Foraged spring onions are the star of this delicious dish.
If you've never had a ramp - also known as a wild leek - you don't know what you've been missing! Available only for a few weeks in April and May, ramps are strong in flavor with delicate green leaves and purplish-white stems. This potato pancake recipe features ramp stems in the batter with ramp leaves in the accompanying sauce. Russet potatoes are hand-grated on a box grater, but no one will know the difference if you want to use a food processor. It's all about technique, not torture...because It's Lauren, of Course!
Equipment: cutting board; peeler; chef’s knife; blender or food processor; rubber spatula; large, clean dishcloth; dry measuring cups and spoons; mixing bowls; box grater or food processor; cast iron skillet or deep sauté pan; candy thermometer (optional); offset spatula; rimmed sheet pan lined with paper towels
Ingredients: 1 bunch ramps, cleaned and trimmed ½ cup creme fraiche
6 medium or 4 large potatoes, such as Russet or Yukon gold 2 large eggs ½ cup flour 1 tablespoon potato starch 1½ teaspoons kosher salt ¾ teaspoon ground white pepper canola or vegetable oil for frying
1. First prepare the ramps. Slice the stems crosswise into thin slices and set aside. Reserve the ramp leaves and set aside. Prepare an ice bath in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Fill a small saucepan two-thirds with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the ramp leaves and blanch for approximately twenty seconds, until wilted. Immediately remove from the boiling water with tongs and place in the ice bath to cool for one minute. Remove the chilled ramp leaves from the ice bath and squeeze dry.
3. Place the wilted ramp leaves in a blender or food processor. Add the creme fraiche along with ¼ cup of cold water. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add a generous pinch of sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Blend again to incorporate. Pour the sauce into a small serving dish and set aside.
ILOC tip: make this sauce to serve with almost anything, from grilled chicken and fish to seared scallops and roasted vegetables. Use as a dip for crudités or as a spread on sandwiches.
4. Prepare a large sheet pan lined with a clean cloth and set aside. Peel the potatoes and grate on the box grater (the side with the second-largest teeth) set inside a mixing bowl. (If you want to use a food processor, fit it with the grater disk and cut into pieces that fit through the mouth of the food processor, likely quarters.)
5. Transfer the grated potatoes to the towel-lined sheet pan. Wrap them in the towel then squeeze out as much liquid as possible, discarding the liquid and reserving the potatoes.
"Squeezing out the liquid is essential to a safe and clean frying experience, but adding potato starch back in helps to make the latke crispy and fluffy."
6. Transfer the drained potatoes to a large bowl and beat in the eggs, plus the flour, potato starch, kosher salt, and ground white pepper. Mix well to combine, then stir in the sliced ramp stems.
7. Heat 1-inch of oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet. Once the oil is shimmering and hot (about 365F), carefully place 1/3-cup portions of the mixture in the pan and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn and cook for 3-5 minutes more on the other side, or until golden brown.
8. Lift the latkes from the pan with a spatula and place on a paper towel to drain. Repeat the process with the remaining batter. Serve warm with the sauce.
Makes 10-12 latkes.
Fresh latkes may be kept warm in a 250F oven. If prepared in advance and refrigerated, reheat them in a single layer on a sheet pan in a 450F oven on the middle rack for 5 to 8 minutes.