However, while flipping through Sir Thomas Keller's tome Ad Hoc at Home, I happened upon a recipe that was for potato pancakes, but no egg or wheat. I was intrigued. I looked at the ingredient list which was so short, I could read the list several times and still have time leftover.
5 scallions, thinly sliced
3 lbs russet potatoes
1/2 cup cornstarch
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
The instructions however, took more than four paragraphs and made for some dense reading. True to Keller style, although the ingredients were simple, it was going to come down to technique, and some can't skip steps. I decided however, that it would be worth it, if only to tell Son, "This is Thomas Keller's recipe and mommy made it just for you."
I did however, want to do a slight twist on Mr. Keller's recipe, by substituting sweet rice flour (mochiko) instead of cornstarch. Son does okay with cornstarch, but I had a feeling that the sweet rice flour would also make for a nice glue, as rice always manages to get stuck children and their clothing and it is near impossible to get off. I decided to do the pancakes two ways - one half with the sweet rice flour and one half with the cornstarch, just to compare texture and flavor. In the end, I actually couldn't tell the difference between either, although I might say that the cornstarch one was slightly lighter and crispier but not so noticeably that it was absolutely necessary to do it with the cornstarch.
This does require that you sit at the stove and monitor your potato pancakes. It is not hard, but it is time consuming. I recommend making these when you have something cooking in the oven that is easy and straightforward, not requiring your time like Greek Roasted Chicken, Paprika Chicken, or Greek Roasted Chicken Thighs.
Scallion Potato Cakes (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)
5 scallions, dark green part only, thinly sliced
3 pounds large russet potatoes
1/2 cup cornstarch OR 1 cup of mochiko (sweet rice flour)
Vegetable oil (I use safflower oil, Keller likes canola)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Set as cooling rack on a baking sheet.
Shred potatoes, using either a food processor with a coarse blade, box grater, or Japanese mandoline. I used the mandoline and just grated the potatoes directly into a salad spinner.
Transfer potatoes to salad spinner. Fill with cold water and swirl and rinse the potatoes. Lift them from the water, drain water, and then spin potatoes dry.
Transfer to another large bowl. Spoon cornstarch or rice flour around the sides of the bowl and toss the potatoes with it, coating potatoes evenly. Do not let potatoes sit too long or they will release their starch and become sticky.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in 10-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Turn down heat to medium. Add 1/6 of the potatoes, gently spreading them into an 8 to 9 inch circle. Do not press down on the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle 1/3 of scallion greens over potatoes. Carefully spread another 1/6 of the potatoes on top, without pressing down.
Season again with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-7 minutes to brown the bottom. You should hear potatoes sizzling in oil; if potatoes are quiet, or the pan looks dry, add a bit more oil. Turn the pancake over to brown second side. Be gentle when flipping as pancakes are a bit delicate. Cook until second side is browned and crisp and then transfer to the rack and keep warm in the oven while you cook remaining 2 pancakes.
Cut into wedges, stack on a platter and garnish with a few scallion greens. Serve with applesauce (the way my kids ate it) or with creme fraiche topped with a bit of smoked salmon. YUM!
The tool I used in lieu of a food processor
The sweet rice flour I like to use (available at your local Korean, Japanese or Chinese supermarket)
The book which inspired this