Rush Hour

In my home, electric griddles are no laughing matter. Despite its age, our ancient West Bend electric griddle is an appliance that we simply cannot survive without. It's large aluminum cooking surface heats evenly and allows both my husband and I to attack it with all sorts of metal utensils that modern no-stick griddles would never tolerate. Weekend after weekend, it's pulled from its cozy home in the cabinet next to the stove to do breakfast duty. But this useful appliance is equally at home cooking up some fine dinner fare as well. So, this month, I thought it wise to turn our attention to the little-praised electric griddle.

Electric griddles offer several advantages that are hard to come by with your average stove. These helpful appliances offer a huge cooking area with the ability to carefully control the heating temperature. Most models also feature a drip area to capture excess oils and fats that are released during the cooking of higher-fat foods like sausage. While older models tended to consist of aluminum cooking surfaces, most newer models feature some variation of a no-stick surface. This feature helps reduce the amount of fat needed in cooking, but requires that you use special utensils and cleaning products to help maintain the no-stick surface. My personal preference is to use a griddle with an aluminum surface because any type of utensil can be used and you can scrub the surface with everything from a metal scrapper to steel wool. Of course, these types of griddles are next to impossible to find these days! If anyone out there knows of a reputable source for such a griddle, please let us know. After all, someday my antique griddle will need to be replaced!

The recipe that I'm including in this month's column puts an elegant twist on everyone's favorite ... pancakes. These savory pancakes combine the light and fluffy texture that is part and parcel of traditional breakfast pancakes with the savory flavor and aroma of onion soup mix. Once you top them off with the creamy mushroom-clam sauce, you are ready to enjoy a special meal. To round out this simple dinner, add some glasses of your favorite white wine (or chilled white grape juice) and a spinach salad topped with sliced pears, toasted walnuts and crumbled feta cheese. What a classy way to enjoy pancakes in the middle of the week!

Onion Pancakes with Mushroom-Clam Sauce

  • 2 cans chopped clams
  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 c. biscuit mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 c. skim milk
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. dry onion soup mix

Drain the clams, reserving the liquid. In a medium saucepan, cook the garlic in the butter until softened. Add the reserved liquid and wine. Turn the heat up to high and boil until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Stir in the soup, clams and cheese. Reduce the heat to low and cook until heated through -- about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your griddle to 400 degrees. Put all of the ingredients in a large mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Pour the batter onto the griddle in 1/4 cup measurements for each pancake -- leaving 1-2 inches between each pancake. Cook until tiny bubbles appear in the surface of the pancakes. Flip the pancakes and cook for an additional minute. Repeat this procedure until all of the batter is used. Serve while hot with the mushroom-clam sauce.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes