Last year I started a tradition: The Cookie Swap. It’s my favorite kind of holiday party. Girls only, bourbon spiked cocoa, a Holiday film, and of course, cookies. I screened my favorite Christmas movie ever: Christmas in Connecticut. If you’re a food blogger, like most of my guests were, Christmas in Connecticut is a must-watch film.
It follows the zany only-possible-in-the-40s storyline of Elizabeth Lane, the popular columnist for Smart Housekeeping Magazine. Imagine Martha before Martha. That’s her voice. Writing from her luxurious Connecticut country house, where she lives with her husband and new baby boy, Elizabeth Lane is all that a midcentury housewife can hope to be. Elegant, dignified, the arbiter of all things tasteful and proper – and she can cook. Asparagus in hollandaise, Strawberries Chantilly with Rum and Egg White, Breast of Guinea Hen in Madiera; Roast Goose Bernoise with Walnut Stuffing. She’s everything you’re not, but fantasize about being. We meet Elizabeth Lane as she’s writing her column from her desk.
From my living room window as I write…
The camera pans across a studio apartment.
…I can look out across the broad front lawns of our farm like a lovely picture postcard of wintry New England…
We cross a window looking out on a clothes wire, a frozen city beyond.
In my fireplace, the good cedar logs are burning and crackling.
The radiator starts noisily steaming.
I just stopped to go into my gleaming kitchen…
We see our writer, Elizabeth Lane, at her typewriter.
…to test the crumbly brown goodness of the toasted veal cutlets in my oven.
Elizabeth is a stylish 20-something bachelorette, with no cooking experience, but a hell of a lot of chutzpah. Barbara Stanwyck, who is as apt to pull a salty one-liner as she is to pull a gun in one of her movies, anchors this aggressively screwball film with her sardonic sense of humor and self awareness. Mr. Yardley, the magazine’s garrulous publisher, decides that Elizabeth Lane will host a Marine for Christmas dinner at her Connecticut home, with photos. This upends Elizabeth and her Editor, who scramble to get a house in Connecticut, a husband, a baby, and a Christmas dinner before Elizabeth’s true identity is found out. There’s a love story, mistaken identities, and “the old magoo.” It’s just too much fun.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Mr.Yardley begs Elizabeth to flip some of her famous pancakes for him. He’s been persistent, and she’s been secretly practicing, but only succeeding at sticking pancakes to the ceiling. It’s the moment of truth. She closes her eyes, and like a Christmas miracle, the pancake flips, and her identity is safe…for now!
I love the idea of a big, carbohydrate bonanza on Christmas morning, so I decided to make Elizabeth’s pancakes myself. I have discovered that I also need a lot of practice in the flipping department. The recipe is inspired by some of the sour milk recipes I’ve come across in my vintage cookbooks from the same time period as the film, so I used that sour flavor as the inspiration for these fluffy, delicious pancakes. These are so satisfying, and so fun.
For about a dozen 6-inch pancakes
2 1/2 cups whole milk, possibly more for thinning them out
2 teaspoons white vinegar
3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 cup blueberries, fresh or dry frozen
1 14-ounce can, sweetened condensed milk
salted butter, softened
Mix together the milk and vinegar, let it stand for 10 minutes, until the milk has curdled. Sift together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just formed together. The mixture should be a little on the thin side, like very heavy cream, so add more milk if you need to thin it out. For best results, cover the batter and keep in the fridge for two days, to let the batter get nice and sour.
Right before cooking, heat up your griddle or pan (cast iron is best) until ridiculously hot. Water shouldn’t just sizzle when you sprinkle it, it should dance around. If your griddle is seasoned, you don’t need to grease it. If you haven’t seasoned your pan, add a small amount of vegetable oil (coconut oil would be great too, because of its high smoke point) to coat the griddle, just before adding the pancakes.
Ladle a scoop of batter onto the griddle, then top with a few blueberries (about 5 or 6 to a pancake). Cook for about 2 minutes, until there are quite a few bubbles, then flip, and keep cooking (another 2 minutes). To serve, spread each pancake with a little butter as you build the stack. Shower the whole thing with powdered sugar, add a fake tree if you like, and then drizzle with sweetened condensed milk (or syrup). Enjoy hot!