For a guy who went to cateschism every Saturday as a kid, I feel as if latkes have been a part of my life forever. Although I didn't know a latke from a lollipop until I moved to New York, I have been making up for lost latkes ever since. Instead of making individual pancakes, I often make a ginormous latke, filled with sauteed leeks. Serve it with sour cream and applesauce, or with grilled chicken sausage. The flipping is a little daunting, but you'll get the hang of it.
Giant Potato and Leek Rösti
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Make Ahead: The potatoes must be chilled, so prepare them the day before. The leeks can be cooked up to 1 day ahead.
Rösti, a big potato pancake, is a specialty of Switzerland, and I remember my grandmother (who was born in Liechtenstein) making it. You can also buy rendered duck fat at some specialty markets, and you might even find chicken schmaltz at a good kosher butcher. The pancake turns out crispy and golden brown with a surprise filling of tender leeks.
6 large baking potatoes, such as russet or Idaho, scrubbed, but unpeeled (3 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
3 medium leeks, white and green parts only, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons rendered poultry (goose, duck, or chicken) fat or vegetable oil, divided
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish (optional)
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 25 to 35 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. In a very large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until tender, stirring often, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the salt and pepper. Season the leeks with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt-and-pepper mixture. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. (The leeks can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated.) Wipe the skillet clean.
3. Peel the potatoes and shred on the large holes of a box grater. In the skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the goose fat over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Spread half of the potatoes in the skillet in a layer. Season with half of the salt-and-pepper mixture. Spread with the leeks, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Top with the remaining potatoes, and season with the remaining salt-and pepper.
4. Cook until the underside of the pancake is golden brown, about 7 minutes. Hold a flat round skillet top or pizza pan on top of the skillet. Invert the skillet and the skillet top together so the pancake falls, upside down, onto the skillet top. (If this seems too heavy to handle, slide the pancake carefully out of the skillet onto a plate. Place a second plate on top, and invert.) Return the skillet to the stove and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons goose fat until very hot. Slide the pancake back into the skillet, browned side up. Cook until the other side is browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the pancake as above, and bake it until crisp, about 10 minutes more.
6. Transfer to a warm round platter and sprinkle with the chives, if desired. Serve hot, cut into wedges.