Potatoes, Part Two: The Taste Test
Last month apprentice Rose wrote about the varieties of potatoes that the farm planted this year (click here to reread that article). She promised to include a follow up article, once those varieties had been cooked and consumed. Here it is:
After digging up a plant each of our seven different potato varieties, we were left with a heavy bag full of muddy, unassuming tubers of various sizes. But knowing what beauty hid inside each dirt-covered potato, it was no chore to carry such a bounty back home–even up the steep hills of Old Town Road!
Over the next couple of weeks, the potato rainbow found its way into many delicious dishes at the Lodge: they were fried in skillets, cut up for a beet-and-potato salad, and baked plain to be savored in their unique flavors. And our piece de resistance: multi-colored potato pancakes (latkes, as my family calls them)…but more on that later. We all had our favorites: Sarah loves the Peter Wilcox variety, Bryan the bright colors of the blue- and red-fleshed potatoes, and I was really impressed by the fragrance and texture of the LaRatte fingerlings (“This potato tastes like a French bakery smells!”).
Tales of our beautiful potatoes made their way over hundreds of miles of telephone wire, too, and into the ears of my wonderful grandmother, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago near where I grew up. Bubbie Karabush (as we call her) just turned 90, and is famed in my family for her delicious Jewish-American cooking. But despite her mastery of traditional cooking, she was hardly shocked by my talk of purple potatoes—in fact, she loves them! Last Hannukah, after my first year as a farm apprentice at another farm, I brought back an assortment of vegetables to share with my family during the holidays. Since no Hannukah celebration would be complete without Bubbie’s famous latkes, my whole family trooped over to her house one cold and snowy evening, and I brought along the potatoes I had carried all the way home from New York. These potatoes were Adirondack blues, and they were a beautiful, bright purple.
At first, Bubbie was a little scandalized. “Purple potatoes?” she asked, clearly doubtful. “Won’t that make purple latkes?” Well, they certainly did, but the delicious taste of these funny-looking latkes won my grandmother over. So, with all of our red and blue and yellow potatoes this month, I just had to get her famous latke recipe and with her blessing, make some very-un-traditional-looking potato latkes.
Makes 8-10 potato pancakes
- 3 lbs. (or about 4 large) peeled potatoes—and if you can get your hands on some purple potatoes, my Bubbie approves!
- 1 large onion
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 1/3 c flour or ¼ c matzoh meal
- 2-3 tsp salt
- A dash or two of pepper
- Vegetable or canola oil to fry in
Finely grate the onion into a bowl, and then grate the potatoes (the onion juice keeps the potatoes from browning). If you have a typical four-sided grater, grate half of the potatoes on the finer side, so they make a mash, and half on the side of the grater with the large holes, so that it makes shreds of potato. Drain the onion and potato mixture in a colander, then squeeze it even more in some cheese cloth, so the remainder is as dry as possible. Put this into a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients, and mix. Pour oil into a skillet so that it is about 1/8 inch thick, and heat it until it’s very hot. Spoon in ¼ cup of the latke mixture, and press it flat in the pan. Fry them until they’re golden brown on one side, then on the other. Thin latkes will cook through more easily, and don’t worry if they’re not perfect circles—the ragged edges will get crispy and delicious! If your latkes are not cooking through before they brown, try turning down the heat. Add oil as needed to keep the pan covered, and keep the latkes warm on a cookie sheet in a low-temperature oven until you’re ready to eat. Serve with applesauce or sour cream…or even better, both! (Just don’t serve them with ketchup. Then they’d be hashbrowns, not latkes.)