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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Potato Pancakes (or Latkes)

Finished breakfast: latkes with sour cream, challah
toast (thanks Amy!) and a cheese omelette!
Anyone that knows me knows about my potato fetish - give them to me in just about ANY fashion and I'm happy. If that fashion happens to have been fried, has onions and I can add sour cream to it, that simply adds to my happy factor!

This recipe has all the above and this morning I was a happy camper indeed. (Well, I really wasn't camping; just an expression, but I WAS a very happy cook!)

We never had potato pancakes growing up; plenty of fried potatoes (what they call home fries here in New England) but never potato pancakes.  I didn't try them until I was in my thirties, and then the ones I had weren't very good. They were the frozen ones at a cheap diner somewhere so I didn't try them again until three or four years ago. THAT time I had good ones and I was hooked. I tried many times to replicate them at home and they always came out too starchy or too "thick" - more like a blob of potatoes than what I had come to know and love.

I had noticed the same thing anytime I tried to make hash browns (another favorite and not really that different than potato pancakes). A couple of years ago I stumbled across an easy trick to make your hash browns MUCH better (and lighter!). After shredding them, simply squeeze the excess water out of the potatoes. If you do that, they will improve immeasurably.

Last night while I was trying to fall asleep I was thinking about surprising my wife with breakfast this morning (I'm strange) and thinking about making her hash browns. I had one of those odd little leaps in my brain and suddenly thought that I could apply the same principles (removing as much water as possible) to potato pancakes. It made a lot of sense to me (though admittedly, thinking about it when I was trying to sleep did NOT make a lot of sense). Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well because I kept thinking about how good they would be if it worked. Lucky for me (and now you!) it did and I'm going to tell you exactly how I did it if you care to follow along. If you do, you'll be rewarded with some of the best potato pancakes you've ever had - and if you don't, just maybe you learned something that will help the next time you decide to make hash browns.  (I do realize that this is probably common knowledge amongst many chefs, but it was a huge revelation to me!)

Ingredients

Makes enough to serve 3-4

2 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 small onion, peeled and diced fine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Olive oil and butter for frying

Optional

*garlic powder to taste (before cooking)
*ground rosemary to taste (before cooking)
applesauce (as a side to the latkes, after cooking)
sour cream (as a side to the latkes, after cooking)

*these are NOT traditional, but they ARE good!

Directions

  1. In a food processor or a box grater, shred the potato (you can shred the onion as well if you prefer rather than dicing it. I prefer to dice it - it seems to lead to less tears).
  2. Mix the onions with the shredded potato. 
    Shredded potatoes (before being squeezed!)
  3. Remove as much water as possible from the potato/onion mixture. There are a couple of different ways to do this. If you have cheesecloth available, put a handful at a time into the cheesecloth, wrap it tightly and squeeze as much water as you can out of it and transfer to a bowl. If you don't have any cheesecloth, a messier (but just as effective) way to do it is to simply grab a handful at a time and squeeze it with your bare hands until you remove as much water as you can.
  4. Repeat this process until you've squeezed all of the potato/onion mixture.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, egg, salt and pepper together and optional ingredients if you're using them. 
  6. Stir in the potato/onion mixture until all pieces are evenly coated.
  7. In a medium skillet (cast iron is perfect for this), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter until shimmering. Drop packed tablespoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of your spatula (you want them to be fairly thin so that they cook all the way through and are nice and crispy when done). 
    Potato/onion/egg/flour mixture before
    being spooned into the skillet.
  8. Cook them over medium high heat until the edges are just starting to brown, approx. 2 minutes; flip and cook until just starting to brown on the bottom, about 1 minute (if yours are a little thicker it will take more time). 
  9. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of your potato/onion mixture, adding more oil/butter to the skillet as needed.

NOTE: These are actually great to do ahead if you are trying to make them as a side for other things. Either keep them in the fridge for a day or two or just keep them in a warm oven while you're cooking everything else. If they've been in the refrigerator, reheat them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven until they crisp up again.

Latkes are traditionally served with sour cream or applesauce. Either way (or plain!) it's hard to go wrong.

Enjoy! And if you try them, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.



2 comments:

  1. I know what you'll be cooking me for breakfast the next time I see you!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anytime - just let me know when you're headed this way!

    ReplyDelete