Potato pancakes are personal.
In a recent restaurant review, I described my childhood potato pancakes, lacy-edged patties of shredded spuds gone golden in hot oil.
My point was that my standards, indelibly set in my mother’s kitchen, heightened my distaste for the restaurant’s version. When readers asked what I was talking about, I made some potato pancakes for my mother and published a photograph of them on social media.
The comments started flying like splatters of hot oil.
Yes, some hollered, that’s what a potato pancake should be like.
No, even more volleyed back. That’s not how my mother, my grandmother, my family, my country does it. The potato should be finer. Those are too dark. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Wrong.
The potato pancake passion made me realize I’d been taking potato pancakes for granted. It also made me think everyone should have a potato pancake they care about. That’s the best part of cooking: creating a delicious moment to share with people you love.
That’s what makes it personal.
My suggestion: Make it my way the first time.
The second time, adjust it to fit your taste. More salt, or less? More onion, or less? More finely grated potato? (Some people put the ingredients in a food processor and grind them into a coarse mash.)
If you prefer a more cakey potato pancake, add bread crumbs, matzo meal, or mashed potatoes. I’m not even going to get into applesauce versus sour cream.
Mom’s potato pancakes
- 6 russet potatoes
- 2 medium sized onions
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
Peel potatoes and coarsely shred them into a large bowl on a box grater. Then grate the onions. Add a couple teaspoons of salt and as much pepper as you like.
Dump the mess into a dishcloth. Over the sink, squeeze out as much water as you can, until it’s starting to get annoying.
Return to bowl, add eggs and mix to combine. Don’t worry about the potatoes starting to turn bluish-grey, it won’t matter.
Pour about a centimeter of oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. When a shred of potato bubbles vigorously in the oil. Place clumps of the potato mixture in the oil and flatten them gently with a spatula, leaving room between pancakes.
When they’re brown at the edges, turn them over. Cook until they’re as dark as you wish. Remove and drain on paper towels or a rack. Add salt if desired.
Eat the first one. If it’s not done in the middle, smoosh the shredded potato blobs a bit thinner. Serve to someone you care about.
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