Saturday, January 23, 2016

Potato Pancakes and Huevos Rancheros

First off, I have to relate what I mean by "potato pancakes". In our house, as we grew up, my Mom would take leftover mashed potatoes, cold from the fridge. She would cut in flour as for making pie pastry (using a fork or pastry cutter) until the mixture would hold together to make balls, and then roll these balls of dough into thin "pancakes". Back then, her favorite frying medium was Crisco, so into a relatively hot skillet went a dab of Crisco, and then in went the thin, round pancake. She would cook them until the bottom was dotted with brown, then flip for a minute or so until the opposite side had browned spots, and then begin cooking the next one. These were what we knew as "potato pancakes. 

Mom's Style of Potato Pancakes
In our house, these were as much a treat as rice pudding, so whenever Mom made white rice or mashed potatoes for dinner, we would all clamor for her to "make too much." This would ensure that we would have a treat the next day. And it was a real treat to have potato pancakes, made this way. She would often serve then to us for lunch. The first one or two would be sprinkled with salt. Warm from the pan, they were nicely flexible, so she would roll them up and serve them. Once we had eaten them this way, then we would have them with a little jelly rolled in. A treat on top of what was already spectacular. 

These childhood memories stay strong in me, even at age 65. To this day, though I don't make them often, I do still make them. I even made them when I lived in Guatemala, and when making them alongside a maid named Graciela, she dubbed them "Tortillas de Papa", meaning nothing more than "tortillas made of potato" or "potato cakes". I asked her if she could try patting them out by hand, just as when she made fresh corn tortillas. She could, and she did! So, my children also grew up with my Mom's style of potato pancakes, now and again. I don't really know if they are so near and dear to their hearts as they are to mine, but they do know them. 

How are they Made?
Potato Pancakes

I have no real recipe for these. How much flour to add to the cold mashed potatoes is changeable, depending on how wet your mashed potatoes were to begin with. Last evening I started with approximately 
  • 2 cups of cold mashed potatoes. 
I added in about 
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour 
to begin, cutting it in. The mixture was still too wet and soft to form, so I added in about another 
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. 
I added more flour, in smaller amounts until I could pick up some of the mixture in my hands, make a cohesive ball of "dough" that would hold together, and then roll it out. Like with pie dough, the mixture should not be over-handled. The flour that is added will build gluten and toughen the mixture. To roll them out, sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto a surface. Form a 2-inch ball of the dough into a smooth round, then flatten it and place onto the floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour on top, then with a rolling pin, roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick and about 6-inches in diameter. Last evening I got 8 potato pancakes from the amount of potatoes I started with.

Heat a skillet to about medium heat, then add in a little bit of your preferred oil. I find that cooking spray works well, so as not to add too much oil to the pan. One of those "Misto" sprayers with your favorite oil would work. Set one of the rolled out pancakes into the hot pan and allow it to cook until it has formed myriad brown spots, as in the photos above. This could take from 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the heat level. Flip the pancake and cook about one minute more, until the opposite side also has browned spots. Remove to a plate, add a little more oil, and continue with the remainder of the pancakes. 
Potato Pancake Huevos Rancheros
Potato Pancake Huevos Rancheros

For whatever reason, though I have made these often enough in the past 26 years, my husband never even tasted them. Again, for whatever reason, last night he asked if he could have some of them. Since I made plenty, this was no problem. I explained that they were good just with salt. He ate them with his vegetable soup for dinner. There was one remaining on his plate, and I told him to try it with jelly. He did, and loved it! A new convert!

Potato Pancakes, topped with beans, then with eggs, and finally, with salsa
As I ate them with some pork for dinner last night, I thought of using them instead of tortillas to make "Huevos Rancheros." I felt that since they are made of potato, and potatoes (usually in the form of hash browns or home fries) are served with breakfasts, that this would be a good plan. I had beans cooked up already, just because I love them, so I was all set. This morning I got everything out, starting with two of the leftover potato pancakes. I heated some of my "refried beans" and then fried 2 eggs. To top it off I used some of my fermented salsa. It was most excellent and everything I had hoped!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.