Alex Makes: Skillet Potato Cake

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The skillet potato cake is a lot like a potato gratin and, in my opinion, easier than making a lot of individual latkes. It has tremendous flavor and goes really well with other lighter dishes that adorn your holiday table. Let's face it: Who doesn't love a scoop of some kind of potatoes this time of year? I love to give people what they want. Last week, while I was cooking at my restaurant, we were making various sauces for pasta and all I could think of was a simple tomato sauce. This potato cake serves the same purpose.

Skillet Potato Cake
Serves: 6-8

You can make and cut this in advance, and warm and top with the onions and cheese just before serving.

1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2-3 medium red onions, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
2 tablespoons sherry (or red wine) vinegar
6 medium to large Idaho potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/2 to 3/4 cup clarified butter
Kosher salt
1/3 pound Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a small skillet, gently heat the caraway seeds to bring out the scent of the seeds, 1-2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a bowl and combine with the vinegar. Add the onion slices. Toss to blend and set aside so they lightly “pickle” as you make the potato cake.

3. Use the largest holes on a box grater, the “teeth” of a mandolin or a food processor attachment to shred the potatoes. Toss them in ½ cup of the clarified butter and season to taste with salt.

4. In a nonstick skillet (9 inches in diameter) heat another ¼ cup clarified butter. Remove the skillet from the stove and add all of the potatoes into the skillet so they form a cake. Because potatoes have a lot of water, they will shrink substantially as they cook so don’t worry if the potatoes are piled a little high at this point. Put the skillet back on the stove and cook over high heat until the edges of the underside start to brown. Press the cake with a spatula to compress the potatoes as they cook. If the cake seems dry, add a little more butter and loosen the edges by running the spatula gently around the sides to assure that it isn’t sticking or burning.

5. When it is browned on the edges, remove the skillet from the heat and pour the excess butter into a bowl. Flip to potato cake on its other side and then return the excess butter to the pan once again. This step will prevent any dangerous splattering of butter as you flip the cake. Pour the butter back in the pan and put it in the oven and cook, 10-12 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

6. Drain any excess butter off. Season the top with salt, transfer to a flat surface and cut into wedges. Arrange on a serving platter. Drain any excess liquid from the shallots and top the potato cake with them. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Every week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex's Day Off , shares with readers what she's eating -- whether it's from the farmers' market or fresh off the boat, she'll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

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