My Mama’s pancakes

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the story: you go to the store, you buy milk, you use some for your coffee, maybe have a bowl of cereal, and in two weeks – voila – you have a quart of spoiled milk. The milk goes in the trash, and you are off to the store to repeat the cycle one more time.

I was raised with the idea that throwing food out is wasteful, so even when it spoils I feel bad throwing something out. After all, I could have planned better, bought less, had it in the front of the fridge so that it wouldn’t be forgotten, etc. With many foods, if it spoils, you have to throw it out, because, let’s face it – no matter how bad you feel about throwing it out, you will feel worse if you eat spoiled meat. Or moldy bread. Or slightly rotten vegetables. However, when it comes to dairy products, there are things that you can do with slightly spoiled dairy products, and in fact, things for which you would prefer slightly spoiled dairy products.

Now, to be clear, I am not talking about cottage cheese on which green mold has taken up residence, or milk in which you can see things floating, or anything that has gone off color or off shape. No rancid butter should be salvaged. However, that milk that’s sat in your fridge for three weeks is perfect for Russian pancakes called “oladyi”. If you don’t happen to have spoiled milk on hand, you can substitute buttermilk or plain yogurt. Making these pancakes with regular milk will not result in the fluffy, airy pancake, like the ones my mother makes.

My mother’s oladyi are a thing of beauty: an airy, light pancake, with just enough of a golden-brown crust to make you drool at the sight of them. Topped with a dollop of sour cream, they are a meal in themselves. On those special weekends when she feels like spoiling the family, she makes them in the morning for breakfast. When I called her a few weeks ago asking her for the recipe, she refused to give it to me, saying that they are unhealthy, and really, that I should just bring the milk over to her, and she would make something with it. I insisted (begged) that she share the recipe so I could try it out. She pointed out that dough fried in oil is really bad for you. Eventually she gave in. Here is her recipe:

2 cups of milk

5 very full tablespoons of flour

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

pinch of salt

1-2 tablespoons of sugar

oil for frying

Whisk everything together. You should have a batter that is thick, but not a paste, something like the consistency of a thick yogurt.

Heat up a few table spoons of oil in a pan. Carefully ladle the batter on the pan, about a half a table spoon each. Let fry until bubbles form, then flip and let fry another minute or so.

Drain on paper towels and enjoy with sour cream or jam.

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