Potato Pancakes

We all have foods associated with memories, some pleasant, some not so much. I once dated a guy who, when faced with any sort of unexpected fresh tomato on his plate – would morph into something like a child having a tantrum. “GET IT OFF MY PLATE…!!.” Wow. Turns out, there was an occasion where his Mom “made him” clear his plate… including the hated tomatoes. Sadly… he saw them again later – so you can totally understand why he would not be so thrilled to see them. Ever. Again.

This is a good food memory story, along the lines of…. your Mom or Auntie making you chicken soup when you’re feeling ill, or, even better… chocolate on chocolate for your fave birthday cake!! (To this day~)

Potato Pancakes, also known as Latkes, always remind me of childhood winters on the farm. Mom would usually serve them with this interesting potato, yellow bean and egg soup. Yea, that does sound kinda weird. Tasty as hell though. Even weirder… she served the potato pancakes (no onion in the batter) with a sprinkling of sugar. Mom…. yes, was a fan of sweet & salty way back.

Sure wish I had that soup recipe… guess I’ll have to dig deep in the memory bank for that one. What this one-two potato combination, dare I say… cucina povera candidate…. made, and gave not only was nourishment, but comfort. As good as the classic combo of soup and sandwich, perhaps upped a notch – with the fresh, warm & crispy pancakes standing in for the sammy.

The more I think back to how my Mom cooked, especially during those early farm days, the more I’m convinced that she totally knew what cucina povera was. I think she had to. If I only had the chance to ask her now…. she’d probably fake some righteous indignation, while saying she just did what she had to do. She was damn good at it. All of it. See…. cucina povera!

While this recipe is not my Mom’s… I don’t remember her pancakes ever tasting of onion – I’ve taken her basic preparation and with a bit of research added the onion and baking powder. This recipe can of course be multiplied to serve a crowd – if you do so, be sure to use more than one frying pan, otherwise you’ll be at the stove for ages.


Potato Pancakes

This is the perfect culinary vehicle to carry almost any flavours you like. You can either add more variety to the potato & onion mix, or as toppings. Lovely served with smoked salmon or trout, and fantastic as a replacement for English muffins in eggs Benedict. I’ve been wanting to try them with prosciutto, but not having any on hand – happily used the thinly sliced Genoa salami I did have, and an olive oil & white balsamic dressed arugula. Eastern European meets Western. Makes 8 – 10 small pancakes. Buon appetito~

1 large russet potato, peeled
1/4 small onion
1 large egg
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
few grinds fresh black pepper
oil, for pan frying

In a strainer placed in a bowl, grate the onion and potato; do not let it sit too long as the potatoes will start to darken.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt & pepper.
Using your hands, squeeze out excess moisture from the potato/onion mixture.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg, add the potato & dry mixtures – stir to combine.
In a heavy frying pan over medium high heat, add the oil.
Drop the batter into 4 walnut sized pieces – and spread into 2″ pancakes.
Fry the pancakes in batches, placing them on paper towels to drain some of the oil
Keep warm in a 200º degree oven – on a baking rack lined sheet pan (to keep them crisp)
Serve with your fave toppings: smoked fish, sour cream, applesauce, etc.