It's Week 5 of the Lenten season and meat-free meals are all around. Fish, fish sticks, baked fish, tuna fish, fried fish, fish balls and Hey, how about some fish?Luckily, in this neck of the woods, the fish are outnumbered by the pierogis. Clam chower suddenly has a big presence around here now, but when I was growing up, we didn't have clams and could barely afford fish. But honey, we had plenty of potatoes. A hot lunch of tomato soup and potato pancakes every Friday for 12 years makes me something of an expert when it comes to assessing a potato pancake.
This is not a good potato pancake:
Note the leaden appearance - can't you just feel the grease right through the computer screen? This is a result of two things: first, the frying oil was not hot enough and second, fine grating turned the potato into unappealing pulp. A good one has a lot of unprocessed potato surface and it's quickly fried in very hot oil until it all exposed surfaces are crisp.
Now this is a good pancake. From none other than Martha Stewart herself (What will we do without you, Martha?) comes instructions for a perfect pancake. The secret is that the potato is grated on the long side to produce lovely strips of potato that bunch together loosely. Then the oil can get in the spaces between the potato strips to do it work. the other thing that makes this a superior experience is that there is no flour used as a binder. The flavor is pure spud -not greasy flour paste- because the binder is the thick starchy water drained from the potatoes.
Sometimes I give myself a laugh by adding sweet potatos to the mixture instead of using all white, but of course, that is not the classic P.P. experience. The Soup Lady is a card-carrying member of the Sour Cream Club when it comes to potato pancakes. Try these with a bowl of plain tomato soup for the perfect meat-free meal. Unless you happen to like fish.