Using modern tools to make traditional dishes makes sense, unless you end up disturbing the usual rhythm of the Holidays, as I once did. I remember when I got my first food processor and showed it to my mother-in-law. This was when I was living out on Guam with my first husband.
My mother-in-law was making a local dish from the culture of Guam that includes ground fresh tapioca. If you have never seen it, tapioca looks pretty much like medium-sized carrots, except that it is pure white. It is also just as hard as carrots, if not harder. Grating them up for the recipe is no laughing matter; you can end up with grater fatigue and some skinned knuckles to boot.
So I went down and fetched my new food processor and ground up all the tapioca in about twenty minutes. But it left my family dumbfounded, with nothing to do in an afternoon that they had planned to pass cooking and talking. There I was bringing their leisurely pursuit to a screeching halt. I didn't do it again, nor was I ever asked to.
But today there is no need to grate and chop if you want to make Potato Pancakes. They are so good that you can serve them anytime from breakfast to dinner, and the few ingredients also lend themselves to convenience. I advise that you add one more step to the process: make an egg wash with 1 large egg and 1/4 cup of water. Dip the raw pancakes into it and then roll them gently in unseasoned bread crumbs, and then place them on the griddle. I observed this from Chef Erin Grinchspan over the weekend on the celebrity Christmas special that paired her with G. Garvin for cooking television.
I also noticed that the Jewish heritage of Erin didn't seem to be disconcerting to the Christian background that Garvin has. In fact, he seemed fascinated and liked the word, "Latkes," which he seemed to be learning for the first time. We can all take a lesson from this and make up some Potato Pancakes for our non-Jewish friends just because they are delicious!
MODERN POTATO PANCAKES
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 small white onion, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups cubed potatoes
Place everything except the potatoes into a blender or food processor. Pulse them briefly to begin chopping the onions.
A little at a time, add the potatoes slowly to the processor. Pulse, do not grind, until all the potatoes have been added. When you have a finely-chopped mixture, just a couple of steps above ground, the potatoes are ready.
Add a small amount of oil to a griddle or frying pan and place it over medium heat. When it is hot, drop the potato mixture in half-dollar-size amounts to the surface. When the bubbles on top pop but do not fill in with liquid, it is time to turn the pancakes. If the bottoms burn while you wait for the bubbles on top, the pan is too hot.
Potato Pancakes are served with applesauce or apple butter, or perhaps maple syrup. They were originally part of Hanukkah, which features fried foods and sweets. They do well at breakfast, though, I think, because they are an alternative to breads and go with eggs in many forms.
Grill the turned pancakes briefly to brown them and remove to a serving plate. Serve with butter, syrup, applesauce or whatever you wish.