Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Years Eve Midnight Pancake Dinner

Midnight Pancake Supper

Well, here is is!  The very last of the fifty-two weekly dinner parties!  Number Fifty-Two!  I can hardly believe it’s all over.  My incredulousness mixes with a near-equal blend of relief and regret.  Ben and I both are certainly relieved  that our social patterns can now return to normal, glad that we can now share more ‘regular’ time with our friends (i.e. time not spent in preparation of elaborate meals, with picture snapping at every step along the way), and positively delighted that we can nudge some of our grocery budget towards the eating-out column.  But at the very same time, we’re both more than little bit sad that this fun year, this friend-filled and food-filled year is over.  While undeniably a bit of an undertaking on both our parts, this year-long project has brought us so much joy, so many incredible evenings with some truly amazing people, and countless wonderful memories.  Priceless memories we’d never have made were it not for this blog. 

Before I get blogging about this final Scrumptious Company soiree, I need to say a few well-deserved thank you’s.  Thank you first to Ben, my incredible husband, who gave not a single sideways glance as I concocted up this crazy scheme; who soaked and scrubbed and rinsed and dried countless dishes, pots and pans; who made an estimated fifty-two last minute trips to the neighborhood grocery store for that one last thing I suddenly needed; who vacuumed, mopped and dusted way more than (I promise) he’ll ever have to do again the rest of his life; and who is just about the most warm, charming and handsome host, that any hostess ever could wish for.

Thank you too, to all our Scrumptious Company guests – my mom and dad, sisters and grandparents, our cousins and aunts and uncles, and our wonderful friends, Chicago friends and out-of-towners, brand new friends and ones way back from childhood.  We absolutely loved our special nights with each and every one of you.  Thank you all so much for making this such an extraordinary experience!  You are always, always welcome at our kitchen table. 

And last but not anywhere close to least, thank you to you all, my readers.  I can’t even describe how thrilling it is, knowing that all of you are out there, reading my words, scrolling through my pictures, and best of all, trying out my recipes!  Each comment, message and email from you has been a precious gift to me.  I am so grateful for your support, encouragement and contagious enthusiasm.  Without you, this blog truly could never be.  You readers are my most special of special ingredients.  Were every cook to have such a stockpile of love and support in their cabinets and cupboards, I can only imagine how delicious this world would be.  Thank you all, from the pit of my always hungry stomach and the bottom of my ever full heart. 

And there’s one last matter I must address before I get started on this 52nd dinner party.  Because I know a lot of you are wondering.  I would be too, wondering: Is this it?  The absolute end?  The very last Scrumptious Company post?   

Lots of tiny clementines

And to those wonderings I say, No way!  The last of the weekly dinner parties, yes.  (Damn straight, yes!)  But the end of it all?  I’ve loved blogging way too much for that.  Loved trying out new, cool recipes, and sharing some of my old favorites.  Loved having this virtual foodie connection with all of you.  Loved trying my hand at writing again (much less painful that it ever was during school).  And really, really, really loved learning about photography.  There’s no way I want to stop now!  And so now, rather than the multi-course and multi-recipe menus you’ve been getting, you can count on a single recipe a week, maybe two on good weeks.  Neat-sounding and delicious-looking foods I find in cookbooks and magazines, favorite recipes of my friends and fellow chefs, new creations I concoct or finally perfect after months or years of tweaking, and some of my all-time favorite treats, chef secrets, and cherished family dishes.  That my friends, is what we have in store for 2011.  (Happy New Year everybody, by the way!!)

And now, with no further ado, Dinner Party Number Fifty-Two:

New Year’s Eve Midnight Pancake Supper
Fresh-Squeezed Clementine Juice
Blueberry-Gingerbread Pancakes
Cinnamon Ice Cream
Maple-Candied Bacon

The honored guests of this last SC dinner party, and first true SC slumber party, four of my little cousins – Kate, Mary, Ellen & Caroline.  After a unusually warm New Year’s Eve afternoon out and about in down-town Chicago (also spent with my Aunt LeAnn, Uncle David and cousin Jack), we took a very crowded cab-ride home (all nine of us, a record for our cabbie) and settled in for a food-filled extravaganza.  Eight rounds of top-your-own pizzasIzzy sodas, root beers and Coca-Colas in glass bottles (extra-sophisticated).  And tons of junk food – Puppy Chow (i.e. Muddy Buddies), home-made caramel corn, and a heaping bin of candy (perhaps a bit less sophisticated, as was the prank phone calling we got into later).  And then, to ring in the new year, more sugar – gingerbread pancakes, cinnamon ice cream & maple-candied bacon!


The freshly squeezed clementine juice was by far the most healthful thing we consumed all night.  It was made even more so by the work-out it took to extract it.  The girls formed an assembly line: one slicing the fruit, the next passing the clementine halves through the mechanical juicer, and a third giving the juiced halves one last squeeze for good measure.  At the end of the line we had a gorgeous juice, in the most beautiful shade of orange, with lots of tender pulp and amazing flavor, sweeter and smoother than orange juice, and incredibly delicious sipped from Champagne glasses. (It was New Year’s Eve, after all!)

Fresh-Squeezed Clementine Juice

The sweet anchor of this sugary feast was the blueberry-gingerbread pancakes.  Incredibly, unbelievably fluffy, with crisp, golden brown tops and bottoms, purple insides chock-full of plump juicy blueberries, warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and rich molasses flavor from a big scoop of dark brown sugar.  I have to confess, what I describe above are not the pancakes I served the girls, but a new recipe I’ve tried out since.  The gingerbread pancakes I served for them, I made by following a recipe that had rave reviews and the highest of marks on-line.  I thought I was safe, but alas, with too much molasses and not enough sugar, they were just too, as Caroline put it, grown-upy.  Even slathered with melting butter and maple syrup and topped with a scoop of ice cream.  Too grown-upy even for me.   But the gingerbread pancakes I lauded above, the ones made from a completely new recipe, those were none too grown-upy at all.  These are as kid-friendly, and adult–friendly too, as pancakes can be. 

Midnight Pancakes

The crowning glory on top of the towers of pancakes, home-made cinnamon ice cream.  Cinnamon ties with coffee as my favorite ice cream flavor.  Coffee because it reminds me of my Grandma Schoen, who can always be counted on to have a pint of coffee Haagen Dazs in her freezer.  And cinnamon because it reminds me of Bill Knapp's, a now extinct restaurant I loved as a kid.  It had the best chocolate cake in the world, but even better, it had homemade cinnamon ice cream.  Both of these flavors, combined with closed eyes, are instant tickets back to my childhood.  The coffee ice cream I can find during any trip to the grocery store.  But cinnamon ice cream, well that is a much rarer treat.  When I I crave it, I usually have to make it myself.  So thank goodness I’ve got a killer cinnamon ice cream recipe!  Seriously, this stuff is sensational – creamy and dense and smooth, with huge cinnamon flavor on top of a perfect level of sweetness.  Now that I’ve had a recent taste of it, I’m completely hooked.  We’ve made three batches this week!

Tall stack

And finally, because I like to save the very best for the very, very end – maple-candied bacon.  Thick, thick slices of smoky, salty bacon, slathered again and again with pure maple syrup as they slowly bake in the oven, becoming crisp and chewy and incredibly sticky, with a golden crust of sugary glaze.  Man oh man, bacon itself is amazing, but this, this is a miracle!
 Maple-Candied Goodness

Well everyone, I suppose that’s it.  The end.  But also, just the beginning!  I hope you’re as excited as I am about the coming year – all the new treats and snacks and fabulous dishes, the pictures and stories, the sharing of deliciousness!  Here’s to a tasty 2011! 
 My beautiful cousins

Fresh-Squeezed Clementine Juice
Makes about 1 quart 
Fresh Squeezed Clementine Juice
about 24 medium-sized clementines
Slice each clementine in half cross-wise.  Juice the clementines with an electrical, mechanical or hand-held juicer, or simply by squeezing with your hands.  If you end up using a juicer, you may still be able to squeeze out a little extra juice by hand.  Collect the clementine juice in a pitcher or large measuring cup.  Remove any seeds by straining with a fork.  Strain the juice through a fine sieve if you do not like pulp.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Before pouring in to glasses, be sure to give the juice a stir, because the pulp likes to settle at the bottom.  Serve cold. 
Blueberry-Gingerbread Pancakes
Makes about 18 pancakes
Blueberry-Gingerbread Pancakes with Maple Syrup & Cinnamon Ice Cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brewed coffee, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen; if frozen, not thawed)
vegetable oil, for brushing the griddle

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the water, coffee, eggs, butter and lemon juice.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.   Let stand 10 minutes.  (The batter with thicken.) Fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula. 

Pancake Batter

Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium-low heat.  Grease lightly with vegetable oil, then wipe dry with a paper towel.  Working in batches of 3 or 4 at a time, pour about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto the pre-heated griddle.  Cook until the undersides are lightly browned and bubbles form on the top surface and the undersides are lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

Hot on the griddle

Flip the with a spatula then cook until the pancakes are cooked through and the edges are lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.  (But it could take even longer, to cook all the way through.)  Serve hot, with hot maple syrup, room temperature butter, and if you’re in the mood for even more sweetness, a scoop of cinnamon ice cream on top.  (See recipe below.)

Cinnamon Ice Cream
Makes about 6 cups
Cinnamon Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk 
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup white sugar, divided 
10 large egg yolks
pinch salt
Combine the cream, milk, cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium-sized sauce pot and bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and pinch of salt. Pour about a third of the hot cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Return this egg-cream mixture back into the remaining hot cream mixture in the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. The temperature of the custard should not exceed 180°F.

Strain the custard into a 2 quart container and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then cover and refrigerate until very cold, about four hours to overnight.

Process in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  After processing, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Maple-Candied Bacon
Serves 4
Maple-Candied Bacon
16 pieces of extra-thickly sliced bacon
about 1/2 cup real maple syrup
Thick-sliced bacon
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F. 
Arrange the bacon in a single layer over wire racks placed over rimmed baking pans.  Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of each bacon slice with maple syrup.  Bake for 10 minutes, then brush again with maple syrup.  Continue baking for 10 minutes and brushing with syrup until the tops of the slices are lightly browned.  Then flip the slices over, brush with maple syrup and return to the oven for 10 minutes.  Again, continue baking 10 minutes and brushing in between, until the bacon is done to your desired level of crunchiness.  This can take anywhere from 45 minute on, total, depending on the thickness of the bacon, and on how crispy you like it.  Be careful as you lift the bacon from the wire racks, as they tend to get very sticky, and may rip.  Serve hot or warm. 


  1. That cinnamon ice cream and fresh clementine juice looks so wonderful! I haven't had bacon in such a long time that I'm pining for it now... Everything looks so delicious!

  2. Congrats, Kate on a year of beautiful and delicious food!
    - MegC

  3. SSG - Thanks a lot! You are too sweet!

    And MegC - Thank you a lot too! So glad you were able to be part of one of these dinners :).

  4. Hi Kate! My sister made this cake for our Easter Sunday Dessert and it was so delicious =) Thanks again for a yummy recipe!

  5. Oh Thy, thank YOU! So glad to hear you loved the dessert! And, thanks so much for pinning the cake on Pinterest. I appreciate that so much! You are too sweet.