Saturday, 14 January 2012

Potato Pancakes with Scrambled Egg and Crumbled Bacon

About a year ago, I saw Chefs Anne Burrell and Robert Irvine make potato pancakes on the second season of Worst Cooks in America. With my basic ingredients still in stock (and a cold winter's day--finally--making me want to stay inside), I found this to be a rather opportune time to try my hand at making these myself.


If you take a look at the video above, you'll find that the chefs' version makes use of a food processor. And while that's all well and good (and an especially great way of not having to deal with the pesky tears caused by the inevitable sulfuric acid), their warning not to over process and accidentally purée the potatoes can be well avoided by going old(er) school and utlise the simple box grater. Begin first, though, by crisping 1/4 lb roughly chopped bacon, saving the rendered fat for later use.

With this said, I began by taking a cue from this recipe and finely grating (medium grate) half a small onion, transferring this to a strainer set over a bowl and carefully separating any water from it. Go about this quickly (and safely) before the onion burn takes over! Don't bother trying to squeeze out any liquid at this point, as all you'll really be doing is successfully pushing the onion through the holes. Transfer the onion to a plate. Next, wash, peel and finely grate two idaho potatoes. In small batches, squeeze as much water through the strainer [which should still be set over the bowl] as possible, using your hands as needed (as opposed to just a spoon, etc.). What you should eventually feel is the potato starting to dry out or at least separate. This step is particularly important because it will affect the way the potatoes eventually will be fried (too much moisture will make the eventual batter runny as if you had puréed the potatoes in the food processor). Mix very well the grated onion into the grated potatoes, taking a moment to once again squeeze as much water as possible through the strainer and into the bowl.

At this point, if your recipe called for flour, this would be a good time to add it in. However, this recipe provides a gluten-free alternative. Check out the bowl that had been collecting the excess water. If you tilt it, you'll notice some white stuff that has sunk to the bottom amidst all the water (any colouration is from the oxidisation process during grating). Carefully pour out the water, leaving behind the white stuff-- starch. This will be used to help bind all the other ingredients together, just as if you were using flour. There's also no need for flour to "dry" the potatoes, as you'll hopefully removed as much liquid as possible by now. In a separate bowl, beat very well one whole egg and pour half the scrambled egg into the bowl with the starch. Whisk everything (again) very well, making sure to incorporate the two ingredients together until smooth; to this, add a pinch each of salt and ground black pepper. Add this lot to the onion-potato mix and combine well.

With the rest of that scrambled egg, add a pinch each of salt and paprika and cook that in some of the rendered bacon fat; this is such a small amount that 1/2 tsp of the fat should be good enough. Set this aside, and clean off your fry pan if need be. Reheat your pan and this time add to it another 1/2-3/4 tsp of the fat (guesstimate depending on the size of your intended pancake). Working quickly, on top of the fat, scoop out and place a large teaspoon of the potato pancake batter and quickly form it into as best a circle as possible on the pan before everything is set and fully cooks. When you can move the potato pancake as a single unit without much fear of it breaking on you (the edges should start to curl and change in colour). Fry the other side of the pancake batter until also golden brown. If you're finding the colouration to be a little too bland, simply fry the pancake with more rendered bacon fat and for a slightly longer period of time. As you'll quickly see, my heaping tablespoon is far too large to serve these as actual hors d'œuvre (which is supposed to be a one-bite wonder), so adjust accordingly if that's your intent. As presented here, these are definitely appetizer/brunch-size portions.

Once finished being fried, transfer the potato pancakes to a paper towel to absorb any excess bacon fat. Of course, the "healthier" option (definitely a vegetarian one) would be to cook this without any bacon at all. The potato pancakes, though flavourful and filling on their own, are still relatively neutral and can take on a variety of toppings. Here, I added some of the scrambled egg (the half an egg was enough for three of the six potato pancakes I got out of this recipe) and topped that off with bacon and chopped flat leaf parsley. The natural sauce being paired with this meal is none other than ketchup (or whatever else you might have in store; I imagine mustard and even maple syrup would work here).

With a crispy exterior and relatively light, softer interior, the texture of the pancake is complemented by the crisped bacon and the softer scrambled egg. And the taste itself is definitely worth the trouble in preparing this simple dish. Try this out for your next breakfast or brunch (or afternoon snack) and let me know in the comments section what you think about it! For the complete photo album, click here.

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