most of the time, i am happy to eat healthily. fruits, vegs, home made everything, only the good stuff. and then, there is the urge to indulge. when we were in france, we lived off fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, cherries, peaches, artichokes, herbs and salads. and then, there was this: kaiserschmarrn*. on a random afternoon, we went into the kitchen and whipped it up** and ate it in the sun afterwards. we did have some peaches and apricots*** on the side – i feel like having to mention. maybe it balanced out the rest of the rather guilty pleasure that is kaiserschmarrn – but we don’t care if it hasn’t, either. because this fluffy, pancake like, typically austrian ‘mehlspeisen’ (flour dish) is worth every bite.
* sorry, folks, at first, i really wanted to come up with a proper translation for ‘kaiserschmarrn’. but for once i really believe in leaving it authentic. because this has got to be featured in its austrian pureness and perfection. you could, perhaps, call it ‘deconstructed pancakes’, and it would be close enough to what it actually is. and it would sound pretty cool and stylish and modern. but… that’s the problem: kaiserschmarrn is something so traditional and old-fashioned, it wouldn’t do the dish justice… because, you have to know that about kaiserschmarrn: it was the emperor of austria, franz josef’s, favorite dish, in fact. it was named after him, even. so, you see, you can not translate this. it would be a disgrace. literally, though, it translates to ’emperor’s nonsense’. fun fact, right?
** we did this so many times throughout my childhood… often times, the austrian aunt**** took care of it. and it was almost like a ritual. excitement would rise among us children. we were at least 4 kids (my two neighbour girlfriends, aline and nathalie – both blond as well, same age, we were sporting the same dresses, too – plus me and my brother). and we would sit there in the kitchen impatiently, feet dangling in the air, with ruched socks on (not my brother), tooth missing in the front, high ponytails whipping from side to side, waiting. she taught us a song, the aunt, which is a waiting-for-the-food kind of song. it goes exactly like this:
“wir haben hunger-hunger-hunger,
wo bleibt der kuchen-kuchen-kuchen,
bleibt der kuchen-kuchen-kuchen,
bleibt der kuchen-kuchen-kuchen,
bleibt die wurst?”
“we are hungry-hungry-hungry,
where is the cake-cake-cake,
is the cake-cake-cake,
is the cake-cake-cake,
is the sausage?”
of course, it doesn’t really rime in english… too bad! but then again, you get the picture, right? it was so worth sharing this, i think. why have i never thought of sharing this before? it’s sort of like my childhood mantra! so, you see now, i was kind of destined, imprinted to become a foodie. i never had a chance! duh, if only my bikini figure vision knew that… say goodbye to your vision of a perfectly toned body, forever! you’re a foodie, for god’s sake! eat, mangia, mangia! another thing i heard, oftentimes, as a kid, by both my italian speaking mom and their italian speaking friends, more often than not.
so, back to the kaiserschmarrn-waiting-scene: while we were singing, banging our forks and knives on the table while we did, the aunt would always insist on the kaiserschmarrn being served freshly and hot, which meant that we ate tiny batch after tiny batch, served onto the plates, freshly out of the pan. it was dusted with sugar, pouf! something that felt like fairy dust. it was always like magic, kaiserschmarrn time.
so, now you know, this really is my childhood defined, pretty much. what it looks like, what it smells like, what it sounds like – and, most importantly, what it tastes like. oh, sweet memories. let’s travel back in time?
*** normally, you would serve ‘zwetschgenröster’ (plum compote with a sort of crumble on top) on the side! vital, without any exception. but we paid homage to the aunt’s way of cooking, often times before, time and time again, and we still do. but sometimes, a nice little twist just feels a tiny bit cheeky. guilt included, i admit.
ps: a note on the not-so-eternally-pretty, mismatching plates, maybe? you can totally make this and put it in a nice bowl (i mean the ugly one with the colored stripes around it, ahem), of course. it’s not that we love the 80s chic (we don’t, i swear), it’s simply what we have in my family’s home in france. but whatever bowl or plates you use, i think it’s safe to say no one will really pay attention to the plates, anyway.
1/4 liter (1 cup) milk 3 egg (yolks and whites separated) pinch salt 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar 200 g flour 5 tbsp. heavy cream (not whipped) 1 tsp. lemon zest, grated (from organic lemon) 3 tbsp. butter, for frying more confectioners’ sugar, for dusting directions: combine the milk, egg yolks, salt, sugar and cream. sieve in the flour. whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. fold into the batter. let sit for about 30 minutes, cover with foil, in the fridge. heat a large frying pan, let the butter melt in it. then pour a large soup-ladle full of the batter into the pan. it should be about 1cm thick; a bit like a thick pancake. let sit for a minute or two, until the top looks bubbly and the sides begin to come off from the side of the pan. flip over and fry for a few seconds. now, while the center of the pancake is still smooth and liquid-ey but not too much, begin to tear apart bite-sized chunks with a spatula or a ladle. keep on frying until all parts are equally done / golden-brown. shortly before removing from pan, add a bit of the confectioners’ sugar to the pan and stir to combine. this is a super trick, as it will render the kaiserschmarrn nicely caramelized and creamy textured from the outside, and prevents it from turning too dry immediately. ladle onto a plate, and serve, dusted with confectioners’ sugar and a fruity compote on the side.
ingredients for a peach-apricot compote: 2 white peaches, halved 6 apricots, halved 1 vanilla bean, split & beans extracted 3 tbsp. sugar 1/2 cup orange juice
directions for compote: in a large saucepan, heat the sugar until it’s caramelized. when dark, deglaze with the orange juice. add the vanilla seeds and bean and the fruit. cook for about 5-10 minutes, bringing to a boil once. turn off the heat and let cool.