Grate Expectations

I was a late blooming chef and didn’t start cooking until my senior year of college. It was not the best time to dive into the world of cuisine, as my budget was tight and the kitchen facilities were a bit lacking inside the dorm apartments. Though not quite as desolate as a young Pip in Charles Dickens’s Great Expecations, I immediately recognized the importance of a meal that required few ingredients, less pots and pans, and almost no finesse in the kitchen. I’ve held onto what I learned during those years as a fledgling chef, and now that I’ve had formal training, I am able to dress up the minimalist recipes I mastered early on. For example, a simple potato pancake of three basic ingredients can be brightened by the right amount of seasoning and a citrusy dip.

Dickens was paid by the word, and it’s definitely apparent in his verbose character descriptions and minute observations. But like each potato shaving in the pancake, every single word in Great Expectations plays a vital role. Though easy to write any one morsel off as superfluous, one must recognize the importance of each and every part to the cohesiveness of the final product.


Grated potato pancakes:

4 Maris Piper potatoes (can use another starchy potato)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 tbsp salt

1 stick clarified butter (to clarify, melt a stick of unsalted butter on very low heat and skim off white fats)

Sour cream dip:

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

Chives to garnish


1. Grate potatoes onto a tea towel. Squeeze over sink to extract moisture.

2. Combine potatoes, breadcrumbs, egg, and salt.

3. Heat three or so tablespoons of clarified butter over medium heat. Form potato mixture into very thin pancakes and place in skillet. Fry for several minutes, until golden brown. Occasionally press down on pancakes with spatula to flatten. Flip and fry other side of pancake for two or so minutes (until golden brown). Repeat until mixture has been used up, adding a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter into the pan for each new batch.

(For extra crispiness – dry out pancakes in a 300 degree oven for five to ten minutes.)

4. Combine sour cream and lemon juice; garnish with chives.

Enjoy potato pancakes with Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and check in at for future recipes and book reviews!


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