all go through polenta, I hope you're buying in bulk.

  4. That's the beauty of Berkeley Bowl, everything's in bulk!

  5. We do love our polenta. It can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert - amazing!