Irish eyes or St. Patty's Day spuds

  • 3 min to read

Serving as a blessing, and for a short time, a woeful curse, I could not think of a more appropriate food to discuss for this St. Patrick’s Day than the potato.

With historical origins from the Incas, who grew potatoes prolifically in what is now Bolivia and Peru, it was there that this nutritious tuber captured the attention of the Spanish in the 16th century, while they were there capturing the Incan empire, too.

However, we can thank those conquistadors for carrying the potato with them to Europe, which is how this tuber was able to root its way into Ireland.

There, Irish farmers found the potato to be the perfect match for their soil, where it grew prolifically.

Loaded with protein, vitamins and complex carbohydrates, potatoes improved the Irish diet so much that the population grew not only bigger, stronger, and healthier, but it actually doubled from 4 million to 8 million between the years 1780 and 1840.

Sadly, when the blight came in 1845, and lasted until 1847, it was so devastating to the Irish people because they had come to depend upon the potato for daily nutrition.

Thank God, enough plants were able to survive the blight, and turn the situation around, enabling the Irish, and the rest of us to enjoy all the benefits that potatoes provide for us to this very day.

Recalling memories of peeling potatoes with my mom as a child, I can still hear her issuing her usual warning to me as I peeled, “Be sure to remove all the eyes, and anything green, because it’s no good to eat.” .

Many decades later something suddenly possessed me to fact-check Mom, and guess what? She was right.

According to numerous online sources potatoes do possess solanine and other glycoalkaloids, which can be toxic to humans, and can lead to headache, vomiting, and other digestive symptoms.

Solanine is concentrated in the eyes, sprouts, and skin, but not the rest of the potato.

Stressful growing conditions, and prolonged exposure to light, can cause these alkaloids to steeply increase, and exposure to light also triggers chlorophyll formation, causing the potato to turn — you guessed it — green.

Greenish skin can indicate high alkaloid levels, so you should remove any green skin, and the surface layers of the potato that touches it. If the greening is very deep, or the potato tastes noticeably bitter, pitch it.

Potatoes are safe to eat, even if sprouted, so long as they are firm and not wrinkly or shriveled. Simply remove sprouts, and as Mom said, don’t forget the eyes, which is why the peeler has that funny, sharp tip on its end.

Here now are some special variations on a crisp and delicious way to cook up potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day — ENJOY.

Chicago-Style Potato Pancakes

4 medium potatoes, peeled and finely grated

1 onion, finely grated

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl, stir together grated potato and onion. Squeeze out excess liquid. Add eggs, salt, pepper, flour, and baking powder; mix well until combined. In a large pan, heat butter and vegetable oil over medium heat. Add potato mixture to the pan and flatten pancake down with the back of a large spoon. Fry until golden brown, flip, and fry again. Remove potato pancake from pan and serve with sour cream.

Approximate servings per recipe: 4.

Potent Potato Pancakes

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

3 large russet potatoes, peeled

2 tablespoons cornmeal

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder, divided use

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt, divided use

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons mango chutney

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, using a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, mash the thawed peas. Grate the potatoes into the bowl with the peas. Add cornmeal, flour, 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, the turmeric, and the pepper. Stir to combine; add egg and mix until well combined. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, the yogurt, chutney, and lemon juice. Refrigerate until serving time. In a large, heavy, non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Using about one heaping tablespoon per pancake. (Skillet should hold about 4 pancakes at a time.) Flatten mixture slightly with a spatula. Cook pancakes 4 minutes, then flip, and cook another 4 minutes or until golden brown, crisp, and cooked through. Remove pancakes from the skillet, then transfer them to a serving platter and keep warm in a 300 degrees oven until serving. Repeat cooking pancakes, adding one tablespoon of oil to the pan each time, until all are cooked. Serve pancakes with chutney-yogurt sauce, if desired.

Approximate servings per recipe: 6.

Mom’s Perfect Potato Pancakes (circa 1942)

1/4 cup milk

2 large potatoes, peeled and chunked

1 medium onion, quartered

2 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Unrefined sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender, in the order of the recipe and blend, pulsing well until mixed. Pour by tablespoon onto a hot griddle, 365 degrees, that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Flip cakes when edges are brown. Great served with sour cream, applesauce, jam, syrup, or cheese.

Approximate servings per recipe: 4.