“Oooooh, a Dutch baby!” I remarked to a table of friends while perusing the menu one recent Sunday morning in NoLIta’s De Maria.
“What in the world is a Dutch baby?” One asked, unable or unwilling to hide his skepticism.
As others blinked back at me, I realized that many in my brunch brigade had never heard of this sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, always satisfying breakfast, lunch, and dinner dish. It’s been popping up on menus around town for some time now, but most spots known to serve them a decade or so ago have gone on to the big restaurant depot in the sky (R.I.P. Resto, Roebling Tea Room, and Sullivan Bistro).
Luckily, there are at least a noteworthy three keeping this fluffy, comforting tradition alive in the 212:
I should have asked chef Camille Becerra to kindly explain the dish to my slightly incredulous friend, as she so succinctly put it to me: “It’s sort of like a pancake—it’s very visual and kind of puffy which makes it not too dense. It has the ability to be savory or sweet. Our version is a bit of both.” The savory elements of creamy croque mornay and ham are sandwiched between De Maria’s slightly sweeten batter and a finishing drizzle of chili honey, creating a delightful push-pull for your palate. Becerra also pointed out that it’s perfect for #hygge weather, adding, “It’s warming in the same way that pancakes are. It’s a bit decadent and rich, which makes it satisfying for the cold weather.” Sold.
Left Bank (pictured)
Here’s where you go if you want to scope out the versatility of the Dutch baby, as Left Bank currently has one that’s sweet, with roasted apples and pears, lemon, butter, and maple syrup; and one that’s a savory iteration, with rosemary ham and béchamel. It’s this versatility that helps make the Dutch baby so great, as chef Laurence Edelman explained: “It's a great vessel for fresh or stewed fruit, maple syrup, or butter and sugar. We also like to serve it with ham and cheese, kind of a croque monsieur. Come to think of it, why not add a fried egg and its a croque madame? Basically it's egg, flour, and milk in a blender for ten seconds. The trick is how you cook it; it takes 20 minutes.” So whichever version you choose, better order a cocktail for the worth-it wait.
“The whole objective of Prune is and always has been to cook the food of hunger and desire, strip it of the usual restaurant window dressing, and put it in front of you” reads the most recent two-star New York Times review of the East Village eatery. It’s this ethos that has made chef Gabrielle Hamilton the arguable reigning matriarch of downtown brunch, as she’s been serving Dutch babies for almost two decades’ worth of Sundays. Listed as a “Dutch Style Pancake,” its first inception was a version with blueberries and sour cream, but now is served with beautiful slices of pears baked right into the top of it while accompanied by warm maple syrup.