recipy for potato pancakesThis was a staple for me when I was growing up in Warszawa. My grandmother, Maria, lived with us and did most of the cooking and putting up with me. Unfortunately, by the time I got into cooking Babcia was dead. This recipy is from memory - just like Babcia made them.

We didn't get them often enough because it's hard work doing it the old fashioned way on a hand grater. We did used to joke that what made our placki ziemniaczane special was the knuckle skin and blood from my grandmother's fingers.

There are many schools of potato pancake making in Poland but I remember, it's one of those vague childhood memories, my mother and grandmother talking about what made our kind of placki the best. Apparently it was the lack of flour. From that long ago, overheard, conversation I remember the disdain expressed for the cooks who used flour in their pancakes. With that in mind here is how it's done, at least on the first attempt. I'm sure I will be posting variations as time goes by.

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb. of Russet potatoes
  • 2 large onions - I like my latkas oniony
  • 3 eggs
  • A few sprigs of majoram
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon - or in my case lime to keep the potatoes from turning black.
Basically it's just potatoes, onions and eggs. All ready for the blender or food processor. Pureed onions and potatoes being strained.
Basically it's just potatoes, onions and eggs. All ready for the blender or food processor. Pureed onions and potatoes being strained.

Start by filling a large bowl with water and the lemon or lime juice. Peal and cube the potatoes, just enough so your blender or food processor can handle them, and put them in the bowl with the citrus water. The acid from the citrus will prevent the potatoes from oxidizing and turning black.

Chop the onions - your just going for a cut that your food processor or blender can handle. Put the onions, salt, pepper and majoram in the blender or food processor and purée. A nice fine mush is what you want. Grandma did it by hand but I think the results are comprable and it saves a lot of tears.

Now it's time for the potatoes. Scoop them out of the citrus water with a slotted spoon or one of those wire wok spoons, that's what I use, into the blender or food processor and process in batches. Strain as much of the liquid as you can out of each batch into a bowl. You want to get each batch as dry as possible. You can put some pressure on the mix with a spatula or spoon. The strained potato goo should be the consistency of very thick porridge.

We are aiming for a consistency of very thick porridge. rest This is the starch you put back into the batter.
We are aiming for a consistency of very thick porridge. Seperating out the starch - it's the white goo on the bottom. This is the starch you put back into the batter.

Mix the strained potato goo with the pureed onions. Now the acidity of the onions will help keep the potatoes from turning black, at least for a while.

Let the liquid you strained from the puréed potatoes stand undisturbed so that the starch can separate out. This shouldn't be more than 10 minutes. A very white sediment will form on the bottom of the bowl. The amount of starch you get will depend on the potatoes you use.

Pour off the liquid from the top of the starch and mix it into the pureed potatoes and onions. Mix in the 3 eggs and we are ready to fry.

Set up a frying station:

  • Bowel of potato pancake batter - should be thick but pourable
  • Oil - any vegetable oil will do, I use Lion brand peanut oil
  • Frying pan - I have found that a well cured cast-iron pan works best
  • A flat surface or rack to drain and keep your done placki ziemniaczane.

5 pounds of potato pancakes will take a little while to fry up so you might want to put the drained pancakes in an oven to keep warm.

Frying station all set - batter, oil, pan, draining rack. First side almost done with nice crispy edges. These look done to me.
Frying station all set - batter, oil, pan, draining rack. First side almost done with nice crispy edges. These look done to me.

You need to decide what size you want your latkas because this will determine the size of the spoon or ladle you will use. Small is dainty but will take longer to fry. I used a medium sized ladle so that I could fit 3 pancakes comfortably in the pan.

 

Maria nadachowska
Me and my babcia at the peak of her placki and pierogi making days.

Put enough oil in the pan to cover the bottom and heat. We want the oil very hot but not smoking. Drop a little of the batter to test. It should bubble and sizzle on contact. Once the oil is hot enough ladle in your pancakes making sure they do not touch or run together. Fry till the edges are crispy and the top of the batter starts to turns matte and dry - now you are ready to flip. Fry the other side till golden brown and transfer the pancakes to your draining surface.

Taste your pancake, placek or latka. It should have a crispy, crackly edge and a soft, slightly gooey, middle.

Replenish the oil if necessary and repeat till you have no more batter left.

Tarra! Enjoy with sour cream, a brisket, some zrazy nadziewane or even applesauce. Personally, I like them with some sour cream mixed with a little sugar or with any kind of meaty, saucy stew.

This is my grandmothers recipy minus the knuckle skin and blood. I do wonder if there is a difference between pancakes made using a grater by hand and the food processor/blender method. Maybe one day I will do a test.

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