Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Versions of Blue Cornmeal Pancakes.

Even though we (four of us in total) all had an extremely disappointing dinner at the Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, we were all willing to go back and try the breakfast, especially their "renowned" Blue Corn Pancakes.  However, the owner, Andrea Martin (aka Andrea C. on Yelp), attacked each one of us that wrote up a review on Yelp, Urbanspoon (now Zomato) and Trip Advisor; saying we came "at a bad time", or that it was some sort of conspiracy against them. We are not gluttons for punishment, and being abused by a business owner is definitely not on our to-do list!!!

Since I am interested in the cultural cuisines of the Southwest, it's no wonder that I own cookbooks on Southwestern, Mexican and Native American recipes.  In fact, I just purchased four new cookbooks; one on Arizona, two on Native American, one on Utah Pioneers; my friend Amy also gave me a cookbook on Utah, so five total new books!

Not going for those pancakes at that overly pretentious restaurant, so the only other course was to get out the Native cookbooks and make my own from scratch.  Blue corn, now this is something I’ve not seen before.  Oh yes, in the fall putting up dried cornstalks and ears of multicolored Indian corn was a tradition, but blue corn?  Thumbing through my cookbooks, not only did I find several recipes, but knowledge on the grinding process itself.  No, this isn’t something I’m going to try; that’s what Blue Mountain Meats here in Monticello is for, to provide me with my needs, like blue corn flour.  Doesn’t mean I won’t be sharing the information with you though. 

The first book I used for my experimenting was “Hopi Cookery” by Juanita Tiger Kavena; “Blue Cornmeal Hotcakes”, page 19.  She explains there are two methods of drying corn in the Hopi culture; one is simply stacking the ears on shelves, in a dry area, occasionally turning them until all the moisture is drawn out from the kernels.  The kernels are removed and processed using traditional grinding stones.  The second method is to bake the corn on the cobs in a mud enclosed ground oven which keeps the steam inside, producing sweeter corn.  The steamed cobs are hung to dry; the kernels eventually ground whether as flour, or coarser texture for various recipes.

Blue Cornmeal Hotcakes

1 cup blue cornmeal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (or ¼ cup powdered plus 1+1/4 cups water)


In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including powdered milk if using it); stir.


Add shortening, eggs (water if using); mix well.

Drop by spoonful on lightly greased griddle; turning once as cakes brown.

Makes 12 three inch pancakes.

A look inside.

The batter is thin and runny, much like a crepe batter; I was worried I’d not followed the directions or ingredient amounts correctly.  However, my husband and I devoured these pancakes; thin, light, crispy edges with a slight chewiness; minimal grainy texture, and they melted in the mouth.  The corn flavor was not strong, definitely delicious with the added flavors of butter, maple syrup or wild huckleberry syrup.  Oh, these pancakes didn't make us feel blue at all; the opposite, very happy!

My next trial recipe came from “Healthy Traditions: Recipes of Our Ancestors” by Janice Goodwin and Judy Hall; it included the use of all-purpose white flour and comes from the Navajo Nation.  Now my friend down in Monument Valley related to me that “ashes” may be mixed in with the blue corn flour and is related to the time of the “Long Walks”.


Pancake/Griddle Cake


2 ½ cups blue cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
½ cup white enriched flour
1 cup water
1+½ cup canned milk
1 tsp. baking powder



Mix the blue cornmeal, salt, baking powder together in a large bowl.


Mix water and milk together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix together but don’t over mix.


Grease a large skillet and heat. Pour batter on skillet to make a very thin pancake; cook until brown on both sides.


Makes 10 pancakes


This batter is thicker than the Hopi recipe, much like any traditional pancake recipe; the pancakes were thicker, dense, took longer to brown on both sides.  The taste of the white flour was strong and we simply missed the light flavor of the blue corn.  Comparing the two styles, we could definitely say that the Hopi won this round of the recipe challenge., so will be using that recipe whenever I make blue corn pancakes. 

Variety, experimenting with recipes and food items from other cultures; this is what makes cooking an adventure! 

Mary Cokenour