Potato Pancakes With Onion and Red Bell Pepper
A Little History
My husband and I both love potato pancakes! Our maternal grandmothers made them, then taught our mothers to make them, and we grew up eating and loving them. My husband is Jewish, so in his house, they called them latkes. My mother is Polish, and in Polish they're called placki, pronounced like "plot-skies."
Growing up, we incorrectly called a Polish breakfast crepe a "plotsky." I still call the crepes "plotskies" and call potato pancakes "latkes" or just "potato pancakes." The Polish crepes are actually called Nalesniki. And I'm actually quite curious how this mix-up of names happened, because I have seen other people online call the crepes placki and plotski—so it's very interesting! I'll share the recipe and process with you in another article, so stay tuned.
Using a Mix
So I'm cheating a little bit and using a mix. When I developed this recipe, I was all out of potatoes, and I was trying to finish up our fresh produce because we were going on vacation in two days! Yay! So I added some fresh veggies to a mix, and they came out so yummy that I thought I'd write about it. I'll share a more traditional recipe for potato pancakes in another article.
Brands of Potato Pancake Mixes
I've found two mixes that I like, and I usually buy half a dozen boxes at a time because they can be hard to find sometimes (we live in Arizona).
Even the international and ethnic food aisles don't have them in most grocery stores out here. So I can usually only find them at one store here. Manishewitz even makes a sweet potato latke mix. I'm not a sweet potato lover, but my husband is. This mix is even harder to find! But when I find it, I buy them and lovingly make them for him—even though I want nothing to do with them.
How Many Packets Should You Use?
I used the Streit's mix, as that is what I had on hand. The box contains two sealed packets, so you can use them as a side dish for two separate meals. Well, someone "could," but I don't know who. I always make both packets at the same time. Heck, sometimes I make two boxes at a time (four packets). One bag makes about 10 latkes, or both packets (the whole box) make about 20 pancakes.
You can make these in advance. We eat these all year long, especially on all of our holidays (Jewish and Catholic). If it's a holiday or we are having dinner guests, I'll make them the night before or the morning of. I then refrigerate them and reheat them in the oven when we're ready to eat.
- 1 box of Streit's Potato Pancake Mix
For this mix, you'll need:
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups of cold water
I also used:
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- a generous dusting of parsley flakes
Step 1: Prepare the Pan and the Pancake Mix
- I get my pan ready first so it's nice and hot. I cook them on about number 5 or 6 (my stove goes up to 9, and then high, so I cook them on about medium heat). I use vegetable or olive oil. Today I used vegetable. Coat the bottom of the pain and let it get hot, but watch it so it doesn't burn or turn brown.
- Beat your eggs in a bowl until the yolks and whites are blended nicely. I usually just use a fork. Pour in water and mix well. Add your packet(s) and mix again. It will be runny at first but will thicken.
- Let it stand 5 to 10 minutes. Depending on the weather, I might put it in the frig while it thickens. I make the latkes with my hands, and it's easier to work with them when they're cooler than room temperature.
- During the ten minutes that the mix thickens, I chop my onion and pepper. Add the onions, peppers, and parsley and mix well.
- I mix my batter again after sitting in the frig in case any water pooled/separated. I also mix it a few times while cooking for the same reason. As you get to the end of your batter, it might be warm and goopy again. I usually stick it back in the frig for a few.
Step 2: Shape the Latkes
- You can spoon dollops of mix into the pan or use your hands. I'm a "use-my-hands" kinda girl. This is why a cold mix works nicely. (Equate it to the ease of working with cookie dough, once it has been chilled.) If you leave it in the frig too long, then it's difficult to work with because your hands will be getting cold. I guess that's more fun than playing hot potato, though.
- I also put a few drops of oil in my palms and rub it into my hands, coating them. This helps the mix to not stick to my hands as much, and it makes washing them much easier.
- You can make these any size you want. I usually make them smaller than silver-dollar pancakes, but I've seen them prepared bigger. I grab some mix in my hands and sort of drop it from one hand to another, shaping it into a pancake on my fingers.
- I also use the backs of my fingers to flatten the latke a bit so the middle isn't super thick. This helps them cook faster and eliminates my worries about raw middles. You can do the same with the bottom of a fork. Put some cooking spray or oil on the bottom of the fork so your pancake won't stick to it.
Step 3: Cook and Flip the Latkes
- I place them (don't drop them) in the pan very carefully, remember—hot pan and hot oil. I've had lots of practice doing this so I don't get burned.
- Your pan size will dictate how many you can do at once. I usually do about three, so I have enough room to get my spatula in there. The process can take awhile. I once tried to do it faster with two pans going. Even though they were the same exact pan on the same heat setting, one set was cooking faster than my other pan and it was a huge mess. So I just take my time with this and enjoy it.
You'll know it's time to flip your latke when you can see the sides are getting brown and crispy, and when the top raw parts look dull instead of shiny.
Flipping is a trick. You don't want to splash hot oil on yourself. I tilt the pan slightly away from me so the oil trickles in that direction (the bottom). The latke at the top of the pan is no longer submerged, and I safely flip it and slide it to the bottom and repeat until all are flipped.
If your pancake feels like it's going to fall apart, it might not be ready to flip just yet. At the same time, don't be shy to flip them. I've seen people tend to treat them much more gently than you need to. Take control and flip it. It's definitely different than flipping a breakfast pancake, but you'll get the hang of it.
It's important that these cook all the way through—you're serving latkes, not salmonella.
As they finish, I like to put them in a Pyrex dish lined with a few paper towels. I never take them right from the pan to the dinner plate as they'll be way too oily to serve. When they've had time to lose most of their excess oil, I'll plate them or put them in a pretty serving dish.
This is a great way to put a new spin on an old favorite. You can also improve the overall taste just by adding a fresh ingredient. Experiment with other fresh vegetables.
These are delicious when served with sour creme or applesauce. I also like to put some shredded cheese in this mix version and make a cheesy latke.
This latke batter has a consistency similar to runny instant potatoes. Traditional recipes use shredded potatoes (like my husband and I ate while growing up), and I'll make those next time. This mix is a great way to save time if you can't peel and shred potatoes.
More Recipes from the Kitchen of Heather Says
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- Summertime Fried Veggie Cakes
A spin on a traditional potato pancake recipe, incorporating fresh veggies. Super easy to make and deliciously yummy.
- Turkey Sausage and Green Pepper Egg Pizza
This dish is yummy any time of day, with any meal and is a great way to use leftovers. Use your favorite pizza toppings for a new spin on an old favorite or experiment and have fun!