Dutch Babies are a crepe-like dish that can be filled with a variety of goodies
“The first Joe Beef cookbook changed forever what a cookbook could be. Anything that came after had to take it into account. Now, with this latest and even more magnificent beast, the rogue princes of Canadian cuisine and hospitality show us the way out of the numbing post-apocalyptic restaurant Hell of pretentiousness and mediocrity that threatens to engulf us all. It makes us believe that the future is shiny, bright, beautiful and delicious – and probably Québecois. This book will change your life.” – Anthony Bourdain’s endorsement of “Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse.”
I endorse Anthony’s endorsement. In fact, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Montreal chefs David McMillan and Fred Morin – “the rogue princes of Canadian cuisine” – co-wrote this heavy, glossy, coffee table-like book with Meredith Erickson. They called their dear friend Anthony Bourdain – a brilliant storyteller and world-famous host of the CNN series Parts Unknown – “Uncle Tony.” The pair appeared on two episodes: the Montreal one and the more recent Newfoundland episode. Sadly, Anthony died in France by suicide in June, 2018, several months before the book came out.
David says the best advice “Uncle Tony” ever gave him was: “Be kind, be nice, be sweet. Don’t be a shit person.” I’m taking this advice to heart. I considered Anthony Bourdain a mentor, a fearless free thinker and the best communicator in my field. I am trying to live by his credo. It’s sweet and simple but one rarely promoted by our culture.
I talked with David (listen to the compelling podcast – a link appears on this page) in his office above Joe Beef about the book’s title “Surviving the Apocalypse.” He admits that it’s a bit cheeky but has a serous side. Fred and he want to people to put down their phones and shut out the noise for a while. They cite untoward aspects of the world we live in: Instagram, obsession with the self, glorification of the superficial, climate change and lack of jobs. Sharing good food with others and learning how to live your own life are a couple of antidotes.
This is an important theme throughout the book. What’s more the stories, anecdotes and pictures are beautifully laid out. But of utmost importance to me are recipes – recipes that work – in any cookbook. And I tried several. They all worked, a couple with a little tweaking. Stand-outs are the Winter Pot-au-Feu (there’s also a summer version), Pumpkin Natas (Portuguese-inspired tarts), Tarte au Chou (I had to halve the amount of cabbage filling), Smoked Meat Bolognese (a bit expensive for the smoked meat but worth the price) and the versatile, easy and delicious Dutch Babies.
A bonus is when a recipe works with delectable results and it has a good story attached. Pumpkin Natas are a case in point. The story: “…that they were a way for Portuguese nuns to use leftover egg yolks after using the whites to starch their habits.”
The back-story for Dutch Babies is from years ago when David worked as a chef at a B.C. restaurant: “Today, I credit Sooke Harbour House as the restaurant that most affected the cooking I did and still kind of do: loose menu, market-driven, an emphasis on the positive mental health of staff.” The babies were served at breakfast and as dessert with everything from crab to cheese and herbs to berries. He adds: “Satisfying to cook and even better to eat.” I second that emotion. Here’s the recipe:
The book insists you use a cast-iron pan. I find this to be valid advice. I found it is best to chill the batter in the fridge for a short time – the Dutch Babies will puff up more that way. I shortened the baking time by 5 minutes. Top with whatever takes your fancy – cinnamon, maple syrup, flavoured yogurt, creme fraiche or ice cream and/or fresh berries.
⅔ cup whole milk
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
3 large eggs
3 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 450F. Place 8 or 10-inch skillet on the middle rack.
In blender or in a bowl using a whisk, combine all ingredients except butter. Remove skillet from oven and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Working quickly, add about a third of batter. Return to oven and bake about 10 minutes.
Makes 2 to 4 Dutch babies depending what size of skillet you use and how thick or thin you want the babies.