Posted by: CJW | February 3, 2010

Hoi Polloi

I know, what kind of name is “hoi polloi” for something you eat? Afterall, it’s a Greek phrase that means “the many” or apparently is synonymous with “the commoners.” But when I lived in Cleveland, “hoi polloi” was defined for me by an amazing meal at a favorite, but apparently now defunct restaurant.

It starts with a plate full of crispy, buttery potato pancakes. Piled on top of that is a crunchy, slightly sweet and tangy coleslaw. Then the final layer is a big pile of salty, spicy corned beef. John and I would argue over who’d get to order it, but the other person would be adequately compensated with an order of cinnamon sugar spiced sweet potato fries and first dibs on ordering the frosted Oreos for dessert. Need I explain that this was often the choice of where to eat when both of us felt like stress eating? 🙂

When German butterball potatoes and cabbage showed up in our CSA box, I seized the opportunity to try to recreate that treasured food memory. (Minus the frosted Oreos and sweet potato fries– we don’t feel the stress eating need nearly as much now that one is done with med school and the other doesn’t deal with people actively in crisis on an everyday basis.) The potatoes, determined by our CSA as being the most potato-ey of potatoes, were perfect for making pancakes. I tried to make it a little healthier by using a light mustard vinaigrette for my coleslaw, and the last swap out was in substituting pastrami for the corned beef to suit John’s lunch meat preferences. All the flavors and textures from the original were present and accounted for in this tribute. Now I suppose this means I need to work on figuring out how to make those frosted Oreos…

  • 1/2 lb pastrami

Potato Pancakes

  • 1 lb German butterball potatoes
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • about 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Coleslaw

  • 1/2 head cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper

Scrub potatoes clean and peel them. Using a grating blade in a food processor or the large holes of a grater, shred the potatoes. Put the shreds in a colander and sprinkle with about 1 tsp salt, mixing the salt throughout. Let sit for abut 10-15 minutes, then pile the shreds on top of a clean kitchen towel. Fold up the towel and wring it to squeeze out as much of the potato water as you can. The dryer the potato, the better the fry.

While waiting for the salt to draw out moisture from the potato shreds, assemble the coleslaw to give it time to wilt in the vinaigrette. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper to taste. Toss it with the cabbage and grated carrot. Set aside.

Back to the squeezed dry potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together the potato shreds, egg, and grated onion. Add the flour a bit at a time– you’re basically looking for just enough flour to bind the potato shreds together, I’m guessing here that it took me about 1/4 cup but it may take you more or less depending on the humidity. Add the baking soda and powder (to give the cakes a little lift) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat. When the fats in the pan get ripply, add the potato pancake batter to the pan in about 1/3 cup sized mounds. Use the spatula to help flatten it out into a patty that’s about 1/2 inch thick. Turn the heat down to medium to avoid burning the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Basically, monitor the edges of the pancake– when they look golden brown, then it’s probably safe to flip those suckers. Cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side or until golden. Keep warm in the oven while you finish cooking the other cakes.

Assembly is pretty self-explanatory: place 2 to 3 cakes on each plate, top with a pile of coleslaw and finish off with pieces of pastrami.

CSA Count: 3

German butterball potatoes, onion, cabbage

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