~ Crispy & Light Deep-Fried Mashed Potato Puffs ~
These aren't croquettes (they're not coated in breadcrumbs) and they're not fritters either (there's no batter involved). You gotta admit, they do look a lot like a Southern hushpuppy (no cornmeal in them though), and, although similar, they sure as hell aren't my rendition of Tater Tots (a manufactured shredded hash-brown-type product mixed with flour). These are, in fact, deep-fried mashed potatoes. My grandmother, an Eastern European heritaged woman, who knew a thing or two about potato cooking, used to make them. While I'm on the subject of 'Tater Tots:
I've never understood the fascination with these store-bought, frozen thingies. I'm pretty sure I know why. In my youth (before 'Tater Tots were invented by Ore-Ida), my grandmother was deep-frying leftover mashed potatoes, which she would give us grandkids as snacks. I loved her deep-fried puffy potato thingies. To my chagrin, years later, in my own kitchen, it only took one try for me to learn from experience that you just can't plunge spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes into hot oil and emerge with potato puffs -- suffice it to say, it's a giant mess.
Luckily, Baba was only a phone call away at that time. She didn't laugh at me, but she explained that she never used leftover mashed potatoes to make those snacks for us grandkids. "You've got to start with the right kind of mashed potatoes," she said, "the texture of traditionally-made mashed potatoes is too loose". It turns out she started from scratch by making a small batch of mashed potatoes that contained eggs and much less cream than she normally used. There's more. She stirred in cheddar cheese for flavor then added flour to hold them together.
I made duchess potatoes yesterday, and interestingly enough, the potato mixture I use to make them, is, in fact, the same "stiffer" cheddar-y potato mixture recipe my grandmother gave to me to make potato puffs (without the flour added to it). It works spot-on perfectly.
Today I am making potato puffs using "the right mashed potatoes" and all I'm doing is stirring in flour, baking powder and garlic powder.
Here is "the right kind of mashed potatoes" recipe. It makes 6 cups. Do the math & cut the recipe by two-thirds to make 2 cups for potato puffs.
2 1/2-2 3/4 pounds peeled, rinsed, then cut into 1" chunks, gold potatoes
1 tablespoon salt, for seasoning water
2 ounces butter, at room temperature (1/2 stick)
3 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly-beaten
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
8 ounces store-bought, pre-grated sharp white cheddar cheese, at room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, added at the very end, just enough to achieve a very-fine-grained to smooth consistency
~ Step 1. Place potatoes in a stockpot, cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust to a simmer and continue to cook, until fork-tender and fully-cooked, meaning: cooked through to their centers without falling apart, 9-10 minutes.
Note: This timing is going to vary depending upon the size you have chunked your potatoes.
~ Step 2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Immediately return the hot potatoes to the still hot stockpot and return the pot to the still warm stovetop. Add the butter and cheese. Give the mixture a stir and cover the pot, until the butter has melted, about 5 minutes.
Note: These aren't your typical mashed potatoes. They are going to seem thick and heavy, but, the eggs (and baking powder) are going to make them cook up light and airy.
To mix, form & deep-fry these potato puff thingies:
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
freshly-ground sea salt, for seasoning potato puffs when then come out of the deep-fryer
~Step 1. In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and garlic powder. Add them to the mashed potatoes and stir until no signs of flour remain. Preheat peanut (or corn) oil in a deep-fryer to 360° and place a cooling rack atop a layer of paper towels.
~Step 2. Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, gently drop 3-4 firmly-packed balls of mashed potatoes into the hot oil. Don't place directly onto the fryer basket (the fryer basket should be down in the oil). Do not overcrowd the fryer basket. After 10-15 seconds, give the fryer basket a few gentle shakes, to loosen any potato puffs that have not floated to the top on their own. Fry in batches of 3-4 at a time until golden and cooked through to the centers, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and immediately season tops with freshly-ground sea salt:
Special Equipment List: pot, colander and vegetable masher (for cooking potatoes); spoon; deep-fryer; wire cooling rack; paper towels; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; large slotted spoon
Cook's Note: My cheddar-y potato puffs are a great pub-grub-type appetizer. For an awesome tailgate-around-the-TV-tailgate, serve them with another one of my retro favorites, ~ City Chicken: Literally, "The Other White Meat."~ along with chicken gravy for dipping or drizzling. Just click into Categories 1, 2, 3, 10, 17 or 26 to easily find the recipe.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)