Culinary no-no FLASHBACK: Potato pancakes

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO! 

THIS IS A RE-WRITE OF ONE OF MY FAVORITES, CULINARY NO-NO #42 FROM FEBRUARY 2008. IT HAS BEEN EDITED TO FIT TODAY.

The Lenten season has arrived meaning Friday night fish fries are even more popular.

That means plates of golden brown cod, haddock or perch, cole slaw, rye bread, french fries, and potato pancakes. The question is, how best to eat those pancakes?

Former Franklin blogger Janet Evans on a few occasions has given me her opinion on the proper accompaniment to potato pancakes. I invited her to provide guest commentary for this week’s edition of Culinary no-no. Here’s Janet’s take, and then I’ll give you mine:

Let’s face it; some people just know more than others when it comes to certain types of food.  Like potato pancakes, for instance.

I grew up on potato pancakes.  My grandfather, who was born in Latvia, was a peasant who practically lived on potatoes.  He also had homemade sour cream.  Later, in America, when he was 30 he married his 15 year old bride and taught her that when you make potato pancakes, you have to have sour cream along with them.

I make great potato pancakes.  Hand grated potatoes with grated onion, flour, egg, salt, and pepper.  Before I fry them, I cook bacon and save the bacon grease.  The pancakes are then cooked in the bacon grease so they turn out with very crispy edges.  The crispy, hot pancakes are served immediately, with sour cream, and crumbled bacon on top.  Perfection. When I moved to Wisconsin, I saw some strange food customs.  One of them that stopped me in my tracks was applesauce with potato pancakes!  What’s that all about?  You do not mix apples with potatoes.  Especially cold applesauce with hot, potato pancakes.  Talk about a no-no.  It isn’t like Wisconsinites don’t know what sour cream is.  Go to any restaurant in the Dairy State at dinner time and listen to the patrons order their baked potatoes with sour cream. 

So, tell me, Kevin Fischer, what is it that I don’t get about Wisconsin and potato pancakes?  And don’t tell me it is a German custom.  I’m part German too.

Potato Pancakes with sour cream?  Yes-yes. 

Potato Pancakes with applesauce?  No-no.

–Janet Evans

Now my take:

First of all, putting sour cream on potato pancakes is not the most blatant example of a culinary no-no. You can search online for recipes for potato pancakes and find some that suggest sour cream. However, most, if not all of the recipes that mention sour cream also mention applesauce. Not all of the recipes that mention applesauce also mention sour cream.

In 2007 the late Dennis Getto of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel wrote that potato pancakes were part of the trio that made a great fish fry (the fish and cole slaw the other two ingredients).

Getto had this to say about the pancakes:

“By far the best sidekick for fried fish is genuine, homemade potato pancakes. The best are made from freshly grated or ground potato, enhanced with a little minced onion. The mixture is bound with egg (or egg and flour), formed into patties and fried or grilled.

Many restaurants use batter mixes, which result in pancakes that are mushy and not at all crisp. Some offer a maple syrup option to the more typical applesauce accompaniment.”

Notice he didn’t include sour cream?

From Getto’s article, a photo of the fish fry from the Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden:

I see applesauce on the plate. You see any sour cream?

Cold applesauce?

The applesauce served at restaurants in these parts isn’t cold.

Janet, Janet, Janet. Sour cream and bacon bits are great…on a baked potato.

Sour cream on a potato pancake?

No, no.

Applesauce is much better.

UPDATE: In fairness to Janet if you order an appetizer plate of potato pancakes at Mader’s they come with both applesauce and sour cream. But that’s not a fish fry.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

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One thought on “Culinary no-no FLASHBACK: Potato pancakes

  1. Pingback: Culinary no-no #730 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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