Sometimes you just want something quick and easy for dinner. No fuss, no muss. It’s much better if someone else makes it for you but that’s not always an option, especially if you live alone or the rest of your family is asleep on the couch. While working in Southwest France for my friend Kate last summer, I often spent the day cooking, working around the property and running errands. By dinnertime, we were all hungry, dirty, tired and pretty much mentally over being in the kitchen. It didn’t take Kate and her trusty Guy Friday, Felix, long to introduce me to the perfect solution for these situations: scallion pancakes.
Now it may seem a little funny to be making an essentially classic Chinese recipe in the middle of the French countryside but I had many such cross-cultural moments like this. This Arizona girl also made carnitas with beautiful French pork and homemade tortillas in that kitchen. A great idea is a great idea regardless of it’s orgin. The scallion pancakes were a brilliant discovery and paired perfectly with a cold glass of rosé for those wonderful apero moments, or rosé-o’clock as we called them, when a quick salty snack is a necessity with a glass of wine and a comfortable chair. Add a salad or some charcuterie and you can easily call it dinner. And we did. More than once.
These pancakes are easily made with ingredients readily on hand: flour, water, some sort of flavoring and some sort of fat. Most of the time we used scallions, sometimes we worked in chiles or a little garlic. A dash or two of spices, say a little piment d’esplette or a nice curry blend would be interesting. No scallions? How about some finely minced onion, shallot or garlic? I’m particularly fond of finely diced Chinese chives. No sesame oil? Regular vegetable oil would work, or if you happen to find yourself in Gascony, duck fat is a fine substitute and a rather delicious one at that.
The recipe is simple but it’s the technique that really makes these spectacular. Brushing a dough with fat and folding is a tried and true technique for a great flaky pastry called “lamination”. The folks at Serious Eats took this a step farther than we did by doing the rolling/coiling process an additional two times. It makes sense as the more you roll, the more flaky layers you create. The author, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, has a lovely chart that explains it all if you care to take a gander. I found that this little bit of extra effort made a big difference in the overall texture of the pancake but if you’re feeling a bit lazy, one roll/coil produces a very nice pancake. Since I was pressed for time and low on energy, the pancakes photographed here are rolled only once after filling.
For the dipping sauce, I went with my old standby – soy, rice vinegar, hoisin and garlic chili paste jazzed up with a bit of additional ginger and scallion. While you could eat these pancakes plain, hot out of the skillet, I think they’re much better with something to dip into. But isn’t that always the case? In France we used a variety of chutneys and chili sauces from the pantry but use what you have, what you like.
The good news is you can roll these out several hours in advance, kept tightly covered to prevent drying and pan fry just before serving. The recipe noted below makes two pancakes but this can be easily halved, or doubled. We were eating them hot out of the pan and it seemed like Felix could never cook them fast enough but for appertifs, though 2 seemed to work well for the 3 of us when snacking. On more than one occasion we made the four pancakes and called it dinner.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: Think of this as a mini lesson in laminated doughs (the process of rolling and folding a dough around layers of fat.) Do this and the next step is croissants. I swear, it’s not that far of a leap. As a snack or quick meal, it’s a very good one.
on this blog four years ago: Chino Farms Strawberries – field trip
on this blog three years ago: Peterson Garden Project – the start
on this blog two years ago: Pasticceria Natalina
on this blog one year ago: Buttermilk Biscuits
SCALLION PANCAKES WITH SOY DIPPING SAUCE
Makes 2 pancakes; serves 2-4
for the pancakes:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for dusting work surface
½ cup boiling water
1-2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 cup thinly sliced scallion greens (or whatever you choose)
For the dipping sauce:
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
½ teaspoon garlic chile paste
1 Tablespoon finely sliced scallion greens
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- For the dough: Place the flour in a large bowl and add the boiling water.
- Stir into a soft dough with a wooden spoon, then begin mixing with your hands.
- Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and satiny. (Alternatively, you can do this in a food processor and I’ve used the Kitchenaid with the paddle attachment as well.)
- Transfer to a bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.
- To shape: Divide the dough into two even pieces and pat each into a smooth disc.
- Working with one piece at a time (keep the other covered to prevent drying), roll out into a roughly 8”x10” rectangle on a lightly floured surface.
- Spread a very thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk with a pastry brush or your fingers (in Gascony we used duck fat because that’s just what you do.)
- Sprinkle the ½ the chopped scallions evenly over the top.
- Roll the square up like a jellyroll, then coil into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath.
- Flatten the coil gently with your hand and re-roll into an 8” disc.
- At this point, you can go ahead and cook the pancake or if you like, roll again: paint the surface lightly with sesame oil, roll up jelly roll style, coil into a spiral, flatten gently then roll into an 8” round. They are better if you do the second roll but it’s your call ultimately.
- Repeat these steps with remaining piece of dough, stacking the rolled pancakes between sheets of parchment to prevent sticking.
- For the dipping sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside at room temperature until needed.
- To cook: Heat 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet or griddle (I used my underutilized paella pan to great success) over medium-high heat until shimmering and carefully slip pancake into the hot oil.
- Cook, shaking the pan gently, until first side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Carefully flip with a spatula or tongs and continue to cook, shaking pan gently, until the second side is even golden brown, about 2 minutes longer.
- Transfer to a cutting board, season with salt and cut into 6-8 wedges. Serve immediately with sauce for dipping.
- Repeat with the remaining pancake(s).