But don't stop there. Potato pancakes can be enjoyed in other menus throughout the holiday season. Try them as an appetizer cooked into silver dollar-shaped rounds and top them with a touch of sour cream, smoked salmon and -- if you are really celebrating -- a spoonful of caviar. A bottle of sparkling wine is a perfect accompaniment. If your budget doesn't warrant real caviar, go for the American golden whitefish roe flavored with ginger, wasabi or truffles. I like to serve the pancakes for breakfast or brunch alongside an egg frittata or scrambled eggs. Consider them as part of a vegetarian entrée served with pureed butternut squash and steamed green beans. They also make a great side dish with any grilled or roasted main course.
The first time I ever made potato pancakes I did it the old-fashioned way. Peeling and grating the potatoes and onions took way too long -- and don't ask what the process did to my knuckles! After many attempts to find a shortcut I discovered a no-fail technique to take away much of the tedious work. Instead of grating the potatoes and onions, I puree the eggs and onions (or scallions) in the food processor until fluffy and then pulse in unpeeled potato chunks until they resemble finely grated potatoes. I usually test one in hot oil before I start cooking a batch to make they are seasoned just right.
This recipe calls for scallions instead of yellow onions for a mild green onion flavor. Scallions add a subtle onion undertone to the basic potato flavor. If scallions are not available, you can use a quartered yellow onion instead. Either way, these latkes always sell out at my house, and anyone claiming they are dieting falls off the wagon.
The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you are having a crowd. I like to use a small ice cream scooper to drop the potato mixture into the hot oil. You can also use a ladle or large tablespoon.
Even if your party numbers 40 people, there's an easy way to make the pancakes ahead, freeze them in foil and reheat them while still frozen. Follow my instructions exactly (and I guarantee the pancakes will come out hot and crispy.
The apple-pear sauce here calls for pears and apples, lemon juice and just a hint of maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice for a slightly unusual flavor. Combining a bosc or Anjou pear along with the soft-textured McIntosh and a crisp pippin or Granny Smith apple results in a multi-textured sauce consisting of both pear and apples. By covering the apples first and essentially steaming them, they begin to cook swiftly. Then remove the cover, and the liquid in the sauce will reduce. Here are some additional helpful hints for perfect potato pancakes.
• Wear old clothes when frying since you will smell like fried oil when you are finished.
• Use canola oil.
• Use nonstick skillets for ease in turning.
• Cook them on medium-high heat.
• Have a flat wire strainer nearby to collect any particles that stay in the oil; if the oil becomes too dirty, discard and begin again.
• Don't crowd the pan or the oil temperature will drop and the pancakes will oily.
• Have a wide spatula for turning them.
• Make sure to place the pancakes on paper towels to remove any excess oil before serving.
• To make the pancakes ahead and freeze: Lay them on a double sheet of aluminum foil and enclose the pancakes tightly in the foil. Make sure the pancakes are cool and then place on a flat surface in the freezer. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425 F and place the foil packets on a baking sheet. Remove the top sheet of foil so that the pancakes will bake evenly. Bake the frozen pancakes for about 7 minutes or until they are brown and crispy.
• The applesauce can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, covered and refrigerated.
CRISPY SCALLION POTATO PANCAKES
SERVES: 4 to 6
MAKES 12-14 pancakes
- 6 scallions, light green and white part only, thinly sliced (or 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons matzo meal or all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 cup Maple Apple Pear Sauce (see below)
- 1 cup sour cream
1. Puree the scallions and eggs together in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until they are smooth and fluffy. Add the potatoes and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped but still retains some texture. Add the salt, pepper and matzo meal and quickly process to combine. Do not over process. Pour the batter into a mixing bowl.
2. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap to prevent discoloration.
3. Heat 3/4 inch of oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat. Pour a tablespoon of batter into the skillet to test the oil. If it is hot enough, the pancake will begin to sizzle and brown. Taste the pancake and check the seasoning.
4. Spoon tablespoons of the batter in the skillet, making sure that there's a little room between each pancake. Flatten them with the back of a spoon and use the spatula to round out the sides, if necessary. Fry the pancakes until they are golden brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes, then turn them and brown the other side, about 2 more minutes. They should be golden brown.
5. Transfer the pancakes to a cookie sheet lined with 2 layers of paper towels. Allow the excess oil to drain. If serving immediately, place the pancakes on a platter and serve with the applesauce. You can keep them warm in a 275 F oven if necessary. Make sure to remove the paper towels before putting them in the oven.
MAPLE PEAR APPLE SAUCE
MAKES about 4 cups
Makes about: 1 3/4 cups
- 6 medium pink lady, Fuji or McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 medium bosc or D'Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1. Place all the ingredients in a heavy nonaluminum saucepan on medium heat. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the apples are slightly softened. Remove cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to break up the large pieces and until the apples are soft but there is still some texture, about another 7-10 minutes. (You can use a potato masher if you want it more pureed.). Adjust seasoning with more maple syrup or lemon juice. Cool and refrigerate.
Advance Preparation: Can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, covered and refrigerated.