march 5, 2020
Must be my Irish heritage. I could eat potatoes three times a day, every day. Daydreaming of food when hungry, I used to make a list of ten things to take to a desert island.Potatoes, cheese and chocolate were always on the list. Now chocolate is something I crave on occasion but could do without. Potatoes, especially when paired with cheese? That combination goes onto the essentials list.
When there were leftover mashed potatoes in my home growing up, they made their way into the glossy black cast iron skillet as potato pancakes, mixed with egg and a little onion. They were enjoyed nearly as much as the original mash and maybe more because, well, fried anything always tastes better.
With frying, the secret to these golden brown cakes is low and slow. Too high heat burns the exterior and leaves the inside raw and unappealing. Too low makes for a flabby, greasy cake. So more like medium high and slow, with adjusting of the heat so that gentle sizzle is taking place. A heavy skillet, like cast iron, is ideal. The cakes are best on the day prepared, but freezing is an option with one caveat : like all potato dishes, oven heat is needed to dry and set these cakes once defrosted , and microwaving will not give you the crisp outside and tender inside they deserve.
Favorite meal ever : meatloaf and mashed potatoes, especially if the meatloaf is made with turkey and the mashed potatoes have a little something extra like celery root, or herbs from the garden. This is my comfort meal. It was tempting to stop at the mash with today’s recipe, but like memory foods from childhood, everything tastes better fried.
These potato cakes were inspired by a little extra nutty manchego cheese in the fridge and by the month we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. They would make a fabulous breakfast or brunch side.
In this global community of adventurous eaters, why not pair something notably Irish with something treasured in Spain?
Manchego Potato Cakes
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes 8 cakes – four to eight servings
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large even sized chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 scallions, minced, green and white parts
scant ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch of finely ground white pepper
2 cups loosely packed manchego cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup all purpose gluten free flour blend (or regular all purpose flour)*
neutral oil like canola or grapeseed
optional garnishes : greek yogurt or sour cream, finely minced scallion
* you can use other starches like potato starch or tapioca starch
- Place potatoes in large heavy two quart saucepan with generous pinch of kosher salt, cover with cold water and bring to boil covered over high heat; starting in cold water assures even cooking of interior.
- Remove cover and simmer at low boil until potatoes are tender when pierced with knife, about 15-20 minutes.
- Drain into colander; mash while hot with butter, fine sea salt, pinch of white pepper and 2 minced scallions; add manchego cheese and mix well.
- When cooled to room temperature, add flour and beaten egg until well mixed.
- With moist hands, form eight patties.
- Bring ¼ inch oil to medium high heat in heavy skillet (cast iron best) and when a drop of water sputters in the pan, add patties, four at a time to avoid crowding, and cook 4 minutes each side.
- Keep heat at an even, moderate sizzle —too hot will burn and too low will cause oil absorption.
- Drain cooked potato cakes on paper towels as done; repeat with remaining patties.
- Serve hot, with sour cream and extra scallion if desired; patties may be kept warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.
- For storage, they will last in refrigerator one day; if frozen (after they cool to room temperature), defrost and heat for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.