One aspect of being creative in the kitchen that I love involves taking a recipe from one culture and using it to inspire a recipe that improves on a common dish from another culture. When I first started playing with the following recipe, I tried to make thin poppadum-like disks that had Spanish seasonings. I wanted a crunchy, airy texture to dip into sauces. The Indian cookbook that had been sitting on my shelves in various places for the last ten years finally got a read through when I just needed to relax and not do any hard thinking over my winter break. I was also lounging on the couch for hours watching a YouTube channel that featured a chef cooking on a farm in India who crafted delicious savory cakes and fried items. Indian cuisine inspired me to think of all of the savory, pan-fried items I could craft without wheat-based flour. Lentil and chickpea flours and potatoes are the basic ingredients of non-wheat-based savory carbohydrate treats in India. I had never heard of using potatoes before, and the idea intrigued me.
I followed a recipe in which you cook potatoes, mash them, roll them out into paper-thin disks, and dry them for 55-72 hours. To add a Spanish twist, I added smoky paprika and cayenne. When fried though, these disks were hard, and as my brave boyfriend said tasted “like potato jerky.” Clearly, this was not what I had been aiming for.
I tried about four variations of this recipe to finally land on the proper drying time and thickness for the cakes. Twelve to thirteen hours of drying time allow the potato flavor to come forward while still remaining tender as the cakes cook. You want a cake-like thickness, similar to a thick pancake. This thickness will allow for the insides to remain moist and warm like mash potatoes when you fry them, while the outsides get crispy golden brown. You can enjoy the potato cakes for breakfast with eggs, or as an appetizer or side dish at dinner. Feel free to play with the seasonings—try adding a little chopped and sautéed green garlic or minced fresh garlic in the potato mix.
1 pound russet potatoes, medium/large in size (about three)
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon smoky paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Pinch of baking powder
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1. Place the potatoes in cool filtered salted water and bring them to a soft boil. Cook the potatoes until they are just done, and pull them out of the water to cool for 3 minutes.
2. Place the potatoes in a small pot or bowl, and gently crush them with a flat spatula or fork. Sprinkle in the dry seasonings, including the baking powder, and carefully mix the potatoes until they form a slightly chunky mashed potato consistency. Be sure evenly incorporate the dry ingredients into the potatoes.
4. Divide the potato dough into seven-eight portions.
5. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet tray, and coat the parchment with a little olive oil.
6. Form a small ball from each portion, and push each ball out with your palms and fingers in order to form a small round cake. After you form each cake, carefully lift it with a broad spatula from one of your hands and place it on the oiled parchment/wax paper.
7. Set the tray of potato cakes in an airy, dry place in your kitchen or home (I placed my cakes in front of an air purifier so that they received a constant stream of fresh air). The goal is to dry out the cakes over the course of 12-13 hours. Using a spatula, you should flip the cakes over after 6-8 hours of initial drying.
8. Heat a large fry pan up to medium-high heat. Place the olive oil in the pan, swirl the hot oil around the pan, and immediately place the cakes in the oil. Shallow fry the cakes on each side until golden brown, and lift them from the pan onto a paper towel.
9. Let the oil drain briefly onto a paper towel, and then serve the cakes by placing them on a platter. Garnish with chopped chives or fresh torn basil.