12/5/10

Nora Ephron's Swiss Potato Pancake

As an adult with a shower stall that seems to always needs a scrub, a bag of clothing that's been on its way to Goodwill for weeks, and a letter from my car insurance stating, "We determined that the driver of your vehicle was principally at fault because under California law, a driver is responsible for steering clear of any obstacles," it’s easy to forget about those tangible moments of triumph that used to occur a little more often and easily when you were younger and played varsity tennis or were, say, a competitive gymnast with super unrealistic dreams of a college scholarship. I’m talking about physical moments of triumph—of connecting your handspring series on the high beam or hitting a backhand winner down the line and without shame or fear, pumping your fist and yelling, "C'mon!"

And I think this is one of the reasons I like cooking so much. Because, in a way, each completed meal or dish is a version of thisa mini moment of triumph.

In similarly related news, I recently read Nora Ephron’s Heartburn—it reminded me of something Woody Allen may have written if he were a thirty-five-year-old woman who was way into food. The book was great, but what I enjoyed the most were the recipes and descriptions of the food. Truly, I have never been more inspired to cook and eat a potato. Ephron makes the potato something to lust after. For the narrator, this starchy tuber is entwined with falling in and out of love. “I have friends who begin with pasta, and friends who begin with rice, but whenever I fall in love, I begin with potatoes,” she writes before going on to clarify that she is not talking about plain potatoes but crisp ones. But crisp potatoes take time. “And time, as any fool can tell you, is what true romance is about. In fact, one of the main reasons why you must make crisp potatoes in the beginning is that if you don’t make them in the beginning, you never will. I’m sorry to be so cynical about this, but that’s the truth.”

Of the two crisp potato recipes she describes, I chose Swiss potatoes. Apart from wanting to remain in the beginning and this recipe sounding completely indulgent and satisfying, I chose Swiss potatoes because I loved the way the recipe is written—it's simple and cute, but not cloying and the unapologetic paper towel usage gives it a nicely dated, 80s feel, which is reason enough itself.

For Swiss potatoes: Peel 3 large (or 4 small) russet potatoes (or all-purpose if you can’t get russets) and put them in cold water to cover. Start 4 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon cooking oil melting in a nice heavy large frying pan. Working quickly, dry the potatoes and grate them on the grating disk of the Cuisinart. Put them into a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then dry them again on paper towels. You will need more paper towels to do this than you ever thought possible. Dump the potatoes into the frying pan, patting them down with a spatula, and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the bottom of the pancake is brown. Then, while someone is watching, loosen the pancake and, with one incredibly deft motion, flip it over. Salt it generously. Cook 5 minutes more. Serves two.


Can you see where this is going? The part about “with one incredibly deft motion, flip it over” sounded like it had mini-triumph potential written all over it. Originally, Matt was going to step in as the “someone watching,” but then we had the brilliant idea to record it.

I realize that it may not look like much, but I had never flipped anything like that before, and clearly, I had my doubts. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty. But, alas, I did it. And on top of it all, the pancake was insanely delicious. It was everything you could ever want from a potato. It was hot, buttery, crispy but soft in the center. And whether you're in the beginning, middle, or end (of falling in love or otherwise), if I were you, I would make this as soon as possible.
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34 comments:

  1. Great flip!!! Also, a perfect Hanukkah post -- Swiss Latke!

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  2. i was laughing sooooo loud!!!! i love you for making this awesome video.

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  3. hahahahahahhahahahhahahahhahaha. this is the best thing ever. waking up to this and that little 18 year old minx over on Closet Visit has to be the best way to start a day.

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  4. It's soo good! Coach Taylor is holding back a tear.

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  5. You did it! This is my favorite, and I want to make that latke.

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  6. this. video. must. go. viral.

    also, do i really have to *apologize* every time i use paper towels?

    also, i miss you, Amerzzzzz!

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  7. thanks, people!

    and YES, brock: in today's age of reducing, reusing, and recycling, we must all feel guilty & apologize for using paper towels. SORRY. p.s. I miss you, too!!

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  8. Great Moves! This is a good companion peice to your "why i cook" entry...does it taste as good if no one is there to eat with you? Does it count if no one is watching??

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  9. way to build up the suspense and anticipation pre-flip! were your forearm muscles sore the next day? that pancake looks sooooo good. i might have to make it this week.

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  10. What a wonderful episode of "Flip this Latke". We loved this post as well as Amelia's two-hand forehand.

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  11. also, your pancake bears an extremely uncanny resemblance to france. if you don't believe me consult google maps.

    coincidence... or not???

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  12. i just have to say this video was everything i had hoped for and more. and that pancake looks seriously delicious.

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  13. OMG! Amazing, can we expect more videos PLEASE?! Bon Appetempt always makes me hungry.
    -Jess

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  14. LOL LOL LOL I sent this to everyone I know!!! Definitely going to win oscar for best editing...and while we're at it, sound mixing. xo

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  15. the video is amazing! so fun hanging out with you guys last night!

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  16. watched it again twice. still laughing. lol

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  17. i want to begin and end every day for the rest of my life watching this!

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  18. Happy Chanukah! Or as I like to say sometimes, Happy Chaka Kan!
    Video was better than seeing a kid open presents on xmas morning - you were so genuinely excited! I find it particularly amusing that you decided to go all out on the flip. Did the recipe suggest somewhere that spatulas were verboten?
    mmm... looking forward to some latkes this week....

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  19. @everyone: SO very very glad it's making you all laugh!

    @Melissa: it was so fun!

    @Megan: it's an honor just to be nominated!

    @Rachel: There's video of me beginning to try and flip with a spatula and Matt stopping me and saying something like, "No, you have to do it in one incredibly deft motion!'" Soooo, does that answer your question? ;)

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  20. yes... I went back and read that. I think it was a bold, but accurate move!

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  21. Best internet experience I have ever had!!!

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  22. megan: next video idea.. Baby Boom remake?? maybe?

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  23. Amelia: love the idea...can I play the baby, Elizabeth?

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  24. also Amelia: day 3, episode 16...and counting.

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  25. I made this today! Thanks for the inspiration! Served it with applesauce, sour cream, and finely chopped green onion. DELICIOUS!

    And I even played your video in the background (for the musical support) and went for the flip. Success!

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  26. holy smokes. you deserve your own shown ASAP.

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  27. When I started reading this post, I was sure I was reading an excerpt BY Nora Ephron. And this is from a diehard Ephron fan. And by the end of the video, I actually clapped.

    You just brought Eminem and Nora Ephron together in one incredible (and deft) flip.

    Flipping awesome,
    Jen @ McClure's Pickles

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  28. @keepfeeling: Thanks!! I would love a show centering on me flipping different kinds of pancakes. ;)

    @McluresPickles: Nicest comment ever. thank you so much!!!

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  29. just re-watched this. still one of my all time favorite things.

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  30. "And whether you're in the beginning, middle, or end (of falling in love or otherwise), if I were you, I would make this as soon as possible."

    Great persuasion, huh. Though, no need for it because just watching the video makes me want to make that recipe asap. :)

    Cheers,
    Peny@manometer

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Thanks for your thoughts!