I was so thrilled to get my copy of Nela’s Cookbook. It’s a cookbook written by Nela Rubinstein, wife of famed Polish American pianist Arthur Rubinstein. Her recipes are Polish, Lithuanian, and American.
If you’d like to check it out, My Amazon affiliate link is above. I love it. The cookbook, published in 1983, has drawings illustrating techniques, and it’s written as if it were a food blog. Every recipe is preceded by a little story; Nela might talk about the source of the recipe, what she serves with it, or some family chuckle related to the dish.
I made two different recipes – Nela’s and one found on All Recipes. Before I give you more details, let me say how thrilled I am to have mastered potato pancakes. I’ve been trying to do this for years, only to end up with the a batter that dissolves in the oil. Where did I get the crazy idea that I was supposed to use mashed potatoes? No matter what I added – flour, egg or how I handled the dough – disaster. Not any more.
First, I made the recipe that uses flour. Grating the potatoes was time consuming; other than that, it was very easy.
Which method did we prefer?
Now, we make the basic recipe, the first one below. I do use Nela’s suggestion of grating the potatoes and onion with my food processor. To me using flour rather than relying on collecting the potato starch, just makes sense, it’s faster and easier, and a sure thing. The mixture was just a little more cohesive that the one with only potato starch. If I needed to make the pancakes gluten free, it’s nice to have that option, but it’s an option, I’ll save for special GF occasions. I include it here in case you need GF.
You’ll notice in the video that the mixure does get watery as it sits. Just give it a stir and keep on cooking. In this case it also oxidized a bit, turning darker because we took the time to set up the camera, but the color corrected itself as the pancakes cooked. You’ll also see in the video that I turn the pancakes around and over. Before flipping them, I rotate them halfway in the pan because the part in the center always browns faster than the outside edge of the pan.
Can you spot the cameo appearance of by Ellie, one of our two new dogs? She and Rigby joined our household a couple of months ago from Bichon FurKids Rescue.
Finally, let’s get around to serving these crisp and tender creations. We love potato pancakes topped with Gulasz or Pork Goulash. Polish friends have told me they like to eat them with sugar and cinnamon, or maybe sour cream. How about sour cream and a dollop of caviar? The possibilities are mouth watering. Oh yeah, plain is really good too.
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A potato pancake recipe that uses flour to thicken
- 3 potatoes (1.5 pounds)
- 1 small onion
- 1 small egg
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- canola oil for frying
- Peel potatoes and grate on the fine side of the grater
- Grate onion
- Drain potatoes and onion
- In a bowl, beat egg, stirring in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth
- Add drained potatoes and onion, stirring until well combined
- Heat 1/4 inch oil in frying pan over medium high heat
- Add potato batter, 1/4 cup at a time
- Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter until the pancake is about 1/2 inch thick, I was able to make 3 at a time
- Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, my frying pan is larger than the largest burner, so I also rotated them half way through each side to keep the middle from cooking and the outside edge from not getting dark enough
- Drain on paper towels.
A potato pancake thickened with potato starch
- 3 potatoes (1.5 pounds)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon onion
- 1 small egg
- 2 teaspoons salt
- lard for frying
- Peel and dice the potatoes
- Add water to blender or food processor with a steel blade attachment, process the potato and onion in two batches
- Using the same water for both batches, process in bursts, so the potatoes are grated finely, but not liquefied
- Drain the potato mixture; reserving the water, let the water sit for just a minute, the potato starch will settle to the bottom
- Pour off the liquid, being careful to leave the starch in the bowl
- Add egg, salt, and potato onion mixture to the starch and combine
- Heat lard over medium high heat, drop batter 1/4 cup at a time into hot lard, using the back of the spoon to spread out the batter until pancakes are 1/2 inch thick
- Cook until brown on both sides
- Drain on paper towels