I bought my house in Columbia Tusculum from the General Manager of Boca Restaurant. It’s a 130-year old, narrow, painted-lady with wood floors and colorful walls and a growing art collection. It’s small and it’s on a hill that from some angles looks like Mount Everest, but it’s renovated, it’s eclectic and the truth is that I fell in love with the kitchen.
Actually, I would say that I’m in a relationship with my kitchen. We cook together. We throw parties together. Sometimes, we even sing together. It hums a dishwasher song and pipes Miles Davis through its speakers and I clang pots and chop vegetables on a bamboo board. I like to think that separated, my kitchen and I are just okay but together we’re something pretty special.
Rumor has it that chefs from restaurants all over the city have convened and cooked here — before I bought it of course — and they’ve thrown back drinks with one another and seared fois gras and God knows what else. I like to think my house has chef fever. I like to think I’ve caught it.
Of course, I often make things that you wouldn’t see on the Boca menu. Culinary ambitions aside, what usually inspires me are rustic dishes from my childhood. These potato pancakes, for example, may never be replicated by the likes of Sean Daly, but they’re so German they almost scream “Guten Tag!” My mom made them when I was a kid, before I could see over the stove, and now I’m making them in my kitchen.
Hopefully you’re a little like me and you don’t mind a side that uses just three ingredients and doesn’t require a lot of hand holding. It’s just shredded potatoes, chopped scallions and a dash of cornstarch mixed in a bowl and then fried in small batches in oil. But in all of my culinary pursuits, I’m not sure I’ve found anything that makes me as happy as the tethered, crispy edges of fried potatoes.
If it’s okay with the grand chefs that came before me and if I’m not disrespecting them too much, I’m going to keep these unsuspecting little slices of my youth coming. And if it’s okay with you, I’m going to hand over the recipe.
Potato Pancakes with Scallions
3 pounds large russet potatoes
1/2 cup cornstarch
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel and eye potatoes and cut into quarters. Cut potatoes in food processor with shred attachment. Put potatoes in large bowl filled with cold water and then dry with a towel or in a salad spinner. Make sure potatoes are very dry.
Add salt and pepper to taste and then add 1/2 cup of cornstarch. Mix well with your hands.
Put a layer of potatoes in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat. Oil should come 1/3 of the way up the sides of the potatoes. As potatoes brown, sprinkle in some scallions and then add another thin layer of potatoes on top. Add salt and pepper. Fry for 5 minutes or until brown and crisp on bottom.
Resist the temptation to flip the pancake before it’s truly golden and crispy. What’s that, you think it’s done? Are you sure? Okay. Then flip the cake with a spatula and brown on other side to finish. Keep warm.[/print_this]