Liddie’s Traditional New Mexican Dishes: Blue Corn Piñon Pancakes With Apricots

Blue corn piñon pancakes. Photo by Liddie Martinez

By LIDDIE MARTINEZ
Española Valley

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my first experiences in Los Alamos. My first memory on the Hill is a Saturday morning in the early 1970s, I was about 5 years old. My mother worked as a housekeeper for Mr. & Mrs. Atkins and would sometimes bring my sister and me with her on a Saturday when she made a special trip to do Mrs. Atkins’ hair.

While she was busy with the hair do, my sister and I hung out in the kitchen with Mr. Atkins. He was a master at making dollar-sized pancakes, the only item on the menu when we came to visit. He was an incredibly kind man who always enjoyed our visits and made us feel welcomed. We’d sit tall on bar stools at his breakfast nook and watch him mix his magic.

Preparing and sharing food in northern New Mexico has always been a symbol of love and friendship.

When someone prepares a meal for you, they are extending a hand and welcoming you into their space, both the space in their home and the space in their heart. I think of the Atkins often. They are the first people I met who were not related to me and lived outside of my community.

That experience left a soft spot in my heart for Los Alamos because, to me, they represented all that I knew about this community at that tender age. They welcomed me into their home, always prepared and shared a meal with me and later, when I was older, trusted me to care for their beloved pet, a shaggy dog named Topsy, when they were away on vacation.

So, in their honor, today I will share a pancake recipe with you. It is not the same recipe Bob Atkins prepared but they will be the same size. Blue corn piñon pancakes are much better as dollar-sized bites because pinon is very fragile; you don’t want to overexpose it to high heat. Smaller pancakes cook quickly and will toast the nuts just enough to give an interesting texture and nutty flavor without burning them. Watch your griddle and don’t let it get too hot.

I like to eat these with an apricot and piñon jam that is super easy to make and gives the dish a color blast that is pleasing to the eye as well as the palate, but maple syrup or applesauce are also delicious toppings, if apricots are not on hand.

Apricot Piñon Jam

  • 2 cups apricots, pitted (frozen is okay)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup orange juice
  • 2 tsps. almond extract
  • ½ cup piñon nuts, shelled

Combine apricots, sugar, juice and extract in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat stirring occasionally. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and watch carefully as it cooks down and thickens. Add piñon near the end. Try to keep the shape of the fruit intact, if possible, as presentation will be enhanced.

Blue Corn Piñon Pancakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup blue corn meal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsps. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsps. melted butter (cooled)
  • 1 ¼ cups cold milk
  • ½ cup piñon nuts, shelled

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl w/ spout. Add egg, butter and milk and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix.

Heat griddle lightly coated with cooking spray to medium-high. Place one tablespoon of piñon nuts on griddle and gently pour batter over to cover, keeping size down. Sprinkle batter with additional piñon nuts and flip cake to cook evenly on both sides. Be mindful of heat settings as nuts will burn quickly on high heat.

Serve with apricot and piñon jam or topping of your choice.

Makes 4-6 servings.