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Seriously Simple: Make crispy potato-apple pancakes using this no-fail method

By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Content Agency on

Every year at about this time my email is full of questions about how to prepare latkes. Latkes, crispy potato pancakes, are the star dish for a Hanukkah party. This version combines the Idaho russet with diced apple. I knew it had to be good since applesauce and any potato pancake is a dangerously delicious combination. The starch and moisture in the russet potato helps the pancakes keep their shape and fry crisply, while the apple adds a faint sweet flavor. Try it with the following maple-flavored applesauce recipe. And remember, potato pancakes are a wonderful dish year-round.

I am a fan of this no-fail method that uses the food processor instead of grating the potatoes, onion and apple by hand. Just puree the eggs and onions in the food processor until fluffy and then pulse in the potato and apple chunks until they resemble finely grated potatoes. I usually test one in hot oil before I start cooking a batch to make sure that they are seasoned just right.

These potato pancakes can be enjoyed in other menus throughout the holiday season. I like to serve these for breakfast or brunch alongside an egg frittata or scrambled eggs. Consider these as part of a vegetarian entree served with pureed butternut squash and steamed green beans. They also make a great side dish with any grilled or roasted main course.

These fried potato rounds are always a sell-out at my house. Anyone claiming they are dieting falls off the wagon since they can't resist the crispy outer crust with a dollop of sour cream and fresh applesauce. This 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.

Here are a few more tips to help you through the process:

--Wear old clothes when frying, since you will smell like fried oil when you are finished.

--Use vegetable oil.

--Use nonstick skillets for ease in turning the pancakes.

--Cook the pancakes on medium-high heat.

--Use a small ice cream scooper to drop the pancakes into the hot oil. You can also use a ladle or large tablespoon.

--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 be oily.

--Have a wide spatula for turning the pancakes.

--Make sure to place the pancakes on paper towels to remove any excess oil before serving.

Crispy Potato-Apple Pancakes

Serves 4 to 6; Makes 12 to14 Pancakes

1 medium onion, quartered

2 large eggs

2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

1 Gala or Honey Crisp apple, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Vegetable oil for frying

Maple cinnamon applesauce (recipe follows)

Sour cream, for serving

1. Puree the onion and eggs together in a food processor until smooth and fluffy. Add the potatoes and apple cubes, and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped but still retains some texture. Add the salt, pepper, flour and baking powder, and quickly process to combine. Do not over process.

2. Pour the batter into a medium-sized mixing bowl. 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. 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 born on one side, then turn them and brown the other side

4. Transfer the pancakes to a cookie sheet lined with two layers of paper towels. Allow the excess oil to drain. If serving immediately, place the pancakes on a platter and serve with the maple cinnamon applesauce and sour cream. To keep warm place cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet and heat them in a 225 F oven.

Make Ahead: To freeze the potato pancakes, 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 so that the pancakes will bake easily. Bake the frozen pancakes for 5 to 8 minutes until they are hot, brown and crispy.

Maple Cinnamon Applesauce

Makes about 4 cups

3 Gala or Honey Crisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch chunks

3 Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch chunks

6 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Place all the ingredients in a heavy nonaluminum large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the apples are slightly softened.

2. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to break up the large pieces, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft but there is still some texture. Adjust the seasoning with more syrup, ground cinnamon, and/or lemon juice. Remove from the heat, let cool, and chill before serving.

Make ahead: The applesauce can be prepared up to one week ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)


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