Monday, June 29, 2009
First thing's first, I love potatoes. They are versatile, they are delicious, and they are not completely void of nutrients either. In fact, you might not have been hip to this, but last year was the year of the potato!
One of the ways I enjoy preparing this nightshade tuber is to make a pancake. For breakfast, as a snack, or as a side dish, these lil' cakes can take many forms. Well, not really, they're usually flat... but you can flavor them in many ways (that's what I was getting at). This time, I am playing with smoke. The cake gets smoke from Spain, and the sauce gets smoke from México.
The first step is to grate the papa, Papi. Once you have a pile of grated tuber, you'll need to squeeze out any and all of the water (freshly harvested potatoes are about 80% water). Of the 20% of dry matter, about 60-80% is starch, which could act as binder on its own to glue our shreds together as they cook. I, however, will add additional binders; egg, and cheese. I beat 1 egg, and grated a little (mostly for added flavor) Pecorino Romano, along with freshly ground black pepper and some smoked paprika.
The Italian word pecora, means 'sheep', the milk from which is used to make this delicious, salty cheese.
This day I used only 1 large potato, which resulted in a more "eggy" cake. The paprika gives such a wonderfully rich and smoky flavor to this dish. I use the Chiquilin brand, and I love it. In fact, I have to try to not use it in everything as of late.
Heat up some oil (or butter if you want to get crazy) in a non-stick pan over medium heat, and flatten your pancake as much as possible. After about 5 minutes on one side, shake it loose and give her a flip!
It would be lovely on its own, but I like a little extra saucy sauce. So I whipped up a spicy mayo with some fresh herbs from the garden. 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, chipotle or other hot sauce to taste (I used a little less than 1 tablespoon), dos gotas (2 drops) of lemon juice, some minced chives and epazote. Nothing fancy, but a great stand-by. I like to and tend to make most of my sauces from scratch, because they taste great and are not always that difficult. Even so, having a handful of ready-to-go ingredients and/or sauces is essential. Mayonnaise is one, and hot sauce is another. All you have to do to make things interesting is add a little flare. (I also like having an assortment of oils and vinegars, pickle-y things like capers or ginger or onions, tomato paste, anchovy paste, good quality mustard, and other products that I can quickly mince or simply whisk into a sauce of sorts) If I had a touch more patience I could have made my own mayo in a snap (here's a link to 'My French Cuisine' for a recipe). It's really not that hard to get the mortar and pestle (or the food processor) and grind a clove of garlic and some oil. Another thing I like doing is making a 'flash' ketchup with tomato paste and sugar and vinegar. Mmmm.
Alas, I reached for the store-bought to help cut down my cooking time and feed my potato pancake needs. Now, don't get me wrong, I ain't no Rachel Ray, but you don't always have hours to prep. In Marcus Samuelsson's book, The Soul of a New Cuisine, he mentions the difference between cooking behind the line in a restaurant and cooking at home. The distinction for him being the logistics of cooking a meal at home (prep time, dishes, drop-of-a-hat-attention from a sous chef if need be...) are limited as compared to that of a chef. I love to cook like a chef, but alas, or perhaps thankfully, I am only a cook. As a cook, 'easy' is a nice ingredient to have in your cupboard, as long as it doesn't compromise your integrity.
Well, I digress. This is a such an easy snack. As I mentioned above, I also love making potato pancakes as a side dish to an entrée, in which case I cut it up into pie shaped pieces and fan them on the plate. Today, though, I just slid the whole thing on to a plate, dropped a dollop of my easy chipotle mayo on top, and devoured it.