Thursday, February 4, 2010

Johnny Cakes: a Revolutionary War Breakfast

 johnny cake closeup
I was in a bookstore a while ago and bought a book called Felicity’s Cooking Studio.  This was greeted with much enthusiasm at home because we love Felicity Merriman (American Girl Doll character of the revolutionary war era), and are currently studying the revolutionary war.
At this point my children started (justifiably) asking me to cook things from the book.    The book includes such revolutionary war era standards as Chicken Pudding, Veal Balls, Whipped Syllabub, Raspberry Flummery and all kinds of yuck.  So I pulled out the old:
“Not today.”
They came back at me with:
“But when?”
“We’ll see”
I responded, noting that I have indeed turned into my mother.  Actually my mother was probably quicker to jump into these kinds of projects (cooking excepted) than I am.
Somehow, months later, my children finally bullied me into making something from the book for them.  We have just finished the excellent book Johnny Tremain, so revolutionary war fervor is high in our house.   The kids chose to make the Johnny Cakes, mostly because in the intervening months they had lost the cookie cutter that went to the cookie recipe.*  When I looked over the recipe I realized it was fried corn mush.  I told them that hoping they’d back off, but no such luck, they had the cookbook open and waiting for me when I woke up. 
I unenthusiastically made the Johnny cakes and when I tried one I was astonished that they were actually quite tasty.  They all got eaten. . . I’m still not making veal balls though. 
johnny cakes in the pan
Johnny Cakes
adapted from Felicity’s Cooking Studio
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt (kosher or 1/2 tsp. regular)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk
oil for frying

  1. Bring the water and the butter to boil.
  2. While that happens mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the boiling water and butter into the mixing bowl.  Add the milk and stir the batter until it is well mixed.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet (for historical accuracy) over medium-low heat.
  5. Dollop about 5 spoons of batter into the pan.  Flatten with a spatula if you need to.
  6. Cook until they are golden brown.
  7. Serve with syrup.

*and I use the term “recipe” loosely here it basically involved rolling out premade sugar cookie dough and cutting a cookie then dusting it with nutmeg and sugar – presumably the historical aspect.

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