When I was a kid, if you had told me that my mother's famous potato pancakes were related to the egg foo yung from the Chinese take-out place at the corner, I wouldn't have believed it.
Nor would I have believed that omelets and waffles and fritters and regular pancakes and crab cakes were distant cousins, as well.
But they are.
They're different, of course, but once you've made them, it's easy to riff off of the theme to create something new and interesting.
In this case, I wanted to cut back on the potatoes that mom used, amp up the flavor, and use some unusual ingredients. Like canned Libby’s Pumpkin - which is one of the few food products that I almost always buy canned. For one thing, it's consistent, which is important when developing recipes. And for another, the season for pie pumpkins is ridiculously short.
But my use of pumpkin isn't quite that seasonal. I bake it into breads and desserts quite often. I use it in savory dishes of all sorts. I've worked it into pasta dough and fillings. I've used it as a filling for tamales ... Heck, it has also found itself worked into dog treats.
And ... I have recipes using canned pumpkin in my upcoming cookbook. Yup, I use a lot of pumpkin.
Beside tasting pretty darned good, pumpkin is a good source of Vitamin A and fiber, and if you're one of those tricky cooks, you can use it to replace some of the fat in recipes - a lot of people like to add it to mac and cheese for that reason.
I had a lot of fun developing this recipe, playing with textures and flavors. I'm really happy with the result. The tarragon and fennel at a bit of licorice-like flavor that's reminsicent of the star anise in 5-spice powder used in Chinese cooking, so it reminds me a bit of egg foo yung, but it also shares a lot of similarities with mom's potato pancakes.
These are great as-is, but if you're into garnishes, you could add a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt. Guacamole or salsa would take them in a completely different direction, but be just as good.
When we're taking about fennel in this recipe, keep in mind that we're using the fresh vegetable - not the dried seeds used as a spice.
Featuring pumpkin, fennel, and tarragon
1/4 of a red bell pepper, diced4 scallions, white and tender green, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, shredded*
1 medium or 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and shredded*
1/4 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb**
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Several generous grinds black pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup Libby's Pumpkin Puree
Olive or vegetable oil, for cooking
Combine the bell pepper, scallions, zucchini, potato, and fennel in a medium bowl. Add the tarragon, salt, pepper, flour, and baking powder. Stir. This will keep the flour from clumping when you add the wet ingredients.
Add the Libby's Pumpkin Puree and the eggs. Stir to combine.
Heat a small amount of oil in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Use a small scoop or a spoon to place a small amount of the vegetable mixture in the pan. Flatten it to a pancake-like thickness. Let it cook on one side until the bottom is browned and you see small bubbles rising through the pancake. Use a spatula to flip the pancake to the other side. Cook until the second side is done.
Taste your "tester" pancake to see if you need more salt or pepper. Continue cooking, adjusting the heat as needed so the pancakes brown but don't burn before they're cooked through. Transfer to a plate and continue cooking until all of the vegetable mixture is used.
It can take some practice to slide a spatula under a pancake far enough to get it to turn without breaking - if you're having trouble, you can use a second spatula to coax it. When the pancakse are cooked through, they are much less fragile than they are on that first flip.
*You can shred these coarsely or finely - or even use a julienne blade on a mandoline, if you like. I preferred a coarse shred. I held the zucchini at an angle to get longer shreds, and shredded the potato to on its longest side to get longer shreds there, as well. But - fine short shreds are fine, too - what ever you like.
*I used baby fennel, but if you've got a large bulb, quarter it, core it, then thinly slice the quarter to get the 1/4 cup of slices. If you have a little more or less, it's fine - it doesn't need to be precise.
But it's not all about me ...
Libby's is holding a #Pumpkin Can contest where you can win weekly prizes. There's even a Vitamix blender up for grabs, so be sure you check it out. You can follow Libby’s on Facebook or Libby’s on Twitter or Libby’s on Pinterest for more pumpkin goodness.