The Pancake That Changed My Life

by paige on August 3, 2010

MOSTLY, I EAT summer corn with as little adornment as possible. I grill it, I boil it, add a bit of butter or extra virgin olive oil and flakey, crunchy sea salt, and–that’s it. I’m done. Toward the end of the season, when tenderness is waning, I concede to corn pudding, preferably served alongside grilled lobsters, a la Lora Zarubin. Where I live, in a rural area of the Hudson Valley, the corn (this year, in particular, it seems–maybe sister Margaret, my gardening guru, can explain why)–is so divine, sweet and crisp and exploding with juice, that anything else is gilding the lily.

That said, I don’t know that I’d have pursued my family’s most excellent adventure to date–our move from Hollywood to Green Acres (yes,we live on a farm, though our agricultural adventures are more amateur garden than agribusiness)–if it weren’t for a brilliant, unexpected and dead simple corn concoction served by a dear friend at least a dozen years ago.

Our friends had invited my husband and I for a long country weekend at their upstate retreat. It was one of those perfect lazy luxury experiences, with winey lunches, unexpected conversations, and lots of silent revelry, otherwise known as gazing at the view. We were so blissed out, and we wondered: Was it the company (excellent)? Was it the hospitality (decadent)? Was it that we were in a state of forced removal from the caged-lion pace of the day to say? Or was there something special in the way this particular place entered our souls and bodies? It would be years before we attempted, once and for all, to answer that question.

On our last morning, our host made us pancakes for breakfast. The maple syrup was local and there was plenty of bacon, both of which I knew wouldn’t increase my pleasure: I like pancakes just fine, but generally, unless we’re talking blini with caviar or Breton galettes de ble’ made with buckwheat flour, I can take ’em or leave ’em. But these? To the batter, our friend had added kernels stripped from three especially fresh, especially sweet ears of local August corn, bought late in the day before from his favorite farm stand. Those pancakes, like the rest of that weekend, were magic. They summed up everything we loved about the casual, simple, ease of our farm country idyll.

Here’s the hitch: there’s no recipe. Make pancakes as you prefer. If I am going gluten-free, I use, oh the shame, a mix, Pamela’s; for regular, I usually make homemade from one of my cookbooks. It doesn’t much matter, though if your favorite pancake recipe includes sugar, you may want to reduce it or omit altogether, depending upon your tolerance for sweet.

For pancakes to serve four to six people, remove the kernels from two or three ears of corn, reserving the juice (I usually hold the ears on end in a shallow bowl and cut the kernels off with a sharp knife,which means that corn and juice all collect together in one lovely, summer yellow soup.) Stir kernels and liquid into the batter just before you ladle it onto the griddle, and see if you, too, find yourself transported to a glorious and peaceful place.

Who could blame you if you decide to move there?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey Ballis August 4, 2010 at 1:07 am

For more corn recipes, like Caramelized Corn with Mint, Corn and Bacon Souffle, Chilled Corn Soup and Sweet Corn Cupcakes, head over to

Winnie August 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

Wonderful story, and the pancakes sound yummy…

I made a corn and green zebra tomato salad in honor of Summer Fest…
I love corn and can’t wait to check out all the other recipes this week!

Kim August 4, 2010 at 10:43 am

Over at Flexitarian Foodie ( we’ve featured a bunch of corn dishes recently!

BBQ Corn:

Avocado-Corn Quinoa:

Pasta with corn and tomatoes:

Nothing’s better than fresh summer corn!! I have a great (and easy) corn chowder recipe coming up soon, too….

Ranjani August 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

Corn + pancakes? What a great idea!
I made two corn recipes this week:
Corn and tomato gratin:
Summer succotash:

Dahlia August 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I totally agree with you about this year’s corn: it does seem to be even better than previous years. Here’s my contribution to Summer Fest this week:

Corn Chowder

Melissa August 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm

My family has been making “corncakes” for years. They are such a summertime treat.

Enjoying being a part of the fun. This week at It’s The Way She…

I made Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Quesadillas

Sarah August 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

We’ve made corncakes too – but normally a bit savory and served with butter alongside dinner . . . YUM!

This time of year, I also can’t help but just eat corn straight off the cob most of the time, grilled or steamed, but if I do cook with it, my favorite recipes include:


Three Sisters Chili, and

Green Chile Chicken Tortilla Soup

A few have been on the blog for a while, but I couldn’t help but share them this week for SummerFest! Thank you for hosting!


Kristina August 4, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I feel the same way about tomatoes that you do about corn – a ripe heirloom tomato is so good as it is that it almost seems a shame to do anything to it. :)

Here’s my entry for this week:

My Persian Kitchen August 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

My contribution to the Summer Fest 2010 this week is super easy and quick to make!

tea_austen August 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I’m not the world’s biggest pancake fan (with a few exceptions), but I think you’ve got me sold on these corn cakes. As in, I might have to make them this weekend!

I’m hoping them come with a bucolic country place as a gift with purchase, because that would be lovely :-)

My contribution: farro corn salad with herbs and tomatoes. One of my favorite tastes of summer.

Terri August 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I am joining the SummerFest party!

Check out my Thai Shrimp & Corn Cakes:

Alison August 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I love your recipe! Here is my post for corn this week for Fresh Corn-Tomato and Basil

Trish August 4, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Best of luck on going gluten free. It can be a challenge, but if you feel better, it’s totally worth it.
I’ve made some Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salsa to celebrate Summer Fest. Gluten free and everything! :)

Cheryl Arkison August 5, 2010 at 12:28 am

You don’t have to cook the corn first? Love this idea, especially with the side of bacon and maple syrup!

margaret August 5, 2010 at 7:31 am

Welcome (in Paige’s behalf — she is on the road today!) to Trish, Alison, Sarah, Dahlia, Ranjani and Kim. Thanks to all for your tips and recipes — and encouragement.

Jennie August 5, 2010 at 10:14 am

I can’t wait to add some kernels to my next batter—imagine in a ricotta pancake too?
I’m throwing some sweet corn & lemon thyme ice cream into this mix this week, along with a gluten-free and creamless corn chowder!

Lana August 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm

You touched me so much with the “sisterly love” My sister is my best friend, even though we spent years fighting like crazy, being so close in age (16 months difference).

My father has a beautiful piece of land in Serbia which I adore and cannot wait for all the kids to leave for college to pick up the essentials and go! I am so ready, but I have to wait for several years:( So, I am envious of your experience.

I have never tried pancakes with fresh corn, but i’ll trust your word. I was raised on crepes, and American pancakes are a breakfast I make to appease the American half in my kids (and my Souther husband).

My contribution to Summer Fest is a story of the first love and simple grilled corn.

marla {family fresh cooking} August 6, 2010 at 9:16 am

Your weekend with friends sounds like so much fun! Those pancakes are kicked up with the texture and flavor of fresh corn. Smart idea your friend had :)

Here is my Strawberry, Roasted Corn & Avocado Salsa for Summer Fest:

caitlin August 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm

My husband and I just had two ears each the other day for a snack and could have gone for third!!

I wish I had a cooling, Mexican corn salsa, but here’s a warming potato-corn-kale chowder recipe I created that is perfectly in season here in chilly old England:

Amy (Minimally Invasive) August 8, 2010 at 4:00 am

A life-changer of a recipe — how can I resist? Now, if I can only get moving early enough in the morning to make these…

For this week’s theme, I have a couple of dishes to contribute — grilled corn with harissa:

and smoked corn chowder:

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