When Gustavo and I spent six weeks with his family in Brazil, one of the highlights was the chance to eat his mom’s amazing food. Something I didn’t know before talking to Gustavo is that the south of Brazil has an extraordinary amount of German influence. This was definitely present in his mom’s cooking, along with distinctively Brazilian ingredients and dishes too.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the origin story of this dish is—but I love this use of lettuce! I thought there was a translation misunderstanding the first time I heard about lettuce pancakes, but sure enough, that’s exactly what they are.
Despite being pancakes, these are definitely savory, not something you should combine with maple syrup and fruit. With that said, go ahead and play with the filling! This one combines mushrooms for their rich flavor with cassava root as a little tribute to Brazilian cuisine. These pancakes also work well with bright, acidic tomato-based fillings and sauces, so I’d recommend that as a starting point for playing with the dish.
Lettuce Pancakes with Mushrooms and Cassava
- 3 cups roughly chopped lettuce (lightly packed)
- 3 cups water
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 10 ounces baby bella or cremini mushrooms
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 cups small diced cassava root (core stem removed)
- mushrooms for garnish/finish (optional, or substitute something else you prefer)
Make the lettuce pancake batter:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the 3 cups of lettuce, 3 cups of water, 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
- Whisk the 2 cups of flour into the mixture. The texture should be as runny as typical pancake batter; add a little water or flour if necessary to reach this texture. Set aside while you work on the next steps.
Prepare the mushroom cream sauce:
- Remove the stems of the 10 ounces of cremini/baby bella from the caps. Set the caps aside for now, and finely chop the stems.
- Mince the 3 garlic cloves. Core and cube the tomato (no need to peel it).
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan. Sauté the garlic briefly, then add the tomato and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have softened and begun to release their water.
- Add the finely chopped mushroom stems to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for several more minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two, then transfer into a deep bowl. Add the 1 1/2 cups of cream, and use the immersion blender to blend the mixture until it forms a fairly smooth sauce. Add salt to taste.
Prepare the mushroom and cassava filling:
- Halve and slice the mushroom caps. Place into a medium-sized bowl.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the 2 cups of diced cassava and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. The cassava pieces should be a little crispy on the outside with some golden-brown edges, and the inside should be soft.
- Put the cooked cassava into the bowl with the mushroom cap slices, then add half of the sauce. Mix well to combine.
Make, stuff, and bake the pancakes:
- Pour half of the remaining sauce (so 1/4 of the original amount) into a 9×13” glass baking dish, and spread out into an even thin layer.
- Heat a lightly oiled pan on medium-low heat. Ladle enough lettuce pancake batter into it to make a 6” round pancake. Cook like a typical pancake, flipping once the top has turned dark green instead of light green.
- NOTE: if the first pancake is too thick, add more water. If it’s too thin and tears easily, add a little more flour. This recipe has some wiggle room, so you can make several imperfect test pancakes and still have enough to finish the dish.
- Once you have a pancake, transfer it onto a plate. Ladle the next batch of batter into the hot pan, then put about 1/4 cup of filling onto the first pancake. Roll, and transfer (seam side down) into the sauced baking pan.
- By the time your pancake is stuffed and in the baking dish, the one in the pan should be ready to flip. Continue making and stuffing pancakes until the baking dish is full. You should be able to fit 10-12 rolls depending on how large you make them.
- Top the rolls with the remaining sauce. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve the rolls, optionally garnishing with toppings of your choice. (I used a mixture of beech and enoki mushrooms simply and lightly sautéed with butter and salt.)