I’m obsessed, completely, totally and utterly obsessed. The center of that obsession right now is Mom’s recipes. I.Do.Not.Know.Why. I have plenty of them. My sister has what I don’t but there is ONE food I’ve not been able to replicate in these 16 years since she died. It has frustrated me so much that I gave up. Haven’t even thought of it until recently.
Maybe I can thank my recent interview with celebrity Chef Michael Symon, who has a similar Eastern European background to mine (albeit with Greek and Sicilian mixed in). My mom was Polish, at least mostly (maybe some German mixed in). We grew up in a Polish Catholic Parish. On Fridays, there was NO meat in our diet (my friend Rebecca can give you a far better reason than “that’s the way we always did it” than I can). What that meant was a lot of the old ways my mom learned from my grandmother (her mother).
So, we had fish (typically Lake Erie perch at the local fraternal club) or some starch with a vegetable (cabbage and noodles) or something else that I haven’t touched since becoming my own cook. One of those things was Polish potato pancakes (placki kartoflane, or placki ziemniaczane). I LOVED them and I spent PLENTY of time in the kitchen with my mother helping with making them.
As an adult, I have my mom’s stuff (the bowl she made the pancake batter in and the spoon she used to mix it up) but I have not been able to make them the way she did. There’s no recipe that I can find (other than one in a book entitled “Treasured Polish Recipes” that MIGHT be the same thing). This weekend I intend to give it another go, to try and make those delectable, 3- to 4-inch disks of crispy goodness. In preparation, I’ve been doing Internet searches and I’ve become frustrated. I canNOT find recipes that recommend serving them the way we had them. See, once you make the batter (made of grated, raw potatoes, flour, egg and salt) and fry it, you can, apparently serve it.Just.About.Any.Damn.Way.You.Want. The way I WANT is the way we had them. We would fight for that first cake off the griddle and sprinkle it with salt. But when we sat down to eat, we’d get three on a plate and pour pancake syrup over them. Mmmmm, Mmmm, Mmmmm. Once they’d cooled a bit, before the plate they were on got wrapped in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator, we would grab them and slather grape jelly on them. YUM. It wasn’t a typical savory dinner. We didn’t eat them with meat, sour cream, smoked salmon. They were like little desserts THAT WE COULD CALL DINNER. I remember them so well. And I haven’t been able to replicate them in 16 years.
Well, this weekend, I try. Fingers crossed because I’m really craving those bad boys right now! And, I keep hoping to find someone, anyone, who ate them the way we did!