October 21st, 2015

Fried Apple Hand Pies

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The first time I recall eating a fried pie was almost 25 years ago when I was on a little fall jaunt, driving the backroads of middle Tennessee. Back then, Bill and I had a notion that we’d run a little rural B&B (complete with its own vegetable garden providing our produce for meals, a glorious flower garden as well.)

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We’d take day-drives out of the city in different directions to explore. What were we looking for? A cool abandoned home in a bucolic setting that we could convert. Or an inn already in existence that we could buy. We’d stay overnight at some to get a feel for how people ran them. Romantic notions of our quaint B&B got dispelled once I realized

1) While running a catering business was a millstone, it was featherlike compared to running an inn. Weight of the world.

2) Laundry.

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But here’s the thing. It’s good to follow these ideas out into the real world. How else are you going to know if it’s what you really want? And, there’s the adventure, always ripe with discovery–

–such as the fried hand pies.

It was on one of those off-the-beaten path drives when we came upon a lone cinderblock building with a walk-up window and a rough hand-painted sign: FRIED PIES $1

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(I know; we fry a lot of things in the South.)

“Let’s stop,” I urged. Bill pulled over to the building’s side and I hopped out. I peered into the little window. “What kinds do you have?”

“Peach, apple, blackberry, chocolate, lemon,” recited a small measured voice from the dark interior. I handed the woman $5 and returned to the car with a sack containing one of each, individually packed in wax paper bags.

They were still warm.

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We motored on until we came to an open rise on the road, overlooking a valley. There we parked. Pastures below were dry and browned. Colors of the season dotted the surrounding hills, with maples flaming orange and burgundy. Leaning against the car, we sampled the goods, sharing a thermos of coffee.

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I thought the pies would be greasy, but they weren’t. I thought that the chocolate might be bizarre, but it was surprisingly delicious. Each one, a half-moon with crimped edges that fit right in your hand, had golden flaky crust. Grab and go! Bill loved the peach-filled crescent. The apple had a sandy dusting of cinnamon sugar and may have been my favorite.

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I doubt that we could find that pie place again. In all likelihood, it no longer exists.

But, while I recipe-tested these gingery-apple treats this week for Edible Nashville magazine, I was reminded of those fall drives, and a younger version of me, chasing down a different dream.

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FRIED APPLE HAND PIES adapted from Chef Matt Farley of The Southern

Filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
2 Gala or Honeycrisp apples, cored and diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Melt butter in a skillet set on medium heat. Add sugar and cook for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken. Add apple cider and cook for another minute.
Stir in the apples and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes. Add cinnamon and lemon juice and cook for 10 minutes or until apples are tender. Turn out on a sheet pan to cool.

Pastry
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick ) unsalted butter (diced and cold)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk

Place flour, sugar and salt into a food processor fitted with the steel (or pastry) blade and run for 15 seconds.
Add butter and pulse until butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. In a bowl whisk the eggs and the yolk and add to flour mixture. Pulse until clumps form.

Turn out onto a table and knead for 1 minute or until dough becomes smooth. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours.

Egg Wash
2 eggs
pinch salt

Place the ingredients into a bowl and whisk vigorously until the egg whites and yolks are mixed together.

Cinnamon Sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Place both into a bowl and mix until well-blended.

To Assemble

All-purpose flour, for dusting surface
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying pies.

Dust a clean surface with flour and roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut into 4 inch rounds. Brush egg wash around the edges of the dough.
Place approximately 3 tablespoons of chilled apple filling on dough.
Fold over into half moon shapes. Using the tines of a fork seal all of the edges.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Place vegetable oil in a pan about 1 inch deep. Heat to about 360 degrees or until flour immediately bubbles when sprinkled in oil. Lower the pies (a few at a time) into the hot oil (do not crowd!)

Cook pies about a minute and a half per side or until golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels. Toss in cinnamon sugar mixture and serve.

Makes 12 hand pies

Posted in Breakfast, Desserts, Fruit, Recipes | 24 Comments »




November 14th, 2012

Holiday Sides: tweaking tradition

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Acorn Squash Rings stuffed with Sorghum Apples and Pecans

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Yukon Gold-Sweet Potato Gratin

There’s a thin line to walk at family holiday gatherings, where Traditions and The New intersect. Expectations for the Usual vie for their place at the Thanksgiving table, as does the Desire for Something Different. If you are like me, you would never dream of replacing the roast turkey. Oh, I’ve refined my recipe over the years. And I’ve completely veered away from how I had it prepared, growing up.

Back in the day, my dad was in charge of cooking the turkey. He would cover the entire bird with bacon strips, which would essentially baste it as it roasted. When done, the bacon was practically annealed onto the golden brown skin. He’d cook it early in the day, let it rest before carving, and saunter off to the den to watch a football game.

Crazed with hunger, we kids would sneak into the kitchen, and greedily pick off the bacon strips, which couldn’t help but tear things up. With a piece of bacon came a piece of skin, oops, and then a hunk of meat. By the time the poor turkey reached the table, it was a rather ravaged looking carcass.

Much as we all loved the bacon, no one missed the “bacon-turkey” when I took over the helm of holiday hosting. My replacement, a garlic-sage-butter baste (slathered under the turkey skin) is much-loved, and arrives like a showpiece on the table.

But, no turkey? Unthinkable! There would upheaval, shouts of betrayal, dejection.

However, times change; diets and tastes change.
When you want to introduce something really new, that’s where the side dishes come in.

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When our Third Thursday Community Potluck meets in November, it is a serendipitous convenience that it is held exactly one week before Thanksgiving. (always the fourth Thursday!) Our guests come bearing a bounty of intriguing dishes, ideal for holiday serving. I’m sharing two favorites with you today, for your consideration. Both are vegetarian and gluten-free, one is suitable for vegans. Bearing in mind shifting dietary needs, these are sure to please everyone.

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The first dish combines Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced, and layered in a gratin. I love the random look of the overlapping orange and yellow discs. And, grating fresh nutmeg over each layer imparts a subtle spicy note.

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The liquid in which these potatoes cook is half-and-half infused with shallots, chives, and flat leaf parsley. Shredded Gruyere cheese enrichens the dish, beautifully melting throughout the layers. If you can locate Comte, an artisanal French cheese that is possibly better than Gruyere, I recommend it.

The layers meld as they bake, but the naturally (and barely) sweet tastes of both potatoes shine through.

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YUKON GOLD-SWEET POTATO-GRATIN

4-5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 shallots, diced
2 cups half-and-half
2 heaping tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
1 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
whole nutmeg for finely grating
1 ½ lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned
1 ½ lbs. sweet potatoes, cleaned
1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
¼ cup grated Parmegianno-Regianno

13 inch x9 inch deep baking dish

Using one tablespoon of the butter, coat the baking dish.

In a saucepan on medium heat, saute the shallots in three tablespoons butter until translucent. Add the half-and-half, parsley, chives, salt, and white pepper. Stir well until warmed. Remove from heat.

Peel Yukon gold and sweet potatoes. Slice very thin (1/8 inch) and layer the bottom of the baking dish in overlapping circles. It’s fine to layer them randomly—a few slices of one potatoes, followed by the other. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the slices.

Stir and cover with a thin layer of seasoned half-and half. Sprinkle with ½ cup Gruyere. Repeat with another layer of sliced potatoes, arranged in similar fashion. Follow with grated nutmeg. Cover again with more liquid, followed by Gruyere. Press down with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure the liquid seeping through all the overlapping slices.

Finish with final of sliced potatoes, half-and-half, remaining cheeses. Dot the top with remaining butter.

Cover with aluminum foil and baking in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Uncover and finish baking for another 15-20 minutes, until casserole is browned, and potatoes feel tender when pierced.

Serves 10-12

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The acorn squash rings make a pretty presentation, and couldn’t be simpler to make. Here in the South, we love sorghum, which adds a mineral sweetness to the apple stuffing. But other syrups would work just as readily. Maple syrup would be a terrific choice.

Apples and winter squashes always pair well. Choose a firm, tart apple, like Granny Smith or Jonathan or Ginger Gold. Pecan pieces and diced shallots are folded with apples, the pecans become toasted in the bake.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are traveling, travel safely. Enjoy one another’s company, and dine well.

We are headed for DC to be with my daughter and son-in-law, and I plan to stay until my grandbaby is born! Stay tuned. We are full of excitement and gratitude.

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ACORN SQUASH RINGS STUFFED WITH SORGHUM APPLES AND PECANS (vegan)

2 large acorn squashes
2 large baking apples, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gingergold
2/3 cup chopped shallots
2/3 cup pecan pieces
¼ cup sorghum
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
olive oil—for brushing squash rings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice squashes into rings, almost an inch in thickness. Depending on the size of the squash, you can get 5-6 rings from each one. Scoop out the seeds, and lay the rings on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the rings with olive oil.

Wash, core and dice apples into ½ inch chunks. Place into a bowl. Add shallots, pecan pieces, sorghum, salt and black pepper. Toss, so that all the pieces are coated with the sorghum.

Mound sorghum apple mixture into the center of each ring.

Bake for 25 minutes.
Makes 10-12 rings

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 27 Comments »




September 13th, 2012

A Perfect Apple Tart, and a Peek into Luisa Weiss’s Berlin Kitchen

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These cool September mornings have me thinking about transitions. Soon, the fall harvests, and bushels of apples picked from area orchards will be arriving at the markets. Red and Golden Delicious, Pink Ladys and Granny Smiths, Winesaps and Arkansas Blacks. Beautiful varieties, each with a distinct taste and culinary use.

I welcome this time of year. It ushers in another wave of foods and festivities that bring people together.

From my office perch looking out into the backyard, I see signs of a season in shift. Leaves getting tinged with yellow. Persimmons ripening on the rugged tree by the alley. Hummingbirds gorging on nectar before making their migration further south. I’ve lived in middle Tennessee for a long time, lived out many long hot summers. Autumn always invigorates me with its crisp clear air and blaze of color. I relish the changes of the seasons. Although anything can happen, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

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A sense of place. That gets entwined with many things, especially in a transient society. Where we were born, where we grew up, where we went to school, where we work, all play a part in grounding us, informing that deepest part of us about where we belong. We all have the right place to be.

It’s a potent and poignant theme that Luisa Weiss explores in her food memoir, My Berlin Kitchen. Known to many as The Wednesday Chef, Luisa tells her story of finding that sense of place. A confluence of cultures is at the heart of her journey.

In 1977, she was born to an Italian mother and an American father in West Berlin. At age three, her parents divorced and she moved to Boston with her father. She grew up, traveling back and forth, straddling two homes, two worlds. Her divided life, in a way, paralleled Berlin of the Cold War.

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As a young adult living in New York, Luisa worked as a cookbook editor. A touchstone to memory, an anchor for comfort, food and cooking became central in her life. In 2005, she launched her blog, initially as a way to plow through the scads of recipes she’d clipped and saved. The Wednesday Chef became more than a food blog; readers worldwide followed her journal as she came to grips with the feeling that her life in New York, ideal as it appeared with a terrific job, fiance, and circle of friends, was not where she belonged.

My Berlin Kitchen chronicles that larger arc of self-discovery, and courage to make bold change. It is a love story, sprinkled with delectable recipes, gleaned from her world travels. Many have an intriguing, decidedly Berliner bent. Roast goose, braised red cabbage, poppyseed whirligig buns, white asparagus salad, spiced plum butter…

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I enjoyed reading her story, and found real inspiration in her recipes. Today, I made her Apple Tart.

I call it a Perfect Apple Tart, for it truly honors the apple, in all its crisp sweet-tart glory. In Luisa’s words, ” This tart is about the pure, clear taste of apples, sugar, and a little bit of butter. There are no spices to muddle the flavors.”

And, its crust—the crust could be reason alone to make the tart: thin and golden, immeasurably buttery and flaky.

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She credits her recipe to four culinary luminaries: Jacques Pepin, who originally conceived it; Alice Waters, who has kept it a constant offering at Chez Panisse; Deb Perelman, who brought it out into the wide world through her blog, Smitten Kitchen; and Melissa Clark, whose New York Times pastry-making video showed that leaving the butter in larger, lima bean (rather than pea) sized pieces in the dough insured a richer, flakier crust.

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Of course, your tart will only be as wonderful as your apples. Select firm ones. Luisa recommends Golden Delicious. I chose Ginger Golds, an early harvest variety with a spicy-tart finish. They are good to eat out of hand, and bake into pies or cakes.

As we come into apple season, you’ll no doubt find other varieties that will appeal to you.

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Here’s the tart’s magic. You peel and core the apples before slicing them. Then, you immerse those trimmings in water with sugar, and cook them down. After straining, you reduce the apple-infused liquid to a marvelous syrupy glaze.

After baking and cooling, you brush the tart–apples and crust– with apple syrup. Oh, my!

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Apple-Apple-Apple! The tart is all about the apples, not-too-sweet, baked tender in a butter-crisp rustic crust:

From Jacques Pepin to Alice Waters, Deb Perelman to Melissa Clarke, from Luisa Weiss to me, and now to you.

Wishing you contentment wherever you are, Nancy

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A PERFECT APPLE TART from My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss

The Crust
1 cup All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
6 tablespoons well-chilled unsalted Butter, cut into 1″ pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons icy water

food processor fitted with pastry cutter

Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter. Pulse until the butter is broken down into lima bean shaped pieces. Pulse in water, a spoonful at a time, until dough comes together.

Dump out onto lightly floured work surface and gather it together, flattening into 4″ wide disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes. (or up to 3 days)

The Apple Filling
2 lbs. crisp firm Apples (I used Ginger Gold) peeled, cored. and thinly sliced–Save the peels and cores
2 tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted
3-5 tablespoons Sugar (I used 4 tablespoons)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 degrees, if using a convection oven).

Remove pastry dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and roll out onto a flour-dusted work counter.
Rolling and rotating the dough, dust with more flour to prevent sticking. Continue rolling until you’ve made a 14″-16″ thin round.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the rolled dough round on it.

Place the apple slices in overlapping circles on the dough, leaving a 2″ border. Crowd as many apple slices as possible.
They will cook down in the oven.

Fold the edges of the crust over the tart, creating a rustic look, leaving the center of the tart exposed.
Brush melted butter over the apples and onto the crust. Sprinkle the sugar over the crust and apples as well.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, rotating the tart after 20-22 minutes.
The crust will become golden brown, as will the edges of the apples.

While the tart bakes, make the apple syrup. (recipe below)
Remove the baked tart and let it cool for 15 minutes before brushing the apples and crust with apple syrup.

Serve warm or room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

The Apple Syrup
Reserved Apple Cores and Peels
1/2 cup Sugar

Put cores and peels into a saucepan along with sugar. Pour in water–enough to cover.
Bring to a boil, them simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid; discard the apple trimmings, and return liquid to saucepan.
Reduce on low heat for another 10-15 minutes, until it becomes thickened and syrupy.

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Posted in Articles, Desserts, Fruit, Recipes | 25 Comments »




September 21st, 2011

Apples and Potatoes/Breakfast for Dinner

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What good meal could you make for under five dollars?

Slow Food USA initiated this cooking challenge, one which meshed nicely with our Third Thursday Community Potluck this month. In a rough economy, and an ever-widening “food gap,” knowing how to prepare tasty, nutritious food at an affordable price is a crucial survival tool.

Calling it “The $5 Challenge,” Slow Food encouraged potluck gatherings to share “true value meals.” Last Saturday, 30,000 people allover the country came together to dine on these good dishes, all made with fresh ingredients, and costing less, per person, than an Abe Lincoln. Recipes from these events will be amassed and shared.

Informally, our Third-Thursday group did the same, although we kept our potluck on its given day, rather than the Saturday, as suggested by Slow Food. In the quest for community—and tasty affordable food—we didn’t think a couple of days mattered. It’s part of our monthly pursuit anyway.

And, serendipity, we had already chosen a “Breakfast for Dinner” theme. That meal provides plenty of hearty, nutritious, and inexpensive dishes: Omelettes, vegetable frittatas, mock souffles, noodle kugels, cheese grits casseroles, and the like.

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We know that cooking seasonally, using of-the-moment produce, is far more cost-effective.

In Nashville, fall is in air. Bushels of apples and potatoes are plentiful at the market. With that in mind, I chose to make a batch of fresh applesauce, and my crispy potato pancakes. Both are ridiculously simple, and “cheap” recipes–short on ingredients, but long on satisfaction.

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I hadn’t considered applesauce in a long time, although it’s something that I associate, in a pleasant way, with childhood. It was one of the acceptable things that this super-picky eater would deign to let past her lips.

We always had jars of Mott’s Applesauce on the shelf, something my beleaguered mother could count on to spoon onto my plate, and not be met with eyes of abject horror or disgust.

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But nothing could be easier than making a pot a fresh applesauce. Core and rough-chop the apples–leave their peels on. Cook them down with a little lemon, brown sugar, and cinnamon–that’s really it. (This could be adapted to a slow-cooker–throw everything into the pot, and let it go all day, while you work.)

The peels mostly dissolve as the apples soften into a chunky sauce, providing flavor, nutrients, and needed pectin to thicken. If you want a smoother sauce, you can run the cooked mixture through the food mill.

Ginger Gold Apples, with their pale green skins tinged with rosy blush, proved to be a good choice. They have a bright, pleasing balance of sweet and tart.

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Pommes-de-terre, Aardappelen, Potatoes are indeed the Apples of the Earth! We love potatoes in all iterations.

My potato pancake, or latkes, recipe is gluten-free. Years ago I would add flour, but learned later that there was no need; there’s enough natural starch in the potato to accommodate. Eggs add a little protein, and help bind the crispy shreds together.

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What’s not to love about these little potato nests? Crunchy golden brown goodness, with a hint of sweet onion in the mix…they make terrific accompaniments to any meal, breakfast or not.

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What I must note about the $5 challenge: it’s an easier one to meet, if you are cooking for a group. (And, likewise, if that group is sharing dishes, in the potluck spirit!)

My big batch of potato pancakes cost just about $5, and fed a crowd. Making 30, that’s almost 17 cents a cake. The applesauce cost less, around $4, and was delicious in its own right, or dolloped onto the potatoes.

But I think that we would all be hard-pressed to consistently create well-rounded meals for under $5 a person, especially if cooking for one or two. And many today have less than that to work with.

I lead a charmed life, and I am grateful for it. I am generally frugal, but have the where-with-all to buy, cook, and enjoy more expensive foods. And that’s fine. But access to basic, affordable good food should be a right, not a privilege. It’s important to share our knowledge, so that people can cook delicious meals using fresh food for themselves and their families.

Have you got a favorite inexpensive dish to share?

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FRESH APPLESAUCE

6 large tart green apples, such as Ginger Golds
1/2 cup Demerara Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Lemon, quartered

Core and rough-chop apples. Place into a large saucepan on gentle heat. Add brown sugar, lemon quarters, and cinnamon stick. Cover and allow apples to cook on slow medium heat, for about thirty minutes. Stir occasionally. Covered, the natural juices will release, condense, and fall back into the apple mixture. The peels will mostly dissolve and add their natural pectin.

Remove cinnamon stick, lemon peels. Serve warm or cold.

Makes about 4 cups of applesauce.

POTATO PANCAKES (gluten-free)
4 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 large Yellow Onion
4 large Eggs
2 t. Sea Salt
1 t. Cracked Black Pepper
2 t. Paprika

canola oil for frying
1 T. butter to season the oil (optional)

Shred potatoes (I used the food processor with the shredder attachment.) and place into a large mixing bowl. Finely dice the onion and toss in with the potatoes.
In a separate bowl, whip eggs, sea salt, black pepper, and paprika together. Pour over potato-onion mix. Toss well so that everything is well coated.

Heat a skillet and pour in canola oil, about 1/2″. Melt in a tablespoon of butter, if you’d like to flavor this neutral a bit.

With a slotted spoon, scoop up a small mound of shredded potato mix and place in hot oil. Repeat until the skillet is filled but take care not to crowd. (I fit 4 at a time.) Cook for about 3 minutes—look for crispy brown edges. Wait for the right “brown-ness” before flipping with a spatula.

Rotate in the pan, as needed, so that the ‘cakes brown evenly.

Place cooked potato cakes onto a metal grid to drain, (or paper towels).

Note: As the mixture sits, some of the water from the potatoes will release into the mixture. This is not a problem. Continually stir, lifting out each mound with the slotted spoon, leaving some of that liquid behind.

Makes about 30 crispy potato pancakes

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Posted in Breakfast, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetarian Dishes | 21 Comments »