Coming from a Polish and German family Kielbasa was a staple in my household, the easy go-to meal on a busy weeknight or the obvious pairing to breakfast at Mommom’s house. I remember my mom turning our leftover mashed potatoes into the fluffiest pancakes, the aroma of those golden disks frying up in a bit of oil, later topped with slices of Kielbasa that have just the right amount of char to them. This dish is my childhood and I am happy to share it.
For Mashed Potatoes
3 Lb Potatoes
1 C Whole Milk
3 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper to Taste
There are many different kinds of potatoes out there: red, yellow, russet, white. How do you choose??? I honestly was never sure why, but I always used Russet potatoes for my mashed potatoes, they were always the cheapest and who doesn’t like saving a penny. But I like to provide real reasons for my choices here (not just because I said so) and looked up what the internet had to say on potatoes.
Tip: Good Housekeeping lays out what potatoes to use and once reading up a little I had an of course moment “Choose higher starch potatoes (like Russets or Yukon golds) for the fluffiest, smoothest, and most flavor-packed mash. Waxy potatoes (such as red or white varieties) require more mashing to become creamy, which could lead to the dreaded "potato paste."
I made my mashed potatoes a few days before because I find leftover mash create fluffier pancakes, they seem to hold together better than a fresh batch. And anything I can do beforehand is a win.
First wash, peel, and cut potatoes into even cubes. If you throw in large pieces with smaller ones you have a greater chance of lumps since they did not cook and therefore soften evenly. Place potatoes in a pot and cover with generously salted water (the salt helps to drive out some of that starch), cover with lid and place over medium-high heat. Bring water to a boil and cook until the point of a knife can easily slide through.
Once tender empty the pot of water and return to a solid surface it is MASHING TIME! A little tip we used in my family kitchen was to heat up your milk beforehand, cold milk to hot potatoes may do some not great things to your milk and eases up the blending process (at lest that is what my Mom told me). If you have a microwave pop a cup of milk in a microwave safe container and heat it for about one minute. If you don’t have one (I don’t) leave a cup of milk sitting on your counter while your potatoes are cooking.
Pop butter and milk into the pot and begin mashing, about halfway through add in your perfect amount of salt and pepper and your thyme. If your potatoes are still dry add more milk until it begins to have our desired creamy texture. When my potatoes are giving a little trouble I mix for a few minutes with my hand mixer, just be sure not to overwork your potatoes because they will become gooey instead of fluffy.
Once cool enough store the pot in your refrigerator.
For Potato Pancakes
6 C Mashed Potatoes
Oil, Canola or Vegetable
Your potatoes are a few days old and are perfect for pancakes! To your pot of fluffy, but cold, goodness add egg and flour. Use your hands to mix together until well combined. We want the texture to be sticky but not too wet. If you run into that issue just add some more flour until the batter holds together easily.
In a large skillet heat up enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan with a ¼” of oil, we don’t want to taste the oil so I lean toward Canola over Olive Oil and set the oven to 300℉. While pan is heating use your ½ C measuring cup to measure out even disks, flatten with the palm of your hand. Get all your pancakes ready on a cookie sheet so you can easily move through them.
Once hot, a drop of water should bounce and bubble in the pan, place a few pancakes carefully in the oil. I could comfortably fit 4 pancakes, don’t crowd your pan though. Each side should cook for about 5 minutes, check periodically and flip once underside is a nice crispy golden brown. I had such trouble with this, my friends can testify to a few choice word I had for these as they simply slid off my spatula instead of flipping over. I finally mastered my technique by using two spatulas and using them to pass the pancake over to the other side.
When both sides are that lovely shade set into a warm oven.
For Caramelized Onions
2 Medium Yellow Onions
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Peel and thinly slice onions on a plastic cutting board. In a skillet over medium heat add olive oil and melt 1 Tbsp butter. I have always used a combination of the two, I enjoy the flavor of the olive oil and the sugars in the butter help break down the sugars in the onions to assist in the caramelization process.
Caramelizing takes patience and attention. Once you add in your onions to a hot pan turn the temperature down to medium-low heat and watch them go through their process. They will begin to sweat, then turn translucent, then begin to brown. Be careful not to burn your onions, keep them moving even few minutes to make sure no on-side burns. If the onions begin to dry out add in second Tbsp of butter. After about 30/45 minutes you will have a wonderfully sweet-smelling pile of sticky onions.
2 Packs of Packaged Kielbasa
Pan used for Pancakes
Kielbasa is fantastic, it is already fully cooked and only needs to be reheated. You can take the route of boiling them, like hot dogs, but where is the flavor in that? I cut my Kielbasa into angled slices so there is more surface area to char.
In the pan, you cooked your pancakes in use the leftover oil that has been flavor enhanced, and add your cut Kielbasa. I did this in one swoop, no need to make sure every slice is face down and flipping after a few moments, that is silly. Just stir every few minutes to try and get all pieces some time on direct heat.
When Kielbasa is sufficiently heated and chard it is time to plate. I gave each of my guests 3 pancakes, a healthy scoop of Kielbasa and a good sprinkling of onions. I personally can’t eat Kielbasa without mustard, brown or dijon brings this dish home for me. Pour some in a small serving bowl, or just set that puppy on the table and let your guests go to town!