I’ll tell you a story about a certain comfort food that nearly made me pass out and miss my 18-hour-or-so flight home…
The time is 11pm. Location: The crown towers – an oversized but rather basic hotel room on the fringe of Greek Town in downtown Chicago. My team and I have been called into town urgently at the last minute and – trust our luck – Chicago just happens to be hosting an architecture convention that falls on the same week. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to get a basic hotel. One of my colleagues checked into a broom closet that was only available for one night, and had to move the following night to a dodgy Comfort Inn a good 30 minutes out of the Loop. Another colleague had to sleep above a nightclub.
I’m happy. My views are actually quite nice. I’m looking across the skyline of Chicago’s CBD – The Loop. It has been foggy every evening since I arrived, so it is not as scenic at night as I had hoped. There isn’t much light in the hotel room, and everything is a muted shade of brown or maroon. It is a couple of days into Spring and I am on 3 hours sleep over a solid 4 days in total due to jet lag and a tight deadline for a project. My diet here consists of strange half-and-half milk, bottomless filtered coffee, and Chipotle’s salad bowls and burritos.
HOW good is Chipotle by the way?? Amazing. The “fast food” giant has a Local Grower initiative, they are committed to free range and GMO free produce, they use recyclable packaging, they have sustainable energy saving restaurants, each restaurant partners up with local organisations to donate their left over food to those in need to reduce wastage, and they commit and contribute to their very own waste diversion program. THIS is what we need more of the food industry to be doing.
“Hello this is Shasha speaking.”
“Hey Sha, it’s Rachael. Listen, there’s a massive foam party going on at the club downstairs and I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep tonight – want to go out and explore the town a bit? Grab a late snack or drink?”
“Or we could just join them. I don’t have a spare bikini on me though – do you?”
Rachael struggles for a second to adjust to my Australian sarcasm. I’m exhausted and still have a bit of work to do, but I don’t think I can get any more done at the mental state I am in. I agree to Rachael’s proposal and soon I am across the road from ultra modern Millennium park dressed in two layers of cardigans, a faux leather jacket with absolutely no insulation capabilities – battling Chicago’s infamous icy winds.
Rachael is from New York, but she has been to Chicago several times and swears by a local gastro pub called The Gage – a decent 5 minute walk from Millennium park which hosts some of the city’s main tourist sights like the Cloud Gate, Lurie Garden, Crown Fountain, Wrigley Square etc. It is surprisingly busy at a quarter to midnight, and the smell of food wafting out of the pub is enticing.
“You have to try the dutch baby pancakes here. I haven’t had a better dutch baby anywhere else…but I haven’t been to Europe yet so who knows.”
Rachael introduced me to Chipotle and she is a bit of a foodie, so I don’t argue with her. And I don’t think I ever will. My first bite of that dutch baby pancake was heavenly. Custardy, pillowy, semi-sweet, with just a hint of tartness from the lemon juice squeezed over the puffy surface. We visited The Gage almost every night for the rest of the week I was there, and it seemed to be the cure to my jet lag induced insomnia. That first night, I slept like a baby for 8 straight hours – dozed past my alarm and almost arrived late to a workshop the following morning. It also so happened to be my last meal before I flew out back to Melbourne, and it had the same effect on me. I slept past my alarm and missed my original taxi booking to the airport and almost missed my plane home.
The past couple of nights I’ve been experiencing a recent bout of insomnia that I couldn’t seem to shake, so I experimented with a few dutch baby pancake recipes to find one that would help me get some sleep. The following is an adaptation of Chef John’s fabulous Dutch Baby pancakes, accompanied by an equally fabulous compote recipe I learnt off Ellisa’s aunt in France whilst we sat around making our very first Charlotte cake.
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners!
Dutch baby pancake with lemony blueberry compote
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 2/3 cup milk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- teaspoon of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- confectioner’s sugar to serve
Blueberry Compote Ingredients
- 2 cups of frozen, or fresh blueberries
- 3 tablespoons of water
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 3 teaspoons of lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 220C.
- Blend milk, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and salt together in a blender until batter is smooth.
- Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat until bubbling (be careful not to burn the butter).
- Pour pancake batter into the centre of the skillet.
- Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the blueberries, water, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.
- Cook over a medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Add the rest second cup of blueberries and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If the compote looks dry, add a tablespoon of water until it is a sauce consistency.
- When the pancake is done, quickly remove from oven and pour a generous amount of the blueberry compote over the top.
- Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar to serve.
- I love how big and pretty the eggs from the farmers markets are. When I get the chance, I visit the Bundoora Farmers’ Market in my side of town. It is usually on every second Saturday of the month and every last saturday of the month. If you’re in Victoria and keen to find a market near you, please visit: http://www.vicfarmersmarkets.org.au/