Let’s talk for a minute about guilty pleasures. I say this because potato pancakes are one of mine. When early morning hours make it socially unacceptable to order french fries, I turn to their flat, greasy cousin – the pancake.
I don’t order them often. Probably just as often as I order a big, fat, buttery bag of popcorn at the movies. Oh how I love movie popcorn. I know it’s processed. I know it’s artificial. And yes, I know it’ll make my insides glow. But I don’t care. Once every two months I like to sit in front of that giant screen with fake butter running down my chin and salt covering fingertips.
Potato pancakes aren’t quite as hazardous to your health, but still, I wouldn’t feel good eating them on a weekly basis. These little pancakes though, are a bit different. Organic, local potatoes, leeks and sausage made from pasture-raised pork (Fatted Calf), fried in olive oil. Topped with an organic poached egg and served over mixed greens, you can feel less guilty and more pleasure. I wouldn’t eat fried food everyday no matter what it’s fried in, but I feel a lot better about these crispy treats than I do about the ones I would order at the dirty little corner diner.
And now a giveaway! What’s your guilty pleasure? Leave a comment below letting me know your dirty secret, and you’ll have a chance to win a jar of the luscious chestnut jam I wrote about last week. I’ll pick a winner at random and announce the lucky reader in my next blog post. It’s incredible stuff, that chestnut jam, I almost hate to give up a jar. Now for the recipe…
Potato Pancakes with Sausage, Leeks and Poached Eggs
Makes 12 potato pancakes. Cook time: About 1 hour
Special equipment: cheesecloth
2 pounds russet potatoes, washed (You can peel them if you want, but I didn’t)
1 leek, dark green parts removed and chopped finely
1/2 pound Italian sausage (Mine was made from pasture raised pork, organic garlic, organic herbs, white wine, sea salt and spices.)
½ cup all purpose flour
2 organic eggs, plus more for poaching
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel
Remove casing from sausage. Heat up a cast iron skillet, add a touch of olive oil, and when hot, add the sausage. Stir, and cook until browned. Remove sausage from the skillet and set aside.
Add leeks to the same skillet and lower heat to medium-low. Sauté for about 10 minutes, or until soft.
In a small bowl, combine 2 eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Stir.
Grate potatoes using the large section of a hand grater. You can use the grater blade of a food processor, but I think it makes the potato pieces too small. Gather grated potato in cheesecloth and squeeze out all the excess moisture – try to get as much out as possible.
Combine potato, sausage and leeks in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and egg mixture, and stir to combine. Using a jar lid, shape into round pancakes.
Use a paper towel to clean off your skillet. Add about 1 inch of olive oil and turn your heat to medium-high. Test the temperature by throwing a small piece of potato in the oil. If it bubbles, it’s ready. Fry the pancakes for about 2 minutes on the first side, pressing down to flatten. Flip and cook for another minute. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven while you fry the rest. If you have leftovers, reheat them in the broiler to get some of crispiness back.
Perfectly Poached Eggs, if you like them runny
(I can’t take credit for this method, but I can’t remember where I first read about it. Once you get the hang of poaching, don’t use the plastic. Just drop the rim of a mason jar in the water and slide the egg in the ring.
Heat up 3 inches of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a scant simmer.
Line a small bowl with plastic wrap, and drizzle in a little olive oil. Crack the egg into the plastic. Gather together the ends of the plastic wrap, drop in the water and cover. Let sit for 2 ½ minutes. Pick up plastic and slide egg on top of some potato pancakes. Sprinkle on chives and fleur de sel.
Serve over organic greens and freshly baked bread.
Where I Shopped:
Sausage, chives: Fatted Calf, Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Organic russet potatoes, organic leeks: Star Grocery, Berkeley
Organic eggs: Old Oakland farmers’ market
Rustin baguette: Le Farine Bakery, Oakland
If you don’t have access to farmers’ markets or local foods, ask your butcher where the meat comes from and how it’s raised. At least you’ll know what you’re in for. Shop at mom and pop stores for groceries, and ask the owners to supply more local foods. If you can’t eat locally, at least support your community and shop locally.