Saturday, April 9, 2011

Potato Pancakes


Not only am I not Irish, I'm not Jewish either. Several weeks ago I went and scrounged a potato pancake that Cynthia and the girls made, and I remembered that I love these things. While I was cooking them, I also remembered that the last time I grated a potato must have been about 12 years ago. Probably about this time of year, while I was prepping the holiday latkes at that deli. (Yes, I know, Passover isn't the latke holiday, that's Chanukah, but it billed itself as a jewish deli, know) I'm sure that's the reason why, in all this time, I have never made latkes again. I worked with a woman who was truly, horribly, injured making latkes. I don't know how many hundreds of pounds of potatoes I had to peel or how may dozens of times I shaved little pieces of my knuckles off with that demonic peeler. Thank goodness for the Robotcoupe. We had a mixing bowl as large as a kiddie pool that we mixed the grated potatoes for the holiday latke recipe in. Sometimes I wish I had one of those industrial food processors. I digress. Please note, that I did not bother to peel my potatoes today.

about a pound and a half of yukon gold potatoes, the newer the better
about 4 tablespoons of flour
about a teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
2 or 3 green onions
2 tablespoons, more or less, minced parsley
some pepper
olive oil for frying

This makes about 8, 4-5" pancakes.

Mince the green onion and parsley, and mix them with the eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Wash the potatoes and grate them into another bowl. Grab handfuls of the grated potatoes and wring out as much water as possible before adding them to the egg mix. You may be tempted to skip this part- don't. Once you get the potatoes mixed in with the salt in the batter, they will sweat out an amazing quantity of water.

Use 2 frying pans. Put about 1/4 inch of oil in each one and heat to medium. When the oil starts to shimmer in the pans, drop about 1/3 cup of batter for each latke into the pans. I can fit 3 latkes into a 10-inch pan. Cook them for about 5 minutes on each side, until they are golden and a bit crispy. Drain on paper towels.


1. The potatoes will oxidize very fast. Grate quickly and mix them into the batter just as soon as you want to eat them. At the deli, we used to mix up a water bath with a few tablespoons of an anti-oxidant to grate the potatoes into. The anti-oxidant was this weird substance which demonstrated a property that I learned about in high school which I think is called 'heat of solvation'. That is, when a chemical in crystaline form is dissolved in water, it will release heat, due to the fact that an organized solid is a higher energy state than a bunch of loose molecules floating around in suspension. Some crystals will release quite a lot of energy this way. If you held a scoop of that anti-oxidant and dribbled a little water on it, you could give yourself a significant burn. (That's not what happened to Ann.)
2. As I said, the potatoes emit a great deal of water. You can either squish it out before frying, as I did, to keep your pancakes neat in appearance, or if you like an eggier latke, stir it back in. The last few will be rather sloppy, but will taste good.
3. Medium heat is best. They take longer to brown, but you need to cook them long enough to get the potatoes soft. Crunchy-raw potatoes are not very satisfying to eat.
4. Don't crowd the pans. Too many latkes all at once will generate a cloud of steam which will inhibit crisping. Cooked through is good, soggy is not.
5. You don't have to use yukon gold potatoes, any kind will do just fine. I like that variety because the color is appealing, and because the skins are usually thin and tender enough to dispense with peeling.

I did not have either sour cream or apple sauce, which is ok, because I don't like apple sauce unless I make it myself. Greek yogurt and raspberry jam was very good, and a fried egg is even better.

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