One of the great traditions in restaurants – unfortunately tending to die out – is Family Meal. That’s when everyone takes a break from preparative work to gather together, talk about the evening ahead, and share a meal prepared by one of the cooks. The meal is almost always comfort food made with leftover ingredients or inexpensive ingredients ordered just for the meal. The great thing is that the cooks rotate the assignment so the pressure is on to prepare something that everyone will enjoy. This is definitely not the time or place to embarrass yourself in front of your peers. Often Family Meal will feature food from childhood – a family favorite or Mom’s secret recipe. I have previously written about Sarah’s brisket and biscuits that became so popular the kitchen staff cheered when they appeared on the menu.
During a recent trip to San Francisco I got to spend the afternoon with Sarah in the prep room at Rich Table. That’s where Jonathan Tu whipped up his mother’s recipe for scallion pancakes. Nearly every Asian nation has its own version of this treat, but they all come down to a simple flour and water dough and chopped green scallions. Kneading, layering with oil, and rolling out the dough a couple of times makes a flaky, multi-layered pancake rivaling puff pastry but without all the hassle. There are a few little tricks or special touches in rolling out the dough, but in the end scallion pancakes are so simple and so good.
Jonathan served his pancakes with chicken sausage, rice, and a sauce of mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili flakes, but it’s up to you to choose your favorite dipping sauce or topping.
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- kosher salt
- ½ cup chopped scallions, including green tops
- sesame oil
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and water. Mix until it holds together and forms a ball. Continue to knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough becomes soft and shiny.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four equal balls. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one of the balls to about 1/8 inch thick. Keep the remaining balls covered with a cloth until you are ready to roll them out..
- Drizzle the top of the rolled out dough with sesame oil. Sprinkle with ¼ of your chopped scallions and kosher salt. Fold it over and roll it out again.
- Roll up the flattened dough like a cigar. Divide the cigar crosswise into two pieces. Coil each piece like a snake or snail. Flatten the coil with your hand and then roll out into a circle with a rolling-pin.
- Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. You should have eight pancakes.
- Heat a heavy cast iron skillet to medium high or use a heated plancha. Lightly oil the cooking surface, and then transfer one of the pancakes to the skillet or plancha. Cook for two minutes. Then flip and cook the other side for two minutes. The pancakes should be a light golden brown.
- Repeat with each of the remaining pancakes. You may keep them in a warm (200°F) oven while you cook the rest.
- Cut each pancake into 6 or 8 wedges and serve with dipping sauce or accompaniments of your choice.