Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Potatoes in Prague

All right, I admit it. I’m not a full-blooded Czech. (Though the more I research Czech foods, the more I feel I’ve found my people.) Potatoes, for example. Who doesn’t love potatoes? Baked, fried, mashed…it’s not surprising that this ubiquitous food has became a staple of Czech cuisine.

With good reason – the tuber is high in fiber, Vitamin C and potassium and are relatively cheap and filling. (And did you know there are almost 4,000 different types of potatoes?)

Potatoes likely originated in Peru and historians believe Spanish sailors in the 16th-century brought the food back as stores for their trip and then planted the leftovers. However, the food did not become a widespread part of the European diet until the late 18th century.

Around that time, Prague was just coming out of a dark time. Protestant reformer Jan Hus’ efforts to fight the Catholic church led to years of fighting and virtual destruction of Prague. In the late 18th century, Emperor Joseph II decided to unify the city, leading to the National Revival of 1784, which led to a stronger national identity and renewed interest in science and cultural arts.
Now, I’m not saying that the widespread adoption of the potato ended the fighting.
But it makes you wonder…

Potato Pancakes (Bramborák)

This recipe makes large, thin potato pancakes that are crispy and nicely flavored with garlic. Potato Pancakes are served both with meals and as a snack in the Czech Republic. Makes 4 potato pancakes.

-4 large potatoes
-1/4 cup milk
-1 clove garlic
-1 egg
-4 heaping tablespoons flour
-Pinch of pepper
-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Peel potatoes and grate with a grater.
2. Heat milk until hot (be careful not to burn it).
3. Squeeze all liquid out of the potatoes with your hands and place them in large bowl.
4. Immediately add the hot milk to the potatoes and mix until combined. This prevents them from turning brown.
5. Finely mince the garlic or put through press and add to bowl.
6. Add the egg, flour, pepper and salt. Stir until all ingredients are combined. The consistency should be more like a thick batter than a dough. Add more milk if it is too thick, or more flour if it is too thin.
7. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet.
8. For each pancake, pour a ladle full of potato mixture into skillet and spead out until it is about 1/2 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.
9. Cook on each side, turning only once, until golden brown.
10. Drain on paper towels.

-Heather Tinley, Opera Colorado Marketing Coordinator

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