Perfect “Potato Pancakes”

Potato PancakesI find myself in the unusual position of not being interested in writing anything here. It is probably that I am badly in need of a vacation, but at $300 per night at the Timber Cove Inn, I just can’t afford it. You see, my manic-depressive cycle has turned down. What are you going to do? I don’t mind it. After all, happiness is a relative state. And intellectually, I know that how I feel now will be richly rewarded in the near future. But if I had had a large quantity of barbiturates last night, I might not be writing this right now. Note: I’m not saying that I was suicidal; I don’t do suicidal. But I did want to escape the world and go into a deep sleep and that often ends in death. See, for a beautiful, smart, and funny example, the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe.

But this morning (I did not sleep well last night, regardless) I felt good enough to finally getting around to quantifying my potato pancake recipe. You see, the first thing I ever really learned to cook was potato pancakes. About 25 years ago, I made them out of the recipe in the Joy of Cooking. And I loved them, which was not surprising because my mother made them when I was a kid. So I made them again and again. And over time, I stopped using the recipe because I knew it. And you where that leads! Actually, I didn’t. So recently I made the original recipe and I was underwhelmed. They were not nearly as good as what I now make.

This is not the first time I’ve written here about potato pancakes. The first time was back in 2011, when I wrote, Potato Pancakes. In that article, I put forth two of what I called “mom’s recipes.” This comes from the fact that my mother, who was an excellent cook, didn’t have recipes for anything. So she would say things like, “Oh add some potatoes and onions.” And I would respond, “How much?” And she would say, “Until it looks about right.” I have to admit that this is pretty much the way I am today. I wrote another article called, A Good Idea for Better Latkes. That was mostly a defensive article against another writer claiming that “you” are making your potato pancakes wrong. She was wrong about me, but for all I know you are doing it wrong.

After making the Joy of Cooking recipe, I decided that I had to share my actual recipe with the world. But it took me a long time, because it’s hard to quantify a recipe that you just know. And so I ended up with a number of batches that were suboptimal. Still, they were all better than the Joy recipe. And the recipe I ended up with not the very best that I make. But it is damned good.

Combine in a large mixing bowl:

2.5 cups of grated potatoes
1 cup of grated (Not finely!) onions
2 medium eggs
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbs flour

Heat a skillet with a quart inch of oil at medium. Create 1.5 inch balls of mixture and put them into the oil. Mash them down to make them into disks. When the bottom is golden brown, flip them over and cook them until the other side is golden brown. The second side doesn’t take nearly as long as the first side. After removing them from the skillet, soak up the excess oil with paper towels. Enjoy alone, with sour cream, or apple sauce. (The only good use of apple sauce is in potato pancakes!)

Note: you will need to play with the temperature of the oil; too low, they get soggy; too high, the inside doesn’t get cooked properly. Note: depending upon the evenness of your skillet, you may want to rotate the pancakes when they are on the first side. Note: keep the sizes of the pancakes small; too large and the texture is lost. Note: be careful; a minor accident last night rather badly burned one of my fingers (but that was because of a problem with that batch that shouldn’t be true of this one, but always be careful. Note: hot oil is extremely dangerous so, again, be careful. Note: be careful.

So now you know the secret to perfect potato pancakes. The only question is: are these potato pancakes? At times, I will use a one-to-one ratio of potato to onion. At other times, I will use garlic. You can be very creative with this. At times, I’ve put small shrimp in it. Whatever this is, it is delicious. I call them all potato pancakes.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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