Babe's Potato Pancakes
If you ask my father what dish his mother, Władysława Szypulska Zembrzuska, made best, he will say “Potato Pancakes!” If you ask him his favorite meal of my late mom, Stella Pepłowski Zembrzuski, he will say, “Potato Pancakes!” If you take him to Euro Deli in Latham, NY for lunch, he will order “Potato Pancakes!” That's his mother, my paternal Babcia, below.
My dad, Thomas Joseph Zembrzuski, Sr., will be 92 years old this year. He was the baby of his family, hence his 92-year old childhood nickname "Babe." I believe that the secret to his longevity may just be this crispy, deep-fried, carb loaded treat (or all the love that gets mixed in).
Warning, although this is a simple recipe that is hard to mess up, it takes a lot of work! Make sure you read the whole recipe before getting started.
2 medium onions, peeled
5 pound bag of potatoes, peeled
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Crisco brand vegetable oil for frying (seriously, for some reason it produces superior results)
Salt and pepper
Applesauce and/or sour cream, for serving
Makes about 3 dozen 3” potato pancakes. Preheat oven to 200°F. Place 2 baking sheets, lined with paper towels, in oven. Make sure you wear an apron to protect your outfit from spitting oil!
Using a box grater (for an arm workout!) or a food processor, grate the onions and place them in a colander set in sink to drain. Grate the potatoes and add them to the colander to drain.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the flour and salt.
Press down on the potatoes and onion to squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then add them to the egg mixture. Mix well.
In a large skillet over moderately high heat, heat an inch of Crisco oil until hot but not smoking. Drop 4 1/4-cup portions of batter into the pan and flatten them a bit with a spatula to form four approximately 3-inch pancakes. I usually have two skillets going at once.
Fry until the bottoms are golden-brown, about 4 minutes, then turn over and fry until golden-brown and crisp, about an additional 4 minutes. Transfer the potato pancakes to the paper towel lined baking sheets to drain and keep warm. If needed, season the pancakes with additional salt and pepper.
Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil as needed.
We serve the pancakes hot with applesauce and sour cream. Another serving option is to sprinkle the potato pancakes with white sugar, an old school alternative my mom sometimes employed.
Here is my Dad when he was a literal "Babe," pictured with his late sister, Leona.
And here he is today, with his granddaughter, Grace, at Broadway Market in Buffalo, NY after eating (guess what?) Potato Pancakes!