Potato Pancakes with Ham, Gruyere and Fennel
Fennel, gruyere, ham and potatoes were meant for each other like pizza dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. There are a couple of ways to go about potato pancakes. One of the main debates for me is raw grated or bake the potato, cool and saute. For this recipe I decided to go the baked potato route because it insures the interior is cooked and you can do them on the stove top insuring a thick crispy crust. The next question is soft interior to crispy exterior ratio. To thin and you get no creamy and to thick and there isn't enough crunch. Finally the kind of fat is really important too. Oils don't seem to give you the golden brown and sometimes cook unevenly. Butter browns to fast but will give a good flavor and crust if added toward the end as if you were using it to finish. Finally chicken fat, lard, goose fat and duck fat are all great in my book. They flavor the potatoes nicely and brown the pancakes very evenly and make them golden. A couple of years ago I made some ring molds by cutting the tops and bottoms off of water chestnut cans. First off they only cost 99 cents and second they are a good size, 3 inches round and 2 inches thick. This is the size ring mold you will need for these pancakes.
What you will need
6 to 8 russet potatoes, I used smallish ones. Baked in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, then cooled overnight in the fridge
1 cup ham, julienned
2 teaspoons fennel seed, coarsely ground
1 1/4 cups gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1/4 cup schmaltz/chicken fat, plus extra for the greasing the molds