Potato cakes are a pretty simple concept, so there’s not a lot of explanation necessary. We’ve been talking about strategies and skills in the kitchen that allow us to live more simply, and one of the big ones is being champions of the leftovers. Potato cakes are an easy win in the leftovers column, so it’s a great item to add to our arsenal.
The problem potato cakes solve is how boring and disappointing leftover mashed potatoes are. Recently I talked about how to make your mashed potatoes more exciting without adding tons of creamy or fatty ingredients, but almost nothing can keep them from being a cold and starchy mush by the next day. There are lots of fun things you can do to repurpose them, but one of the easiest is potato cakes.
My family would always use this trick growing up, but it took me awhile to figure out how to do it right. The key is to have a nice brown crust on the outside; otherwise you just have hot and greasy mashed potatoes instead of cold and crumbly ones. I would always try at home to accomplish this feat of potato engineering, with usually disappointing results.
But now, older and wiser, I returned to the problem and hopefully figured out the solution. The issue I had in the past was that I was always cooking on a lukewarm, non-stick frying pan. Turning up the heat and using a more conductive surface made all the difference. I prefer cast iron when I’m trying to get things nice and hot and brown, but stainless steel is another great option. Even if all you have is nonstick, just get it oiled up pretty well and make sure you’re at least cranking at medium-high heat before your potato cakes hit the pan.
We had these with a chipotle mayonnaise sauce, because that’s how cool we are. Lots of other sauces would work though, especially if you want to get creative and add other flavors into the potato cakes as well. Try them out!
Potato Cakes Recipe
All your leftover mashed potatoes
a wide cast iron skillet
Chipotle Mayo Recipe
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup unflavored, unsweetened yogurt
1-2 chipotle peppers (canned or rehydrated) OR smoky sweet chipotle paste
2 tablespoons adobo sauce or ketchup
pinch oregano, cumin, salt, pepper
Get your pan on medium-high heat. Once it’s fairly hot, oil it generously and spoon some mashed potato mounds onto it.
After a minute or two, take a spatula and squish the mounds flat. I find this is easier than pre-forming the potato cakes before frying them.
Once the bottoms have some good color, flip the cakes over and fry on the other side. Cook for several minutes, remove, and serve as soon as possible.
To make the mayo: finely chop the chipotles and mix with the other ingredients and spices. Alternatively, for a more pervasive chipotle flavor, blend the ingredients together. If you’re using homemade mayo, which would be awesome, just realize that all the blending will probably break the mayo (and possibly the yogurt as well). To get around this, blend the chipotles into the oil before you make the mayo. Even if it’s fairly chunky it’ll mix fine, and then you can fold in the yogurt.
That’s it! This is a pretty quick and simple meal if you have enough of them, or a nice side for something else.
What do you do with your leftover mashed potatoes?