Monday, September 20, 2010

One Potato, Two Potato ...

Potato latkes, the edges still shatteringly crisp.
 I was making a gratin Dauphinois and realized I had cleaned and peeled too many potatoes. I couldn't just slice and pile them into the baking dish; that would make the gratin too deep.

What to do if you have too many potatoes? Or should I say, what not to do with extra spuds? Celery root and potato mash? Fries? Wedges? Gnocchi? Potato leek soup? Lemon bacon potato salad?

This time I wanted latkes. I love the light crisp edges that shatter as you bite into them. This version of latkes does not use flour, so it's great for anyone with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance. If you don't want to eat them right away, you can cool them and freeze them until you need them. They're great as an appetizer with sour cream and applesauce (or even better, creme fraiche and smoked salmon or caviar), as a side dish with eggs for brunch or dinner, or as a midnight snack.

Potato Latkes
makes 6 potato pancakes

3 medium-large yukon gold potatos or 2 smaller russets*
1 shallot
2 (3-inch) sprigs thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
canola oil (enough to pour 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch deep in a skillet)

1. Peel and grate potatoes into a bowl or quart-size measuring cup of cold water (to prevent discoloration).

A little shredded carrot added to the mix.
2. While potato sits in water, finely chop shallot and place in a larger (2- or 3-quart) bowl.

3. Remove leaves from thyme stems and put into bowl with shallots.

4. Drain potato and place in a clean, dry kitchen towel. Roll and squeeze as much moisture** out of potato as possible. Place potato into the large bowl with the shallot, thyme, salt and pepper, then mix with just enough of the egg to coat the potato shreds.

5. Heat about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet until it gets hot (not smoking) and place a forkful of the potato mixture into the oil and gently flatten to make a roughly 3-inch pancake. You can cook just one smaller latke to test the oil before making the rest, if you want. Cook until the edges are deep golden brown, then turn over the latke and cook the other side. If the edges turn dark or black too fast, lower the heat a bit.

6. Remove latke to a rack and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Serve immediately, or cool the latkes, then freeze them, separated by parchment paper, in an airtight container. They can be reheated in a 400 degree oven on a cooling rack set on a baking sheet.

NOTES: * Variations include mixing grated carrot or sweet potato together with the potato. You could also incorporate another vegetable such as shredded zucchini; just make sure to lightly salt and drain it and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. In place of the shallot, you can add leek chiffonade, grated onion or chopped scallion.
** If you have a salad spinner (I don't), then you can try using that to take out excess moisture. If more liquid collects at the bottom of the bowl while you're cooking, scrape the remaining potato mixture out of the puddle and up onto the sides of the bowl.

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