Have you heard? Michael Smith has a new cookbook out. It’s his eighth one in as many years. You would think that, after publishing over 700 recipes, that there wouldn’t be much left to say. In the case of Chef Michael, you’d be incorrect.
If it’s possible, this cookbook is even more approachable and family friendly than any of his previous work. It is written in a light-hearted manner and sprinkled with suggestions for way to get your kids more involved in the prep and more than a few ideas for getting your kids to eat the nutritious food you make for them.
Family Meals is broken down by meal, rather than ingredient or season. At the end of each section is a cross referenced suggestion list of other recipes in the book that you might find useful. Know what else I find exciting about this cookbook? The visual index. That’s right – in addition to the regular (and excellent) word and topic based index, there is a photo-based one as well. Can’t remember the name of that recipe you saw? No problem – just flip to the back and have a look. Or involve the kids and have them pick a recipe to make, based on which picture they like. Simple genius.
The dedication at the front of this book is also very telling. Family Meals is dedicated
to the true heroes of food: the family cooks. Every day we face the greatest challenges in the world of cooking, and every time we cook, we earn the best reward.”
Daily kitchen battles are not fought by celebrity chefs with the army of dish washers and sous chefs. Chances are, they rarely come face to face with their food critics and those eating their meals are almost assuredly happy to be doing so. TV chefs are few more accustomed to negotiating with producers than they are highly-skilled, anti-vegetable 5 year olds. And that is who this cookbook is aimed at and in appreciation of.
Chef Michael’s recipe for Weekend Pancakes are loaded with good things like oat and whole wheat flour, sweetened with honey, and flavoured with a bit of cinnamon. To get such a dense batter to rise, ample amounts of baking powder are used, leading to a substantial but not doughy pancake.
I threw together a double batch of these in no time flat. I had over a dozen leftover to freeze for those school day mornings that I can see quickly approaching on my calendar. Horror of horrors, I use a non-stick griddle for cooking pancakes. No additional butter or oil is needed, so you’ll be able to skip that part if you’d like.
I am sure it is not surprise then, that I definitely put this new Michael Smith cookbook in the must own category.
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this cookbook for review purposes. Even if I hadn’t been, I would have been out purchasing it for myself. No other compensation was received. All swooning is clearly my own.
Michael Smith's Weekend Pancakes
- Kid 1: The Dry Ingredients
- 1 cup (250mL) of unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (250mL) of whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (250mL) of quick-cooking rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) of cinnamon or nutmeg
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon (2mL) of salt
- Kid 2 or parent: the wet ingredients
- 2 expertly cracked eggs
- 2 cups (500mL) of any milk (dairy or otherwise)
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) of vegetable oil or melted butter, plus more for the pan
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) of honey
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) of pure vanilla extract
While the kids get out bowls and measure the wet and dry ingredients, heat your largest, heaviest skillet or griddle or medium-high heat. Gas, electric, induction or campfire-strive for that magical mark just past halfway, where food sizzles and browns without burning.
Share the whisk so you don’t have to wash two of them. First whisk the dry ingredients together, then give the wet team a turn. Switch to a wooden spoon and gradually stir the wet into the dry, letting everybody stir the works a bit and not worrying whether the batter will be mixed wrong. Just make sure the batter is evenly combined.
Coat your hot pan with a swirl of vegetable oil. Spoon in the batter, filling the pan with any size or shape of pancakes. Cook until the bottom of every last pancake is golden brown before flamboyantly flipping the flapjacks. Continue cooking for a few minutes longer until the pancakes are firm. If need be, keep warm in a 200F (100C) oven while you repeat with the remaining batter, dealing pancakes like you’re working the Vegas strip. Devour with lots of decadently melting butter and of course a long pour of real maple syrup- none of that Auntie-artificial corn syrup stuff for these high-grade pancakes! Serve and share!