It's a rainy day, and I've been slaving away over 16 batches of bread lined up to bake today. Since I'm hanging out so much in the kitchen, and since the flour will pretty much cover half the horizontal surfaces of the kitchen anyway, I've got a little treat lined up for between oven loadings and unloadings. But first I'm going to write a little on the primary ingredient of said treat: scallions.
I didn't grow any onions this year, so the various forms of onions are among the few items I've been buying from the store all along. Scallions are some of my favorite cooking ingredients, though they are quite pricey as produce goes. So I thought I would share a few tips concerning them.
Storage: I think most readers will have heard the tip about wrapping the bunch of scallions in a paper towel and then wetting it down before storing in a plastic bag in the fridge. This is a good tip, provided that the paper towel isn't soaking wet. Damp but not drenched will do better by the scallions. This will let the scallions keep for about three days in the produce bin, but they deteriorate rapidly no matter what you do. Have a specific plan to use them up before you buy scallions, or pull them from your garden.
Black belt frugality move: When you're ready to use up the last of the scallions, there's no need to throw away the paper towel. It never really got dirty, right? Hang it up to dry somewhere and later on you can use it to wipe up a spill.
Using them up: Lots of recipes call for either the white part or the green part of the scallion. And plenty of other recipes use whole scallions, but not an entire bunch. So what to do with the extras? There are lots of good things to do with them. The green parts make excellent garnishes for many dishes, especially those with eggs or potatoes. One of my favorite things to do with leftover scallion whites is to trim off the roots, cut the whites in half lengthwise, and then turn them into a gourmet salad ingredient. I separate the long layers of the whites and toss them in a skillet with a little bit of cooking oil. Over very low heat, I let them slowly caramelize until they are well browned and have transformed into crispy, oniony decadence. Put these in a green salad and watch as people fight to get more than their fair share in their salad serving!
So here's where the treat comes into play: scallion pancakes!
There are lots of versions of scallion pancakes. Some are leavened, some have egg, some are flat and greasy. The version I make is the flat and greasy type, and I gild the lily by loading them up with ginger and garlic as well. Here's what I do.
Start with a quantity of all purpose flour. I usually use 1 1/2 cups. Measure out however much flour you want to use and place it in a bowl with a generous pinch of salt. Add half a measure of boiling water. So, in my case, I add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir the flour and water around with a spoon. Avoid the temptation to start working the dough with your hands as you will probably burn yourself. The dough will look odd and lumpy and rough and uneven. That's okay, just make sure all the flour is absorbed into the dough. Take the dough out of the bowl, pour in a small dollop of cooking oil, and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn the dough to coat it with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.
Take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator. Finely slice a quantity of scallion greens. Mince a large clove of garlic very fine, and peel a 1" cube of ginger. Mince or grate the ginger cube. (The America's Test Kitchen has found that grating releases more flavor than mincing from an equal quantity of ginger.) Set each of these ingredients aside in separate containers.
Dust a board or countertop generously with flour. Roll out the dough to form a large circle, between 1/8" and 1/4" thick. Brush the dough lightly with cooking oil so that the entire surface is coated. Scatter in turn the minced garlic, the ginger, and the sliced scallions evenly over the surface of the dough.
Starting at the edge of the dough nearest to you, roll the dough and the seasoning ingredients up like a jelly roll. Then, beginning at one end of the log, roll it up like a spiral snail shell. Put this package back in the oiled bowl, turning it again to coat on all sides. Refrigerate the dough again for at least 1 hour.
Dust the board generously with flour again. Take out the dough and knead it gently for a few minutes, to distribute the ingredients and obliterate the layers. Form a roughly cylindrical log, about 2" in diameter, with the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut off a coin-shaped slice of the log and roll this out in a thin pancake, about 4"-5" in diameter.
Pan fry the pancake in cooking oil in a well seasoned skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Allow about 2 minutes per side. If the pancake domes up with steam underneath, poke a hole in the middle to let it escape so that the whole pancake cooks, rather than just the edges. Drain on pages torn from an old phone book. If you like your snacks very salty shake some salt on the pancake just as it comes from the pan, or if you prefer, dip in soy sauce. Serve whole or cut into wedges.
These are absolutely irresistible! One batch will make quite a few pancakes. The dough will keep in the fridge for two days. After that it begins to discolor, though there's nothing spoiled about it at that point. Better to keep any dough you don't plan to use up in the freezer though. You can cut it into chunks for quicker freezing if you plan to only make a few at a time. That makes this recipe a good way of salvaging food that would otherwise go to waste.
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