Food and Entertaining

Binging With Babish: Johnny Cakes From The Sopranos

Binging with Babish and are brought to you by Squarespace. Head there now to check out recipes from the show, kitchen equipment lists, my personal blog posts and more. Get 10% off your first Squarespace order with offer code BABISH. Whether you need a domain, website or online store, make your next move with Squarespace. “First time here, try the Johnny cakes.” “What’s that?” “Pancake made with white cornmeal, New England specialty.” “Okay. And give me some of them Jimmy Dean’s.” “Uh, our sausages are made in-house. I gotta warn ya, they’re addictive.” “They look good.” Hey, what’s up, guys? Welcome back to Binging with Babish, where this week we’re taking a look at the only loving and non-toxic relationship in the entirety of The Sopranos. That between Vito, and Johnny cakes. A romance that starts with white cornmeal, but wait. Johnny cakes also specifies that their sausages are made in-house, so we’re gonna do the same. We’re starting with about four pounds of nice fatty pork butt that we’re going to cut down into 1-inch cubes. If your pork isn’t fatty enough, you may supplement with a bit of fat back. And now we’ve got to prep the herbs and seasonings that make this breakfast sausage. We’re starting with a few teaspoons each of freshly chopped sage, thyme and rosemary. More sage than thyme or rosemary and then we’re going to season with salt and freshly ground pepper. You can kind of go easy on the seasonings to start because we can always adjust them later. I’m also going to add a tablespoon of dark brown sugar and maybe a 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup (this is New Hampshire we’re talkin’ about). We’re also gonna add a good shake of marjoram, and for a little bit of heat, a touch of Cayenne pepper and red pepper flake. That, plus a generous helping of freshly grated nutmeg and, if you want a little smoke in your sausage, add some smoked paprika. Mix everything together until homogeneous, then we’ve had our pork chilling in the freezer for about 15 minutes and now we’re gonna add it to the spice mixture, make sure it’s well incorporated and then it’s time to get to grinding. We’ve covered meat grinding in a number of episodes, so go check those out, but the one real secret to keep in mind here is to keep everything very, very cold. Now, I’ve gone for a very coarse grind for a more rustic breakfast sausage, and you could just stop here, you could form these into lovely little breakfast patties, fry ’em up, but I’m going to confront one of my lifelong fears today and case these. This is just for taste testing because this is the last opportunity to add additional seasonings as necessary. We’re gonna start by busting open a package of natural hog casings, which need the preservative salt washed off them and need to be soaked in warm water for 45 minutes, before suggestively threading them onto your sausage stuffer. Leave 6 or so inches dangling on the end and don’t tie it off, because, as you can see, some air needs to escape before any meat’s gonna come out. Now, at first, the sausage is gonna look weird and you’re gonna wonder why you bothered doing this, and if you should give up cooking altogether, but, as it is with most things, practice makes perfect and you’re gonna find yourself regulating how the meat comes out, feeling your hands work in concert like that of a sausage surgeon or a sausage concert pianist. Once you’ve got one big ol’ sausage it’s time to twist it into lengths. Find your desired lengths, pinch squeeze and turn. And now that we’ve got our lovely, albeit slightly misshapen breakfast sausage all ready to go, it’s time to shift our attention back to Johnny cakes. I am adding one cup of boiling water to one cup of white cornmeal, mixing together to form a paste and sort of precook the corn before slowly adding 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of room temperature milk. Stir gently and adjust as necessary with more milk until you get a sort of thick pancake batter and really that’s all there is to it. Well, now we’re gonna fry these guys up in bacon fat, because these little cakes are going to absorb a lot of the fat that you put in the pan, so why not go all out? I’m dolloping three pancake sized…dollops onto my preheated skillet, checking the bottoms and not flipping until they’ve turned a lovely golden brown. And taking great care to preserve the shape of the pancakes so as not to-ah Jesus, oh, no. Nope. Well, it’ll still be perfectly tasty, but I know which one of these is going at the bottom of the stack. Flip and cook for an additional three to four minutes (these guys take a little bit longer than pancakes to cook) before strategically stacking onto a warm plate. We’re gonna start with this little screw-up here, and then stack his perfect brothers right on top. Load up the plate with our homemade sausage (which I simply pan-fried), top the cakes with a bit of butter and, of course, some local maple syrup. Now, these breakfast sausages were an absolute slam dunk, I loved adding a little bit of that smoky paprika, but the big surprise here were the Johnny cakes. I thought the traditional New England recipe sounded pretty boring, but it turns out if you fry something in bacon fat and cover in syrup, it’s a shoe-in for the clean plate club. So, I just want to talk a little bit about designing my new website with Squarespace. They have this really intuitive easy-to-use platform that made it super easy and for somebody like me who’s never done web design ever, they have templates, they do domains, they have really good customer service, it’s really an all-in-one, one-stop shop for building a really slick website, and I was really happy with the way mine came out. 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