Saturday, July 03, 2010

World Cup Buffet: Pannekoek mit Aple (NED - the Netherlands)

Long-time readers may remember that I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, to experience the multi-ethnic cuisine of Holland's largest city. I noticed delicious foods from Indonesia, Suriname, Italy, Ireland, India, Argentina - and a mixed boat itself of Dutch cuisine. While the hutspot in our hotel was, um, something to be desired, I had some good pancakes from a little restaurant in Den Haag, delectable stroopwaffels from the Albert Heijn supermarket, and more nasi goreng than ik kan schudden een stok bij.

Although I'm more familiar with Dutch cuisine than Brazilian, I can find another time to better familiarize myself with the foods of Brazil, after the Netherlands' shocking upset over a Brazilian team that came surprisingly unglued after the Dutch came back to tie up the game.

Country: The Netherlands (IOC/FIFA Abbreviation: NED)
Nickname of National team: De Oranje (Dutch, "The Orange")
Number of World Cups they have appeared in: 9
Highest finish: final game (1974, 1978)
Common foods: pancakes, lots of meat (particularly beef), cheeses out the wazoo, Indonesian and Surinamese offerings, vlaamse frites
Number of Dutch restaurants in the Baltimore area: 0 (the Dutch Kitchen in Cockeysville is Pennsylvania Dutch - that is, Amish/German - and not Dutch at all)
Number of Dutch restaurants in the Washington area: 0, but again, there are quite a few German and Penna. Dutch markets around, which are your best bet for finding Dutch foods.

Pancakes in the Netherlands are a bit different than the ones here in the US. Whereas we like 'em fluffy and thick, the Dutch prefer theirs larger and more crepe-like. And again, a pancake here is pretty much a sweet breakfast offering. In the Netherlands, pancakes can be served any way - sweet, savory, plain, chock full of lots of stuff - and at any time. For a typical pancake with syrup, the most similar to what we'd find in the US, the syrup is less sweet, thicker and darker than the high fructose crap we generally prefer here. I brought a box of pancake mix and a bottle of pancake syrup back with me from the Netherlands after I went. The mix is still in my fridge waiting to be used. The syrup is sitting in my pantry waiting for me to use the pancake mix. Or at least they were until Saturday, when I found out that a box mix actually stays pretty fresh if left unopened in the refrigerator for - yes - two years.

The instructions and ingredients on the side of the Albert Heijn brand box of pannenkoek mix were in Dutch. Sadly I could not remember enough Dutch to muddle through the recipe. Thankfully I had Google Translate on tap to give me a pretty accurate translation. The one befuddling thing was the liquid measurements, which were in deciliters. It seemed that 8 deciliters (roughly 3 1/3 cups) was a bit much, but it turned out to be just right for this box mix.

Just take the box mix, 2 eggs and half the milk, mix it together until smooth. Add the rest of the milk and continue to stir. Then take a knob of butter and melt it in a pan, and pour the batter in the pan, turning it until it covers the entire bottom. Cook a minute, and flip over the pancake when ready and cook for one more minute. Serve with syrup. I brought some Dutch-style syrup back with me, since ours is so sweet. The closest thing you should use to get the full-on Dutch experience would be molasses, but you can use many other things as well. I made one pancake with thin apple slices:

I just cooked it a little bit longer after flipping it. They also recommend, as translated from the side of the box: "...ham, salami, cheese or fruit, such as raisins, cherries, apple, banana or pineapples. Serve the pancakes with white and brown (caster) sugar, jam, syrup, honey, ice cream, butter or cream." Again, these are breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner or dessert pancakes. Do what you will with them. I have enough batter that I might just freeze the rest to use for later. One 400 gram box makes about 6 large pancakes.

And so ends the first dish for our four World Cup semifinalists. The Netherlands will go on to face Uruguay next, and a typical Uruguayan meal will not exactly feature pancakes. And since the other South American teams were all knocked out, Uruguay's cuisine will have to represent.