A properly made galette de pomme de terre is a thing of beauty — crisp, lacy and golden brown. Many variants exist. Some people add flour, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it makes the pancakes heavy, when they should be light. Grated onion is sometimes added, but I prefer them plain. And some recipes call for — heaven forbid — mashed potatoes.
No, the best potato pancakes are the classic grated variety. They are great as a side dish and may also be served on their own, with or without extras on the side like sour cream/crème fraîche, chopped onion, fresh herbs or applesauce.
Opinions vary on the best kind of potatoes to use. I’d go for russets in the States and bintje or charlotte potatoes in Europe. Use a skillet that can take the heat, and don’t be in a hurry. You need to tend the pancakes carefully to ensure that they are evenly browned.
The pancakes may be made an hour or so ahead of time and reheated when you are ready to serve. This is very convenient when guests are coming. The best way to enjoy them, however, is straight out of the skillet.
1 pound (500 g) potatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
5-6 tbsp. vegetable oil or duck fat
Peel the potatoes.
Crack the egg into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk.
Grate one or two potatoes onto a plate using the larger holes of your grater. Pat the grated potatoes dry with a paper towel. Turn over and dry again. Add to the bowl.
Repeat until you have used up all the potatoes. Season with salt and grind in a generous dose of black pepper. Mix well.
Have a dinner plate standing by. Place a couple of paper towels on the plate.
Heat 3 tbsp. of the oil or fat to sizzling in a large skillet. Use a soup spoon to transfer the potatoes to the skillet. Heap them up in the spoon, drop into the pan and flatten with the back of the spoon. They should be about 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) in diameter.
You can fry three to four at once, taking your time. When one side is golden brown, flip over and cook until the other side is golden.
As the first batch gets done, transfer the pancakes to the waiting plate. The paper towels will absorb some of the fat.
Add more oil to the skillet and begin the second batch. While this batch is frying — and unless someone is taking the pancakes straight to the table for you — transfer the first batch of pancakes from the plate to a baking tin. Repeat until all the potatoes are used up.
Shortly before serving, preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (250 F, 120 C). Place the pancakes in the oven, uncovered, and heat for 5-10 minutes.
Serve the pancakes piping hot, on their own or as a side dish. Serves 2-4.