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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Potato Pancakes as a Cinco de Mayo Entree? Really!

Happy 5th of May!

I took advantage of some Cinco de Mayo specials this week, so I had plenty of cilantro, fresh jalapenos, and red onions. My first plan for breakfast had been some kind of breakfast burrito, but I realized that some russet potatoes needed attention...today!

Potato pancakes have long been a favorite family special breakfast (as well as quick supper) so I decided to try mixing in cultural foods and found a very happy new combination. If you have a processor, this is exceptionally quick, but even doing the grating on an old-fashioned hand grater will not add a lot of time. This is truly a "one-dish meal," with protein, vegetables, and dairy all included, so it's a good way to start out a really busy day.


Potato Pancakes Ole

2 medium russet potatoes
1 large or 2 medium carrots
1/2 large red onion (yellow or white onions are also perfectly acceptable)
about 1 c cilantro, leaves and stems
1 to 2 t minced jalapeno peppers (optional--you can adjust heat, if using, by including or cutting out all seeds and interior white ribs)
1/4 c yellow cornmeal
2 T flour
1/2 c nonfat dry milk powder (optional)
seasoning salt to taste, probably only about 1/2 t
3 eggs
canola oil for frying

1.  Shred the potatoes, carrots, onions, and cilantro in a food processor. If hand-shredding, cut the cilantro with kitchen scissors into a fine blend.
2.  Combine the shredded vegetables with the jalapenos, dry milk powder, cornmeal, salt, and flour and stir to mix well.  Set aside for about 10 minutes. This will result in a small amount of liquid separating from the mixture. You have two choices:  Drain (and use the mixture as a flavor for chili or soups) or stir back into the rest of the ingredients and understand that you will need to stir the entire mixture occasionally as you begin to cook the pancakes. I prefer the latter option!
3.  Stir the eggs into the vegetables, making sure that the entire mixture is very well mixed.
4.  On medium high,  heat just enough oil in a cast iron skillet to lightly cover the bottom. When the oil begins to shimmer, it is time to begin spooning in about a tablespoon at a time of the pancake batter. Use a spoon or spatula to flatten the pancakes to about 1/3 inch or so thick. You will need to work in batches.
5.  When the bottom is well-browned (3 to 4 minutes), turn the pancakes and continue cooking until both sides are well-browned. Remove finished pancakes to a plate and cover lightly with a towel to keep warm. You can also keep them warm in a 250 degree oven; spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet without covering for maximum crispness.
6.  If necessary, add a little oil before cooking the next batch, giving it about 30 seconds or so to return to full heat. Finish sauteeing all the pancakes and serve with salsa, sour cream, yogurt, and/ or ketchup.

Makes 3 to 5 servings.

Hints:

Be sure that you press down and spread the batter to be sure that the centers are fully cooked by the time the outer surfaces are nicely browned.
These are much easier to handle if you make the pancakes not more than 3 inches across.
Minced garlic could be added with the jalapenos and zucchini could be used in place of part of the potatoes. In this case, you probably will need to drain the juices in step 2.



And a final Cinco de Mayo idea that was a total surprise. I wanted to see what would happen if I sliced the oranges for the photo above on the same board (still not rinsed) on which I had just minced the jalapeno. It really gave a great kick to these oranges, something that might add that extra touch of spice to a tossed salad (romaine, spicy orange chunks, cucumber, and green pepper with a light dressing for example) or as a side with tacos or other Mexican main dishes.

While you can use the same method I did, rubbing the orange across a "pre-seasoned" board,  the following is a little more refined method.  Give it a try if you like your foods with a little dash.

Spicy Orange Garnish

jalapeno pepper
oranges

1. Slice a small jalapeno pepper lengthwise, to expose maximum cut edges.
2. Wash and thinly slice an orange or oranges. Lightly rub each slice across the jalapeno.

If you want to use the orange in a salad or other dish, you can peel the oranges prior to slicing. Merely sectioning the orange, however, will not allow the juices of the orange to pick up the spice of the jalapenos adequately.





 ...and one final caution

Oh, guess I need to be sure to add the caution that every hot pepper recipe needs to include--be careful when cutting these peppers, using plastic gloves if you are especially sensitive. And by all means, do NOT rub or even touch your eyes until you have washed your hands really, really well after working with hot peppers!

(No, two final cautions)

I used a cast iron skillet, with the oil heated before adding the batter to maximize browning. If you don't have such an old-fashioned pan, use a heavy skillet without non-stick coating, just adding a little more oil to keep from sticking. If you are going to use a pan with non-stick coating, do NOT preheat empty. You will have to give up a little of the brown crust with these pans, but that is much better than breathing in the fumes from heating an empty non-stick pan.


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