Not so much lamenting the loss of the weird eggshell-coloured kitchen this week as I am the loss of Didi’s fancy camera. I had to make due with the little digital I bought at a black market in Korea seven years ago. That came with Japanese instructions. I still don’t know how to turn off the flash. So you’ll all have to pardon the pictures that may slightly resemble menu photos from restaurants built in the seventies. The ones where the flash reflects off of the top of a burger bun. Although in this case the flash was reflecting off these really kick-ass potato pancakes that I made for me and Nan at the cabin. I was visiting her in Robinsons, a few hours south of Cow Head, where I usually spend a few weeks every fall to turn off my brain. As she is the patron nanny saint of unmarried, childless, vagabond granddaughter-actor types, she let me have the keys to her cabin for a week while I worked on an audition for a production of Oedipus Rex and Antigone. Generous, yes. Practical, definitely. Anything to avoid someone marching around her house cursing the gods, etc. “Wail away my dear,” she said before she dropped the keys to her little cabin by the sea in my hand and sped off in her Corolla. I like to pretend that my cooking makes up for the fact that, after 35 years of being a granddaughter I probably owe her close to 1.5 million dollars. So I told her to come down for supper the next day and I’d try a new recipe. I figured I’d continue to pursue my disturbing obsession with potatoes and give potato pancakes a try. It turns out the most disturbing thing was that I’d never tried them before. These little gems may have slightly altered the way I make my brunches forever. And that might be the cheesiest sentence I’ve ever written.
A rainy grey day out on the bank. I was hoping for some evening sun to stream in through the big window so my photos wouldn’t look quite so late-seventies takeout, no such luck. I’m only hoping that the words ‘potato’ and ‘pancake’ put together convince readers to give them a try. Everyone’s heard of latkes, and most of Eastern Europe has its own version of them, but you can be guaranteed if potatoes and butter/oil are involved, Newfoundlanders have given them a try at some point. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when I came across this version in Fat-Back and Molasses (Jesperson Publishing, 1974), a simple but lovely recipe (Jesus, I know, I can’t help it) collected from the United Church Women of Swift Current. I found all the ingredients easily in Robinsons (Nan’s cupboard) but took a quick trip to Stephenville to pick up a roast chicken and some nice sour cream to go with the pancakes. And a bottle of white. I thought it would go well with chicken and potatoes and facilitate the Greek monologue learning. Two please (Dionysus made me do it).
6 medium potatoes
5 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tbsp grated onion
1 tbsp minced parsley
cooking oil or fat
Combine flour, salt, pepper and baking powder. Set aside. Wash, pare and finely grate potatoes to make about three cups. Drain off surplus liquid. Combine flour mixture with eggs, onion and parsley.
Add grated potatoes and beat thoroughly with a spoon. Spoon about 2 tbsp batter into hot, well oiled heavy frying pan, leaving about one inch between pancakes. Cook over medium heat until golden brown and crisp on one side. Turn over and brown the other side. Drain on paper towel. Serve as an accompaniment to sausages, pork chops, or fried ham. To serve with apple sauce or syrup, omit pepper, onion and parsley.
So the god of potatoes was smiling favourably upon me, because these things were great. I didn’t have any fresh parsley so I used some dried stuff that nan had, but I’m thinking next time I’ll try Newfoundland savoury instead. Be sure to drain the potatoes well…I had them sitting in a bowl and they pretty much drained themselves but I gave them a good squeeze before I put them in the egg and flour mixture. I was a little reluctant to go with the full on teaspoon and a half of salt so I went with one and I might even go to half next time. Mess around, depending on how your blood pressure is. I think the possibilities for these are endless; breakfast, brunch, with bacon, with casseroles, with some beer in front of the television, whatever. We kept it fairly simple with a roast chicken and some sour cream on the side. But Nan sure thought they were great, which as we all know, at the end of a rainy grey day by the sea, is all that really matters.