Potato Pancakes

IMG_0842There’s a family-run cafe in my home-town that I’ve been missing recently.  They serve up fabulous-size-of-your-face potato pancakes with a crispy exterior and creamy interior and I just miss them.  So I hunted down a few recipes.  The one I’m trying today is courtesy of Mark Bittman and he calls them Potato Nik.  When going through recipes, one thing I noticed was that some called for washing the starch off the potato (Epicurious, 5 Second Rule’s Giant Batch)  while others just removed the excess liquid (Hi AllRecipes, Classic EpiCurious, Another AllRecipes, ).  Hmm.  Reading through all these recipes informed me that you soak the potatoes so that they’ll brown slower.  This is important for eventually forming giant pancakes!  I want a nice thick one so it has to be able to sit still and cook for a while.  That being said, I’m definitely coming back to the smaller latke-like recipes so that I can top them with shredded short ribs to imitate an appetizer I recently had…  Short-rib topped potato pancakes need to be a part of my future.  That being said, today is all about starting my search for a giant cafe imitator that can be both creamy and crunchy.

So how did I do?  I think I may have taken a little more of the starch out while soaking than intended by the recipe because I had to add in 2-3 more egg whites than the recipe called for for things to hold together.  I also probably made a mistake in that I didn’t drain the potatoes well enough because I required far more breadcrumbs than the recipe called for.  How did I know how to do this?  Meatballs.  I’ve learned when something will hold together or not and when it would be considered too wet.  Another serious addition: salting the heck out of the potato pancakes just after they landed on a plate covered with paper towels.  It was a delicious salt lick…the potatoes needed it!  The final adjustment was making the pancakes about the size of a large burger patty.  Bittman’s recipe basically calls for making a pancake about the size of your face whereas these were slightly larger than the palm of my hand.  For reference, that is a 9″ pan and the potatoes themselves were about 4″ in diameter.

Even with all my adjustments, the meal was insanely delicious.  My beau and I basically fought over every bite and I may or may not have eaten the leftover potato pancake instead of putting it away in the fridge even though I was full.  We topped them with ketchup.  Family tradition.  Don’t worry, I’ve been told that its blasphemous to do so by my cioci.  For a more traditional experience, consider eating potato pancakes with sour cream and/or apple sauce.

IMG_0874

 

Ingredients

  • About 2 pounds baking potatoes, like Idaho or russet, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs or matzo meal
  • Neutral oil, like corn or grape seed.

Preparation

  1. Grate potatoes and onion by hand or with grating disk of a food processor; drain in colander or strainer. Combine potatoes and onions in a large bowl with eggs, salt, pepper and bread crumbs or matzo meal.
  2. Put about 1/8 inch oil in a large, deep skillet, either nonstick or seasoned cast iron; turn heat to medium-high. When oil is hot (it will shimmer) put all the batter in pan, and smooth the top. Cook, shaking pan occasionally; adjust heat so mixture sizzles but does not burn. Continue until bottom is nicely browned, at least 15 minutes.
  3. To turn, slide cake out onto a large plate, cover with another large plate and invert. Add a little more oil to pan if necessary, and slide pancake back in, cooked side up. Cook 15 minutes or so longer, until nicely browned. Serve hot or warm.

Final notes:

  • Only make batter for what you will consume.  We only ate about half a batter’s worth of pancakes and decided to put it into the fridge overnight.  They would not stay together the next day and looked down-right terrible coming out of the fridge even though I covered them tightly.  Fortunately they tasted fairly good even if we couldn’t get them to be quiet as crispy as the night before.
  • For hungry adults, plan on serving about 1/2 pound of potatoes per person
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