We had a fantastic meal at Baker & Banker for our four-year anniversary and the one dish I can’t seem to shake is the gourmet potato pancakes (or “latkes”) with smoked trout, beets, and horseradish cream. So in the spirit of Hanukkah, and because I tend to obsess about things until they’re played out, I decided to recreate my own version of this innovative dish. So for those of you outside our epicurean bubble here in the Bay Area who can’t readily make a reservation at Baker & Banker (which as of 2014 is closed….and that doesn’t make sense because it was fantastic!) here’s my poor– yet delicious– imitation of the real thing. Quick note about my potato pancakes- I use corn starch (I’d use potato starch if I have it) in the mix because I find it helps hold the batter together when its inclination is to sizzle and break apart in the hot oil. You can choose to add it or not. You might also be thinking “apple sauce and horseradish….yuck!” Well it works. In fact, if you have the time, I would recommend replacing the applesauce with some slices or shredded pieces of a tart sweet apple. Not only are apples and potato latkes a traditional combination, but you need something sweet to cut some of the saltiness of the smoked fish. That’s what the roasted baby beets did when we ate this at Baker & Banker
Oh, and feel free to make these without the fish and horseradish. This potato pancake recipe is great for traditional potato pancakes or latkes….or latkees if you’re my Grandma Shirley who reminds me of Zelda Rubinstein only with a big blond Jew-fro (Zelda’s the psychic from the Poltergeist movies).
Potato Pancakes (makes 15-17 four-inch diameter pancakes)
- 1 cup leeks thinly sliced
- 2 tbslp butter
- 6 cups shredded russet potatoes
- 1 large parsnip, peeled and shredded
- 6 large eggs beaten
- ½ large onion grated
- 3 tblsp all purpose flour
- 3 tblsp corn starch
- 3 ¾ tsp kosher salt
- plenty of vegetable or canola oil
- apple sauce
- fresh chives chopped for garnish
Sauté the leeks in a small pan over medium heat with the butter until softened and slightly translucent and set aside. With the grating or shredding blade of a Cuisinart mixer, shred the potatoes and parsnip in batches, and keep all the parsnip and potatoes in a large bowl of cold water to prevent them from turning brown. Shred the onions and strain in coffee filters to remove the majority of the liquid and reserve. Then line a colander with a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. With your hands or a large slotted spoon, remove shredded potatoes and parsnip and place them in the colander. Pull the edges of the towel together creating a satchel and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Twist the pouch and use the full weight of your body to push out the liquid and then empty the veggies into a large mixing bowl.
Add the onions and leeks to the potatoes and parsnip and stir to mix. Beat the salt, flour, and corn starch with the eggs and then add the wet mixture to the veggies and mix.
Pour enough vegetable/canola oil into a cast iron skillet over a medium high heat until it comes ¼ inch up the side of the skillet. When a drop of water sizzles on the oil you’re ready to start frying.
Place a large spoonful of the potato leek mixture in the oil keeping an inch or two between each pancake. With the back of the spoon gently press the center of the potato pancake down to level it out a little and let them cook for 6-7 mins on each side until their golden brown.
When they’re nice and brown, remove them from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain. While still hot sprinkle them with some salt to taste. Keep the cooked potato pancakes on the paper towels on a baking sheet in the oven at 250° while the rest fry.
Horseradish Crème Fraîche
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- 1 tsp prepared/pureed white horseradish
- 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice
Mix all three ingredients in a bowl and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. To assemble the potato pancakes, place one pancake (or latke as us Jews say) on a plate. Spoon some of the horseradish crème fraîche on top of the pancake, and then a spoonful of apple sauce on top of that. Crumble some smoked trout on top of the apple sauce, and garnish with some chopped chives.
- You can make these without the leeks if you’d like, but I would make sure you add a little more onion to the mix.
- You can use whatever smoked fish you like in this recipe. Don’t feel like you need to use trout. Lox is great with potato pancakes and crème fraîche.