hot cakes

I live in northern Wisconsin. Which means I live with no less than six months of winter. Truly, if I had it my way, I think I’d hole up and hibernate with the neighborhood black bears. But, no. It’s become pretty clear that no one else up here on the south shore of Lake Superior seems to share my sentiments. In fact, sometimes the winter months feel as jam packed as summer. Go ahead. Burst my bubble. I’ll do my best to embrace it.

The craziness kicks off with Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving on the Madeline Island Ferry. And then there’s the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race – a 2 day dog filled affair, followed by the Blue Moon Ball with the 20-piece Big Woods Band. We barely have time to catch our breath before the Book Across the Bay – a 10k ski race across Superior’s iced over Chequmegon Bay. Frozen beach parties, trips across the ice road to the Island, maple sugaring, snowshoeing. It never ends.

But the winter event that I have come to appreciate most is the Drummond Bar Stool Races. This is exactly what it sounds like. Every year, dozens and dozens of grown adults gather on the third Saturday in February to race bar stools mounted onto skis down a man-made hill. Welcome to northern Wisconsin. Laugh if you will, but people take this event seriously. Listen carefully in the crowd and you’ll overhear people discussing snow conditions, wax choices, barstool aerodynamics, test runs, and pushing strategies.
Barstool teams consist of two people – a rider and a pusher. A stoplight at the top of the hill gives pushers the cue to propel their rider down the hill. It doesn’t take long to discern that the best strategy is to have a pusher with some weight and brawn paired with a slim built rider. Shortly into our first time spectating, my husband leaned over and said “If we ever compete – you’re riding.” It’s been five years, and we still haven’t had the gumption to register.
Notice how the pusher (in white) in the right hand lane has gone into an all-out belly slide? Notice how the rider in the right lane has caught some air?
This particular third Saturday in February was a gorgeous, sunny 28º F day. I might have even gotten my recommended daily allowance of vitamin D. For whatever reason though, the course and conditions boasted an unprecedented amount of crashes and ties. It was a highly entertaining race.
The barstool races have become a tradition for Mark and I, and we generally make a day of it – kicking things off with a hearty breakfast at the Delta Diner. The Delta Diner is an authentic roadside diner located in the heart of Delta, Wisconsin. Which means it is located in the heart of nowhere. But it is worth the trip. Really. Check your GPS. If you are within an hour (maybe even two) of Delta, make the detour.
Owner and cook Todd Bucher provides a gastronomical experience that is unforgettable. Breakfasts are out of this world – including a thoroughly refreshing Mexican Eggs Benny. Add a side of crunchy hash browns and you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.  Also offered up are traditional blue plate specials, old-fashioned  malts, fish-frys and specialty burgers. Todd and his wife Nina make a point of using as many local ingredients as they can find. Could it get any better?
One of the house specialties is thin, Norwegian style pancakes. And while it’s not officially on the menu, if you ask for “hot cakes” Todd will throw a handful of chopped jalapeños onto your cakes. Brilliant! I have dreams about these pancakes. The tang of hot meeting sweet is so amazingly perfect. Why have I not thought of this before?
And so it is that I have Todd to thank for my latest kitchen inspiration – Jalapeño Cornmeal Waffles. I took my favorite waffle recipe (clipped from somewhere long ago), substituted cornmeal for part of the flour and added a healthy handful of chopped jalepeños to the batter. And whoo-eee did they ever surpass my expectations! The cornmeal offers a perfect nutty crunch to the jalapeños. Winter does have it’s perks. And zingy waffles on a Wednesday night is one of them.
Jalepaño Cornmeal Waffles

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons cornstarch (for extra crunch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg, separated
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
handful of chopped jalapeños (fresh or pickled)

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Separate egg, and reserve the white in a small bowl. Mix the yolk with the rest of the wet ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup or bowl. Beat the egg white with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in sugar and continue to beat until glossy. Beat vanilla into the egg white.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just incorporated. Gently fold in egg white and jalapeños, but do not over mix!
Add batter to hot waffle iron and cook until golden brown and crisp.
Makes 2 full sized Belgian waffles.

3 Responses to “hot cakes”

  1. 1 Ella Thayer February 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I love your blogs Jill; they’re so great: entertaining, interesting and a learning experience. I may, however, never make kimchi, but I do love it and now it’s on my grocery list even though it’s expensive. At this age, I deny myself very little. Keep on, keeping on! Greetings to Mark. Did you really go to a coffee class?

  2. 2 GarlicPig February 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks Ella. And good for you – you deserve lots of kimchi! Yes, we really did go to coffee class – we have a very hip coffee shop in Bayfield that has ruined us forever.

  3. 3 Julie Buckles March 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Love the barstool shots but I will never, ever put a jalapeno in my waffles.

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