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Episode 6: Hit a home run with this formula for turning leftovers into pancakes (or waffles or fritters)
With all due respect to spring training and America's favorite pastime, here at The Bittman Project, we care more about leftovers than baseball. And our favorite batters all plop from wooden spoons.
The batter trick transforms bits and pieces of whatever whatnot you've got in your fridge into pancakes, waffles, or fritters. The formula works for virtually any cooked vegetables, grains, chicken, meat, or seafood and is super easy to adapt for different flavors — including a gluten-free, vegan variation that appears below the recipe.
It doesn't matter if the leftovers are grilled, roasted, steamed, or stir-fried; they can even be lightly sauced or generously seasoned. Just chop them into bite-size pieces and bind everything in a little batter. The main recipe starts with basic all-purpose flour, but you can substitute up to half of that with whole wheat or rice flours, or up to 1/4 cup with nut flour or potato- or cornstarch.
The cooking oil you choose depends on how the leftovers were originally cooked: If you've got a soy sauce-ginger-scallion-chile combo going — or something with miso, seaweed, or sesame — use a good-quality relatively neutral oil like grapeseed, sunflower, or safflower. For anything that was cooked with olive oil the first time, stick with that. And if butter was your original play, your choice. Just base your decision on whatever compliments the dominant flavors.
Crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside fried whatnot doesn't need much more than salt and pepper or perhaps a dollop of yogurt, sour cream, or salsa. Maybe a mayonnaise- or mustard-based sauce or a scattering of fresh chopped herbs. And in the off chance you have leftover leftovers, crumble them into rice or noodle bowls. Or just eat them straight from the fridge with a squeeze of lemon for a surprise home run.
Makes 2 to 4 servings, depending on what else you have with them
Time: 20 minutes
2 cups chopped cooked leftovers (vegetables, meat, fish, whatever)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper (more or less, depending on the seasoning of the leftovers)
Milk as needed
Olive or neutral vegetable oil for cooking
1. Heat the oven to 200°F. Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack and put it in the oven. Warm the leftovers gently in a skillet over medium heat or in the microwave on medium. You want everything fully tender and steaming slightly; it's okay if the vegetables are on the mushy side.
2. Whisk the eggs with a small splash of milk until no streaks remain. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and pepper. Whisk, adding just enough milk to make a thick batter that plops (not pours) from a spoon; it's okay if there are some small lumps. Fold in the whatnot. Add more milk a little bit at a time, depending on whether you want pancakes on the thick or thin side.
3. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium and add a thin film of oil. It shouldn't be quite as hot as when you make plain pancakes; the pan is ready when drops of water skittle across the surface and evaporate quickly. Spoon in the batter to shape pancakes of any size and thickness. Cook until the bottom of the pancakes are lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Then turn and repeat on the other side. (It's okay to smush them down with the back of a spatula to make them crisper.) Adjust the heat so the edges of the pancakes sizzle gently but the oil isn't smoking in the pan; the idea is to brown the outsides slowly enough to allow the inside to cook through and get a little fluffy.
4. To test the pancakes you can cut into one and peek. Or when you press down with your finger after turning, it will be firm rather than mushy or spongy. As the pancakes finish, transfer them to the prepared pan to keep warm until you finish with the remaining batter and are ready to eat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if you'd like and see the headnote for some serving ideas.
Whatnot Waffles. Follow the main recipe through Step 2, keeping the batter on the thick side (as shown for the pancakes in the accompanying video). In Step 3 heat a waffle iron on its medium setting and brush with a little of the oil. Spoon the batter into the iron, spreading it toward the edges with the back of a spoon. Cook until firm and no longer wet in the center, about 5 minutes depending on your waffle iron. As they finish, sprinkle with salt and pepper if you'd like, transfer them to the oven, and repeat with the remaining batter.
Whatnot Fritters. Follow the main recipe through Step 2, keeping the batter on the thick side (as shown for the pancakes in the accompanying video). In Step 3 put 2 inches of good-quality vegetable oil in a large pot and heat until the temperature is 350°F. (If you don't have a thermometer, watch the oil carefully to make sure it doesn't darken or smoke; it's ready when a pinch of batter floats to the top and the oil bubbles around it without burning.) Line a platter with towels. Carefully drop tablespoons of batter into the hot oil in batches to avoid crowding. Cook, turning them with a slotted spoon and adjusting the heat as necessary until they're browned and crisp on the outside and no longer wet inside, 3 to 5 minutes depending on their size. As they finish, drain them briefly on towels before transferring them to the prepared pan in the oven to keep warm. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving if you'd like.
Gluten-Free, Plant-Based Whatnot Pancakes, Waffles, or Fritters. Use chopped cooked vegetables, grains, nuts, tofu, or tempeh for the whatnot. Omit the egg and milk. Instead of the flour use 1 cup chickpea flour (also called besan). Put it in a large bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup oat milk or water. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes. After that, it should shake loose from a spoon thickly but easily. If not, add another tablespoon or two of liquid. Then whisk in the baking powder and salt and pepper and begin the recipe. You can skip Step 2 but everything else remains the same.
— Recipe developed by Kerri Conan