Tip #13: Buy a cabbage and make extra mashed potatoes

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It’s March. The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are in three weeks, and the first day of Spring is just a few days after that. I am not sure where I first got the idea that the change in seasons instantly meant pastel colors, warmer sunshine, and a world awash in flowers, but let me tell you what a reality check my first spring in the Northeast was…  While it is true that the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis X Intermedia Diane) is blooming, with its scraggly, squiggly, absolutely marvelous red flowers, and a single snowdrop (Galanthus) has bloomed outside my kitchen window, even the crocus, daffodil, and tulip bulbs are still hibernating. We had a 60-degree day yesterday, and a 24-degree day today.

I think I will keep my winter jacket handy for a while longer.

All this is to say that potatoes and cabbage are definitely still in season. I had a quarter of a Deadon F1 Cabbage (an amazing keeper; this one was from my garden, harvested in late-October) sitting in the crisper, after making a Tex-Mex slaw and an Asian salad with the rest. There were also leftover mashed potatoes from a dinner last weekend (that does not happen often, as we are happy to overindulge in that comfort food). Wedged in between the two were two egg whites from a curd that only needed yolks, a slice of prosciutto and 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions. The refrigerator was starting to look like a leftover containers’ graveyard, so I pulled all of that out and turned them into potato pancakes.

In the past, I have sautéed cabbage and mixed it with mashed potatoes for an Irish dish called Colcannon, which may be one of the great comfort foods of the world. Sometimes, instead of boiled potatoes, I like my corned beef with the mashed version. And I have never been above stirring leftover mashed potatoes into a cabbage soup. The potatoes thicken the soup, making it almost creamy. If I was lucky enough to have bacon around, the onions, carrots and cabbage were sautéed in the bacon fat before adding the broth. Sprinkled with crispy bacon just before serving, the soup is almost enough to make me stop wishing so hard for spring.

Almost.

Cabbage and Potato Pancakes (serves 4, 2 pancakes each…or however you want to shake that out)

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
3-4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 slice prosciutto or bacon, chopped (optional)
2 1/2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 tbsp caramelized onions (optional; you could also use fresh sliced scallions or chives for a more pronounced onion flavor)
2 egg whites plus one whole egg OR 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, since the mashed potatoes are already salted; you can always sprinkle a little on top of the cooked pancakes if they need more)1/4 cup sour cream, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 200.  Place a cooking rack inside a baking sheet, and place in the oven. In a skillet large enough to cook four pancakes at once, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the cabbage and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage starts to become translucent and is browning a little on some strands. Push the cabbage over to the side of the pan and add the prosciutto or bacon, if using.  Cook, stirring, until the meat begins to crisp up a bit. Turn off the heat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, cabbage mixture, caramelized onions, if using, and the beaten eggs. Add a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Stir well to combine completely.
  3. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium. When it shimmers, add a scant 1/3 of a cup of the potato mixture, pressing the top down lightly to form a pancake. Repeat with three other scoops.  Cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes, or until the pancake releases easily with a spatula and is browned on the bottom.  Gently flip and cook another 3-4 minutes. Transfer the pancakes to the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat until all of the mixture is cooked, adding more oil if the pan becomes too dry in between batches. Top each serving with chopped chives and a tablespoon of sour cream, if using.

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