Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Potato Waffles?

On the fourth day of vacation, my mother finally managed to push me out of the kitchen and made waffles for breakfast. She says the kids like them, and I should take a break or something. Wow, does she have control issues or what!

Ahem ...

The iron wasn't the traditional four squares with deep grooves, but a small model that makes something closer to a round pancake with lots of nipples. I was just going through my regular morning script, "Stop touching your brother", "No, you can't get up until you finish your milk," "Use a fork!" when I realized that you could use that waffle iron to make potato latkes!

Have you ever made potato pancakes? I generally spend one whole day before Chanukah frying latkes. It is such a horrendous pain in the neck that I can only bear to do it once. The house reeks of fry oil for a week, grease splatters everywhere, you go through rolls of paper towels, and you usually end up with a burn somewhere. But if you just ladled the potato mixture onto a waffle iron and went about your business until it was done, it would be totally worth it for just one batch.

I wish I could say that I'm the first one ever to think of this. But I'm not. And I wish I could say it made latkes as fabulous as the ones fried in oil. Close, but no cigar. I can, however, promise that I'll make these again on Friday. And you'll have to wait another five months for giant, spluttering pans of oil turning my kitchen floor into a skating rink.

Waffle Latkes
2 lbs potatoes, whatever kind your grandmother used
1 onion, about the size of a tennis ball
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 tablespoons potato starch
black pepper, to taste
big pinch of grated nutmeg, if you have it
1/2 cup matzah meal (optional)
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil 

You know that the way your grandmother made latkes was right, and all other ways are wrongwrongwrong. If hers were dry and fluffy, use russet potatoes. If they were dense and chewy, use waxy ones. If hers were thick and substantial, add the matzah meal. If they were thin, leave it out. If your grandmother never made them, then use whatever you damn well please. (Come to think of it, my grandmother was known to sneak in zucchini. Don't do that.)

Shred the potatoes in your food processor and submerge them in a bowl of cold water. Particularly if you are using waxy potatoes, the starch will discolor pretty fast. So swish the potatoes around to loosen the starch and rinse out the processor bowl before you throw in the chopped onion. Using the regular blade, pulse a few times until the onion looks grated, then cry a little from the onion in the air. Think about your grandmother doing this whole thing on a box grater. Stop crying already and dump the onions into a large bowl. And don't forget to turn on the waffle iron! (I think that's what my grandmother would have said here.)

Squeeze the water out of the potatoes using (a) your hands, (b) a dishtowel, or preferably (c) a potato ricer and add it to the onions. Stir in the eggs, salt, garlic, starch, nutmeg, pepper and matzah meal if you are using it. Brush a little oil on the waffle iron and spread about half an inch of your potato batter over the hot surface. Close the iron and press down a minute until you hear sizzling. I opened the thing up halfway through, spread a little more oil on top, before closing it to finish. Because I like to work out, but I'm trying to make sure it doesn't show.

Do you have the exact same waffle iron as mine? No, I'm betting you didn't swipe a cheap, twenty year-old nipple-waffle maker from your family's vacation cabin. So the fact that my waffles took 12 minutes each is probably not germane. You'll have to use your own judgement on time. You can, of course, take them out when they are brown, but slightly underdone in the middle. This way you can reheat them on a greased baking sheet whenever you get around to serving dinner. Fifteen minutes at 375 - or whatever temperature the oven is if you're cooking something else already.

See the shredded edges? This is the one without matzah meal to bind it together.
When they are hot, slice to fit your serving platter.

My daughter threw such a fit about the baked fish that we had to banish her from the table. She ate all her latkes first, though.

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