Well you just can't very well grow up in Rhode Island and not learn to make Johnny Cakes if you live anywhere near the Kenyon Grist Mill or the DavisFarm. This is the recipe that I have modified from a very traditional one. You need to have your oil sizzling hot for these to work. If you can make latkes, then you can get the hang of making these Johnny Cakes no matter what state you from....so I hope you will give them a try. They can be a bit tricky to get just right, but worth the effort. Native Americans made these originally with just plain water and ground flint corn. There is a delicate balance to how much liquid you want to add. A 1:1 ratio of cornmeal to water will yield an easier to cook cake, but not as delicate as you really want. The more experience you get making these, the more liquid you can add in, I have found. —Sagegreen
about 15 silver dollar sized cakes
white corn meal, artisan flint quality if at all possible
kosher salt (or half that amount if your corn meal has high sodium
muscovado or brown sugar, optional
Meyer lemon zest
cups of boiling water
buttermilk, 1 tbl. at a time, up to 1/4 cup
1 beaten egg, optional
grapeseed or canola oil (or of course bacon drippings or duck fat for a non-vegetarian alternative)
your favorite toppings-rote grutze, fresh ricotta, marscapone, sour cream, or a drizzle of warm chestnut honey or maple syrup
In This Recipe
Mix the corn meal, salt, optional sugar and zest in a bowl. Pour in the boiling water to make a thick gruel (but not cookie dough thick). Let sit a few minutes to thicken a bit more. Then stir in 1 tbl. buttermilk to start. Leave the consistency as thick as oatmeal; if you need to thin the batter further, add more buttermilk 1 tbl. at a time, but you shouldn't need more than 1/4 cup total. You can add 1 beaten egg, if you like, at this point for a more cake-like texture , but traditionally this is not done.
Heat a heavy allclad or cast iron-type pan, or griddle, with a generous amount of oil until you have a good sizzle.Then over medium high heat drop the batter by about a tablespoonful for each Johnny Cake. Don't crowd them. The oil should be deep enough to equal the height of the sides of the cakes. Cook about 4-5 minutes or so just until the edges turn golden brown and middle is almost cooked through. Carefully turn over and cook another few minutes or so. Make sure these really have cooked through before removing to drain on paper towels. Replenish the hot oil for additional batches. Serve with your favorite toppings. I suggest serving these with something sweet and something sour. For a savory version, a chiffonade of basil and fresh ricotta are great.