April 13, 2004

Small-Time Cooks

I was on to something hot. My latest assignment was this louse who was running around on his wife. He was on the move with a special friend. I was on the move with a special friend, too—but I called mine my .38, not Julia.

It looked like they were on their way out of the city, but first they went to a local dive. My guy almost noticed me a few times taking pictures, and he was looking kind of jumpy. Within a few minutes I had the material I needed, and—not wanting to introduce anyone to my special friend—I went down the street to a diner to meet Maria.

It was around lunchtime, but I had been up all night, so I felt like breakfast. I had an omelet and hash browns. The potatoes were so good I had seconds. Maria and I decided to make some potato pancakes the next day. We made them European-style. We could've added anything on top of the pancakes—like salsa and chicken or eggs and fresh vegetables—but opted for tomatoes and cheese.

Potato Pancakes

Makes 2 large pancakes

4 Yukon Gold potatoes

1 small yellow onion

sliced cheddar cheese

1 fresh tomato

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

Wash, peel, and grate the potatoes, and slice the onion into thin rings. Combine the potatoes, rosemary, and seasoning in a bowl, mixing well. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan. Lay down a thin layer of potato mixture, covering the bottom of the pan. Put on some onion rings and cover with another thin layer of potato. Cook on medium heat for approximately 7 minutes, using a spatula to press the pancake down into the pan. Flip the pancake (see below for instructions), and cook it for another 7 minutes. If the pancake starts to burn, add more oil to the pan (you'll see little wisps of smoke). Make sure the pancake no longer feels like raw potato on the inside, and cook some more if you want it crispier. Remove the pancake to a plate and season. Add cheese—or some fresh green onion—if desired. If you want tomato, wait until now to slice it, and put the sliced tomato on the hot pancake. Season the tomato right away with salt and fresh ground black pepper. If you season it immediately, you will bring out a lot of the tomato's natural flavors.

How to Flip Food:

Let's say you've got a pancake or an omelet in your pan, ready to flip. This is easier if the pan's Teflon-coated, since these pans are usually lighter and the food slides more easily. First, make sure the food slides around easily in the pan. If it doesn't, you can shake the pan to loosen the food, or the food just needs to cook more (this is usually true in a metal pan). Now, pick up the pan off the burner and move it gently back and forth (not side to side). The food should slide to the front of the pan and back. When you feel like you have a good rhythm going, firmly push the pan forward a little faster and then stop it suddenly, bringing the pan back a few inches. The food should fly a few inches up in the air and begin to flip. If you do this at exactly the right speed, the food will flip halfway and land in the pan on the opposite side. If you're trying to flip something like vegetables (or if the pan is significantly steep), you need to lift the pan more when you flip.

The pancakes are vegan if you don't add the cheese.