Saturday, October 22, 2011

Potato Pancakes--Polish Classic

Fall potatoes taste best, and in Poland this is the time when we start making all kinds of potato dishes. At least we used to, so I can easily name probably twenty or even more dishes featuring potatoes as their main ingredient. And I would probably call them, next to soups, our comfort food.

Last couple of years, about once in two weeks my kitchen is overtaken by potatoes pancakes, a pillar of Polish cuisine. Luckily, my sons love them, so at least on those days I can make the same dinner for both of them. They like it probably because they remind them pizza, especially when they are crispy and eaten, as they do, with ketchup.

At the same time, I should admit that until last year I have never made those pancakes myself. So far, I was always able to rely on my mother's talent when she was visiting. Not only I considered them too basic and too ordinary to make, but also when I put her in charge she felt appreciated and needed. Besides, Polish potato pancakes were literally very painful to make. Unlike the Jewish latkes, they were grated on a a very fine grater, and often times together with the outer layer of the fingers. Just recently, I adapted a very handy shortcut and started to puree raw potatoes in a food processor with a knife blade.

Because of that invention and since I make them pretty regularly for kids, I decided it is time to share this recipe. I know that every Polish cook has her or his own special recipe for potato pancakes. Also, almost each region of Poland prepares and serves them a bit differently.

My grandmother served potato pancakes with sugar, which is probably the most popular way, and sour cream on top. But later my mother started to make them only in a savory way, by adding onion to the batter and different spices. I like them them this way better and this is how my kids like them as well. Those who wish to try the most traditional version of pancakes and serve them with sugar (and cream), should omit onion and herbs in the preparation.

Potato Pancakes
(Makes 16-20 pancakes or 4 servings)

4 large potatoes--baking potatoes would be best, or any other type which is starchy and not watery,
1 large egg,
1 onion,
2 tbsp all purpose flour,
1 tbsp salt,
1/2 tsp black pepper,
mix of herbs--1/4 tsp of each--paprika, dried marjoram, ground coriander, ground caraway, and ground mustard seeds (addition of herbs is optional)
vegetable oil (grape seed or rice bran oil) for frying.

1. Peel, wash, and dry potatoes. Cut them in small cubes and place in food processor with a knife blade. First, pulse the blender to make smaller pieces, and later run until potatoes become puree.
2. Peel onion and chop it. Add it to the food processor and run the engine a couple of times together with the potatoes.
3. Transfer the potato batter to the large bowl. If there is an extra liquid from potatoes on the surface, try to collect it with a spoon and discard.
4. Add a whole egg, flour, salt pepper, and spices if used.

5. Using wooden spoon or spatula blend well all the ingredients.

6. Preheat a large frying pan with 2 tbsp of oil until very hot. Place about a spoon of potato mixture next to each other and flatten on the top.
7. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until the pancakes become dark gold. Repeat with adding oil before each batch.

Serve warm plain, or the American way (i.e., how my kids like them with ketchup on top), or

with yogurt sauce (yogurt, garlic salt, and pepper), or

with mushroom sauce, and cucumbers in brine or cornichons.

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