How to Make Pancakes from Scratch Without Buttermilk

Having buttermilk in the fridge requires planning, but pancakes are often spur-of-the-moment, so here’s an easy substitute: milk and lemon juice. I always have lemons, and they last a month in the fruit crisper.  In fact, I think milk curdled with lemon juice tastes better than buttermilk in pancakes.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Melt the butter.  20 seconds at low power in the microwave works.
  2. Blend or sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in small mixing bowl.
  3. Put lemon juice into a measuring cup, and add milk until it makes 1 full cup.  Stir it very lightly so that it all curdles.
  4. Pour milk into the flour mix, then crack the egg on top of it all.  Mix everything, but don’t overmix.  Do not mix egg in first, or you’ll get tiny chunks of pasta.
  5. Lightly mix in the melted butter.

Put a few drops of water into a non-stick skillet, and heat on medium heat. When the water droplets begin to boil, turn heat to medium-high.

  1. Add a pat of butter to hot pan, and swirl it around with a spatula.  Pour in batter with a 1/3 cup measuring cup, or eyeball it.  A big pan can hold 3 pancakes.
  2. Cook for about 2 minutes, until bubbles appear on the top.  Lift up a cake to see if it’s properly cooked, and flip them when they are.  Flip them so the outside edge now cooks on the center of the pan.
  3. Cook for 1 ½  minutes more on the other side.
  4. Remove pancakes from pan, turn off heat.
  5. Pour maple syrup in pan, with a pat of butter, and let residual heat from pan warm up the syrup.

Notes: You can use buttermilk (1 cup) if you wish.  Buttermilk used to be thicker than milk, but modern buttermilk is just regular milk with lactic acid cultures added to it, so it’s the same consistency as lemon/milk.

Recommended:  pure maple syrup, even if you buy the store brand.  The national brands of pancake syrup made with corn syrup taste like candy.

 

 

The Right Mix for a Gin & Tonic

Tanqueray and Fever Tree

One taste of Tanqueray Gin and Fever-Tree Tonic, and you’ll know why it’s the most popular mix in Spain.  Never mind the traditional lime garnish, this cocktail tastes better with a lemon wedge.  And the Spanish don’t stop there, adding all manner of spices, herbs, and fruit to their “Gin Tonics”.

Tanqueray and Tonic Recipe

  • 2 ounces Tanqueray gin
  • 2 to 3 ounces Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water (or Canada Dry Tonic)
  • Fat wedge of a lemon (or half of a Key lime, or a wedge of regular lime)

Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Pour in the gin, and listen for the crackling sound. Gently pour in the tonic.  Squeeze the fat wedge into the glass, and drop it in for garnish. Notes:  2 ounces of tonic makes a gin-strong drink, 2½ ounces has good balance, and 3 ounces brings out the tonic.

Canada Dry Tonic is made with corn syrup rather than sugar, but tastes very good with Tanqueray.  Also, Q Tonic is very popular, and goes well with Bombay Sapphire as well as several other gins.  Fever-Tree is now widely available in supermarkets, Cost-Plus World Market, and Whole Foods.

Citadelle Gin is also recommended for this drink.  To make a Spanish Gin Tonic, use a globe-style round Burgundy wine glass, and add lots of ice.  Pour in 2 ounces of gin, and 4 or more ounces of tonic. Lemon or lime juice is added, along with peppercorns, grated nutmeg, star anise, or cardamom pods.

Best Margarita Recipe with Cointreau

margg

The most important element of a premium Margarita is the lime juice. Key limes, also known as Mexican or West Indies limes, are important. They can be found in most Latin or Asian supermarkets, and in the exotic produce section of many other markets.

This shaken margarita is a mix of accclaimed tequila, Cointreau, and Key lime juice that balances the sweet, sour, and spirits with no added sugar.

  • 1½ ounces of 100% blue agave silver tequila
  • ¾ ounce of Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce fresh-squeezed Key lime juice

— Hold a tumbler glass upside down, and rub a cut lime on one half of the rim.  Dip, but don’t twist, the outside of the wet rim into a dish of Morton Sea Salt.  Pour tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice into a mixing glass with ice.  Shake 40 times and strain onto ice cubes in the salted glass.

If you can’t find Key limes, then a mix of 2 parts lemon juice with 1 part regular Persian) lime juice is better than pure Persian lime juice.

Recommended tequilas are Milagro, Herradura, Avion, Pura Vida, Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas, Tapatio, Patron, and Corazon.  A few reposado (gold) tequilas mix well in margaritas, such as Dos Lunas and Izkali. Expensive tequilas like El Tesoro or Don Julio are better left for sipping.

The Cointreau can be replaced with Marie Brizard Triple Sec or Combier, but they’re harder to find. Grand Marnier is made with cognac, so it adds that taste, as does Ferrand Dry Curacao. Patron Citronage is not recommended.

Frozen Margaritas

Premium shaken margaritas are great for tiny gatherings, but if you have lots of people, they take too much time to prepare. Replace them with these tasty Cheap Margaritas.  Guests will be pleased, and so will you.  If you want strawberry frozen margaritas, just add two fresh or frozen strawberries per drink before blending it.

 

Hong Kong Cognac

hongkongcognac

Cognac has become a sought-after luxury in China, but like Scotch, it’s not to the taste of many drinkers there.  Fortunately, the mixer of choice used to make it palatable–7UP– happens to make an excellent cocktail, which pairs well with many dishes in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine.

Hong Kong Cognac

  • 1½ ounces Cognac
  • 4½ ounces 7UP
  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish

— Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice.  Pour in the Cognac. Gently pour in the 7UP, and stir slowly seven times with a chopstick.  Garnish with a cherry, and let the drink sit for 5 minutes to blend and chill.

7UP is recommended for this drink, but Sprite may be substituted.  St. Rémy VSOP Brandy is inexpensive, and mixes well with Sprite and lots of ice.

 

 

Pimm’s Cup Recipe

pimm's cup

You don’t have to be watching tennis at Wimbledon to enjoy a Pimm’s Cup, it’s enjoyable any time it’s warm.  And though the original English version is made with Schweppe’s Bitter Lemon soda, but there’s several other lemon-lime or ginger sodas that make this cocktail delicious and refreshing on a summer day..

Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon Soda is available in the United States, in higher-end stores.  Fine substitutes include 7UP and ginger ale, and in the right amount aren’t too sweet. You may also like the version made with Seagram’s Ginger Ale and the one with Barritt’s Ginger Beer. 7UP tasted a little thin and San Pellegrino Lemon Soda was a little too tart.

No matter what lemon-lime or ginger soda you use, 2½ ounces seems to be just the right amount of mixer.

Pimm’s Cup

  • 1½ ounces Pimm’s No.1
  • 2½ ounces bitter lemon soda, ginger ale, 7UP, or mild ginger beer
  • Thin cucumber slice, for garnish
  • Thin slice of orange, for garnish
  • A sprig of spearmint, for garnish, optional
  • A strawberry, cut in half, for garnish, optional

Fill half of a highball or Collins glass with ice. Pour in the Pimm’s No.1. Gently pour in the soda, ginger ale, or ginger beer.  Garnish with the cucumber slice and the orange slice.  If you wish, add the two halves of the strawberry and/or the sprig of spearmint.

Pimm’s Cups are often garnished with lemon wedges and green apples along with the cucumber, but it is not recommended here. Barritt’s and Gosling make mild ginger beers that are recommended in this drink. Strong Jamaican-style ginger beer is not recommended.

In New Orleans,  Pimm’s Cups are made with 3 ounces of lemonade and a splash of 7UP.  It’s worth trying, but not preferred here.

How Long Do I Boil Corn On the Cob?

corn

I grew up in a corn state, and travel back to Indiana for deliciously sweet corn-on-the-cob every summer.  Oddly, there is no standard way to cook it, other than to drop the ears into boiling water for an indeterminate amount of time.

Fortunately, I learned this consistent technique from a friend native to New York City, which gets some fine corn from New Jersey.

How to Boil Corn

  1. Remove the husks and silk. Trim any remaining stalk and the tips of the corn, if they are raggedy.
  2. Place corn in a pot, with enough water to cover the ears.
  3. Bring the water and corn to a boil, covered.
  4. When the pot comes to a boil, turn off the heat and leave the ears of corn in the water, covered, for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove ears of corn, serve with butter, salt, and pepper.
  6. If you want to cut the corn from the cob, hold the ears in a bowl and cut downward with a paring knife, holding the knife at an angle with the point downward.  Do not use a chef’s knife, as the wide blade will launch corn kernels all over the kitchen.

corncut

Best Tequila for Margaritas

2 tequilas

You can make expensive margaritas or cheap ones, and the taste shouldn’t be all that different, if you use the right ingredients.

1)  Premium Margaritas require Cointreau and medium-priced 100% blue agave blanco tequila. (click here for recipe)

2) Cheap “House” Margaritas are best made with strong-tasting low-priced 100% blue agave tequila, and triple sec. (click here for recipe)

Premium Margaritas

Highly recommended Margarita mixing tequilas are Siembra Azul (Blue Harvest) and Pura Vida, which by no coincidence are produced by the same company, Feliciano Vivianco Y Asociados.  You also can’t go wrong with Milagro, Avion, Dos Lunas, and Patrón. Other solid recommendations are Cazadores and Herradura.

Izkali makes a reposado tequila that is award-winning in margaritas.  And Sauza Hornitos Reposada gives a flavorful burn.  Sauza Hornitos is the choice of many many bartenders in Mexico.

If you have premium El Tesoro or Don Julio, by all means, sip it, but don’t expect it to make a significantly better cocktail.  Tapatio, a lower-priced blanco by the producer of El Tesoro (in a wonderfully cheap-looking bottle) is a better value.

Better yet, go to Neal McDonald’s website Proof 66 and decide for yourself.

Cheap Margaritas

I have not found anything that comes close to Lunazul or Agavales.  A lot of Texas restaurants are now using one of these in their house margaritas, for good reason, and it’s ridiculously cheap.

El Jimador is a cheap favorite in Mexico,  and Espolon has a mild taste. Milagro on sale isn’t expensive, and gets universal raves. I did not like the Sauza Blue in the picture above, but I’ll highly recommend Sauza Hornitos Reposado. Pueblo Viejo is a superb value.

I realize there are some other excellent tequilas out there, but these choices are just the bottles that are widely available in liquor stores in the U.S.A.

Quick Breakfast Tacos with Corn Tortillas

breaktaco

Many fast-food restaurants serve breakfast burritos, with eggs and bacon wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla, with maybe some chiles or hot sauce added. They are warm, bland, and satisfying.

Breakfast tacos start the day with a fresh hot buzz, and can be made very quickly on mornings when kids are hustling to get ready for school and you feel like you are running late.  You know that feeling.

Quick Breakfast Tacos

  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of milk
  • Shredded Cheddar or other cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bottled hot sauce (Cholula or Tapatio is good)
  1. Preheat a skillet on medium heat with a few drops of water in it. When the water boils, it’s hot enough.
  2. If you are using a non-stick skillet, melt a pat of butter and spread it around.  If your skillet is metal, pour a teaspoon or two of corn or peanut oil, and spread it around.
  3. Put a corn tortilla in the skillet, and fry it on medium heat for a minute or two.  Flip and fry on the other side.
  4. Remove and place on a plate. (Have a paper towel on the plate if you want the tacos less greasy)
  5. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the second tortilla.
  6. Put the second tortilla on the plate, overlapping the first tortilla, so that you can put egg on it properly.
  7. Scramble the egg, milk, salt, and pepper.
  8. Add a tiny bit more butter or oil to the pan to cook the egg.
  9. Pour in egg, and stir.  Turn off the heat and let the residual heat cook the egg while you stir it.
  10. Divide the scrambled egg evenly onto the two tortillas.
  11. Add cheese, hot sauce, and more salt and pepper if you wish.
  12. Fold them and eat them.

 

Best Rum for a Daiquiri

The Daiquiri is a simple but perfect cocktail, a sublime mix of rum, sweet, and sour. It’s easy to make, and puts your guests in an instant tropical mood.  Best of all, it’s delicious with any rum you like.

Daiquiri (Frozen or Shaken)

  • 2 ounces rum
  • ¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup

— Add the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup to a mixing glass with ice. Shake well and strain into any glass that’s filled with crushed ice, cracked ice, or ice cubes. Or, add the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup to a blender with 2 cups of ice. Blend until frothy.

Key limes or Mexican limes are often used for Daiquiris and other tropical drinks. If the Daiquiri is too tart for some guests, increase the amount of simple syrup to ¾ ounce. Simple syrup is made by adding equal amounts of sugar and purified water in a jar, shake vigorously, wait five minutes, and shake again.

Recommendations for white rum: Banks 5 Island, Bacardi Superior, Flor de Caña Extra Dry, Diplomatico, Plantation 3 Star, Miami Club, 10 Cane, Old New Orleans Crystal, and Cruzan.

Recommendations for gold or aged rum: Bacardi 8, Cruzan Single Barrel, Diplomatico Anejo, Pampero Aniversario, Mount Gay, Screech, Plantation Grande Reserve, and Don Q Anejo.

Best Way to Fry Eggs

It’s easy to fry an egg, but getting it just is a minor skill.  If the heat’s too high the egg will get rubbery, and the yolk grows hard and unpleasant.  A properly runny yolk can be delicious, but not if it is undercooked, and spots of raw egg is nauseating.

The biggest reason fried eggs get messed up in our house is because it’s morning, we’re anxiously struggling to get everybody out the door for school and work. We sit our boys down and make them take their time while enjoying breakfast, and we can focus on the perfection of a yellow circle on a white background.

Use the Right Heat

1.  Add a few drops of water to a non-stick skillet, and pre-heat on medium heat.  When the water begins to boil, it is the proper temperature.

2.  Add a tiny amount of butter, and wait until it foams.  Crack eggs and drop into butter, and immediately turn heat down to medium-low. 

3.  Fry eggs for about 1½ minutes, until there is a yellowish oval and bright yolk on top of a cooked white egg.

4.  Flip the eggs, and cook for about a minute for runny yolks, or about 1½ minutes for a slighty more firm egg yolk.

5.  For “sunny-side up” eggs that are actually cooked, pour a Tablespoon of water into the pan immediately after dropping the eggs in, and put a cover on the skillet.  The steam will cook the top.

These eggs will be softer than eggs cooked at a higher temperature, so they will more difficult to flip.  It requires a forceful shove of the spatula underneath the eggs before flipping.

Cracking the Eggs

Why do yolks break when eggs are cracked for frying, but rarely when you crack them for scrambling.  It’s not common sense, but the harder you smack the eggs, the more likely the yolk will stay intact when you pour it into the pan.  If a piece of shell goes into the pan, use the large half of the shell to scoop it up, or wet a spoon before using it to scoop it up.

Best results come by cracking eggs on a flat surface, rather than the edge of a dish or pan.  I keep a plate next to the stove to crack eggs on, put the shells on, and make it easier to clean up.

For a change, lay a strip of sliced Swiss cheese across the top of the egg, immediately after removing it from the pan.  The residual heat will melt the cheese.

Ready to flip
Ready to flip