Friday, December 18, 2009

Kansas Travel: Pancakes in Liberal

A mural painted on the outside of the City Hall, in Liberal, Kansas, depicts two women running down opposite roads that meet at a 'Y,' as they each carry a skillet. Painted by renowned muralist, Stan Herd, it is a daily reminder of an annual event that has occurred here for more than 60 years.

International Pancake Day began when Liberal residents challenged residents of Olney, England, at a race that began there in 1445. An Olney woman, who was using up the last cooking fat in her house before Lent began (use of the fat was prohibited during the Lenten season), scurried out of her kitchen with skillet and pancake in hand so she wouldn't miss the church service that immediately preceded Lent. She left in such a hurry that she still wore her apron and a headscarf - the latter required for women attending church.

The next year, the women of Olney launched a race in which they each tried to reach church first while carrying and flipping a pancake and, of course, wearing aprons and headscarves. Today, women in the two towns race simultaneously and Liberal's four-day event also includes pancake eating and cooking contests, a parade, English High Tea and other races.

Pancakes have become an integral part of Liberal's culture, and griddle cake lovers have flocked to The Pancake House, on Pancake Boulevard, for more than three decades.

This homey spot offers hearty food at great prices, such as this breakfast of strawberry pancakes accompanied by Canadian bacon, hash browns, a fried egg and coffee, plus an gargantuan helping of whipped cream. Hunters, ranchers, travelers, social workers and families all enjoy breakfast here. Adventurous diners may try chocolate chip or butterscotch pancakes and berry syrups too - or waffles or crepes.

The restaurant also serves sandwiches and a wide variety of entrees. But in a place that serves legendary breakfasts, why would you order anything else?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Orange Cinnamon Bread

According to the Random House dictionary, tradition is "the handing down of beliefs, legends and customs from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." One Christmas tradition for the family in which I grew up was to have bake-your-own packaged orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The scent of these rolls has always meant Christmas to me, and to our now-20-something daughters.

But there's more than one way to enjoy the luscious combination of orange and cinnamon in a breakfast treat. I developed this recipe before my daughters were born and then sold the bread to a small local restaurant for more than two years.

In 1998, a version appeared in the local cookbook, This Place Called Home, A Kansas City Cookbook. I've recently decreased the amount of sugar from my original recipe and substituted whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose flour. The decreased sugar also seems to help compensate for the slightly 'heavier' consistency of whole wheat pastry flour.

This Christmas, I will offer the bread as an orange-cinnamon alternative. Will my family accept it as a substitute for the packaged rolls that they know and love? Only taste will tell. I'll add an extra half teaspoon of cinnamon and also may add the filling that the cookbook authors suggested (see below) or drizzle a bit of icing on top.

In the meantime, ENJOY this 'traditional' recipe during your own holiday celebrations.

Orange Cinnamon Bread
Makes 8-10 slices

6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup + 1/4 cup sugar (VOE - when printed in a local cookbook, this recipe featured 1 cup +
                                                                                                                                  1/3 cup sugar)
2 eggs, beaten
1 orange rind, grated

1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (VOE - the cookbook recipe used all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or light sour cream)
juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan. Cream together butter and 3/4 cup sugar. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and then add to butter/sugar mixture, combining well. Add orange rind and yogurt and stir to combine completely.

Pour batter into pan and bake 1-1 1/4 hours, until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack. While the loaf bakes, combine juice of one orange and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour syrup over hot loaf. Cool completely before removing from pan. Keep refrigerated.
filling suggested in cookbook:

Combine 6 ounces of cream cheese with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon grated orange zest. Pour two thirds of the batter in the prepared pan, top with the filling, then top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl with a knife. Bake as directed until bread is lightly brown and firm to the touch.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pittsburgh's Primanti Bros.

There's more than one Primanti Bros. restaurant in the Pittsburgh, PA area. But for a true taste of this legendary joint, belly up to the wood-topped counter at their original location, in 'the Burgh's' equally legendary Strip District - several downtown blocks packed with longtime food vendors, wholesalers, and restaurants. A wall-spanning mural just inside the front entrance features caricatures of local celebrities from Mr. Rogers to Pittsburgh Pirate, Roberto Clemente. You can also grab a booth in the back room and chow down.
In 2007, the James Beard Awards declared the Primanti Bros. signature sandwich - which originated in the 1930s - an ‘American Classic.'  This hefty combo starts with customer’s choice of meat, from split and flattened kolbassi (kielbasa) to a huge pile of turkey or corned beef, and then adds melted cheese, a mountain of fries with some nicely browned skin, a mound of vinegar-based, coleslaw, and bright red tomato, layered between thick slices of Italian bread. Even the breakfast special has the same toppings.

Sweet and savory, mellow and tangy, soft and crunchy, Primanti Bros. sandwiches come wrapped in waxed paper just as they always have. Visitors who aren't in the mood for a sandwich might try Smallman Street Fries, another hearty meal served on a bed of chili with just the right heat, smothered with melted cheese, tiny bacon bits, and a large dollop of sour cream.

For a side of history with your sandwich, stop by Primanti Bros. in The Strip. Just don’t ask for coleslaw on the side.