In Celebration: Potato Pancakes

Team, I’m deeply conflicted about this post.

On the one hand, tomorrow is, in all its lexical guises – Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival – Pancake Day. The day where pockets of the world don their sparkly beads to eat starchy discs of deliciousness composed of many of the tasty ingredients that, for those observing Lent, are off limits for the forty days that follow.  

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And pancakes have been my favourite of foods since the beginning of (my) time, when I first ate them topped with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. They’re my answer to the age-old small-talk question of what one thing I’d eat if I were to be stranded on a desert island until the end of (my) time, had I been so short-sighted as to not do a better job of planning my desert-island grocery shopping trip. (Fun fact: a better answer to the desert island question, from a nutritional point of view, is hot dogs.) Imbued with history, endless versatility, and fluffiness: pancakes are what I wanted to make. 

But then, I’ve already shared pancakes with you guys. Four times. And it would have been more, had my mother not intervened, more than once, to urge me to post something other than another pancake recipe, Stephanie. Not wanting you to think me the Anti-Atkins, my mother’s words echoed in my ear as I contemplated pancakes once more. And so, I was reluctant. 

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Like I said: Deeply conflicted. These, friends, are big questions I’m grappling with.

So I went for a second opinion. And, after outlining an incoherently roundabout way in which I could give credence to Pancake Day without actually making pancakes (there was talk of comparing pizza pies to pancakes), my sister, with the raise of an eyebrow, gave me the OK to make pancakes.

Upload from February 20, 2012

Naturally, then, I’ve gone for a compromise: Potato pancakes. Not the sweet, floury things we typically associate with pancakes, but savoury, crispy rounds that aren’t unlike a giant French fry in texture and flavour. Topped off with plain yogurt, green onions or homemade applesauce and served with veggies on the side, they make for a tasty meal, Pancake Day or not.

They come together speedily and will fry to golden-round perfection as long as you take the time to squeeze the excess moisture from the grated potato (which, if you’ve got a bit of kid in your soul, happens to be a whole lot of fun). Which means you’ll have enough time, once you’ve polished off these tasty cakes, to make the legitimate pancakes that I couldn’t. Or rather, that I couldn’t share. Come tomorrow, I will, of course, be making both. 

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Potato Pancakes
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 12 2.5-inch pancakes (serves 3-4)

Ingredients
1 small yellow onion, peeled
4 medium potatoes (Russet, Idaho, Yukon Gold), peeled (about 1.75 pounds)
1 large egg
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
Butter and vegetable oil for frying

Directions
1. Place a large, non-stick baking sheet in your oven and preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using a coarse grater or food processor with grater attachment, coarsely grate onion.
3. Place grated onion in a strainer and set the strainer in the sink or over a deep bowl, to drain.
4. Coarsely grate potato and place in the strainer with the onion to drain further.

Upload from February 20, 20126. In a large bowl, lightly beat egg with a whisk.
7. Add flour to beaten egg and whisk to combine.
8. Using clean hands, squeeze as much excess moisture out of onion-potato mixture as you can. Transfer mixture to paper towels and pat/press to remove additional moisture.
9. Transfer onion-potato mixture to egg mixture, season with salt and pepper, and stir to evenly distribute egg mixture through the potato and onion.

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10. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp oil and 1/2 tbsp butter over medium heat until hot.
11. Transfer scant 1/4 cup of batter to pan and gently press with a spatula to flatten until pancakes are roughly 2.5 inches across (a bit flatter than you see in the photo). Repeat to create 2-3 pancakes (as many as will comfortably fit in your pan).
12. Fry pancakes for 4 minutes, or until bottoms are golden. Flip and fry for an addition 4 minutes, or until the other sides are golden.
13. Transfer cooked pancakes to a paper towel to drain, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and transfer to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
14. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel (careful, the pan will be hot!) add another 1/2 tbsp each of oil and butter, and cook next batch of pancakes*. Repeat, cleaning the pan and adding new oil and butter before each batch.  

Upload from February 20, 2012*The potatoes and onions release moisture as they sit, so you may find that your batter gets more liquidy as time passes. If that’s the case, simply spoon the excess liquid off.

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