I LOVE New York, and a big part of this has to do with the food. There are obviously lots of great restaurants, but that’s not really what I’m thinking about. It’s the diners, the hot dog stands, the dollar slices of pizza and the local institutions that really get me excited.
A couple of years ago whilst planning a trip to the apple, a friend told me that I had to check out this guy called Kenny Shopsin’s place in the Lower East Side. I’d never heard of him, but after a bit of digging I discovered that he’s a bit of a local hero. The best way I can think of describing Kenny is that he’s a kind of gutter Heston Blumenthal. He’s become ‘famous’ for his innovative combinations of foods, but not in a molecular gastronomy way. More thinking laterally about whats really tasty. His menu lists over 900 items, which he creatively names; dishes include ‘Slutty Cakes’ and ‘Blisters On My Sisters’. He’s also well known for his slightly unpredicatable temprament and strict house rules that are supposed to have partly inspired the ‘Soup Nazi’ character from Seinfeld.
Needless to say, I HAD to pay him a visit, and I wasn’t disappointed. The man himself took out order, and luckily seemed to like the cut of our jib. I can’t remember what everyone else had, but I ate a pretty atomic plate of huevos rancheros, which were very tasty, and we shared a plate of the slightly random, but totally delicious mac & cheese pancakes. I know. They sound a bit rank, but trust me. Drenched in maple syrup, they are ridiculous. So in honour of them, here’s the recipe:
Peanut oil for the griddle
Butter for the griddle and for serving
3 cups of pancake batter (American style)
1 heaped copy of cooked macaroni – tossed with olive oil and warmed before using
1 heaped cup of grated mild cheddar cheese
Warm maple syrup
Prepare the griddle of frying pan and drop on the batter. When bubbles appear on the surface (after about 2 minutes) drop a tablespoon of macaroni onto each pancake and sprinkle with a thin layer of cheese. Use a thin spatula and flip the pancakes over. Turn the heat down to medium, and press the cakes down with the spatula. When the underside is golden (another two minutes), remove them from the pan and place on a plate, macaroni side up. Smother with maple syrup and devour.
I’ve just finished reading Kenny’s book, where I stole the recipe from, which is part philosophy part cookery book, and is an interesting read. As well as including a small selection of the hundreds of recipes on offer at his place, he charts the progress of his restaurant from a bodega in Greenwich Village to his new-ish home in the Essex Street Market, and how along the way he developed his own style, pallet and attitude to his customers.