Potato Cakes (and Garlic-Mashed Potatoes)


Question: If you’re cooking dinner for just you and your significant other, do you really need to make two full pounds of mashed potatoes? Answer: Definitely. Because then you are guaranteed not to eat them all, which means you get to have potato cakes for breakfast on the weekend. Maybe even for two days in a row.


I rarely cook something with the intention of making a specific dish with the leftovers. Sure, I’ll do a big batch of soup and plan on eating some now and freezing the rest, or I’ll throw together a sandwich with whatever we need to use up, but these potatoes cakes… The teacher in me freely admits that there was some backward design involved. My desired goal was potato cakes. My method of getting there was volunteering to cook dinner and then purposely making way too many mashed potatoes.


I have been craving potato cakes since Thanksgiving weekend, when I made them for my family on Friday morning and they turned out disappointingly mediocre. They stuck to my parents’ stainless steel pan, and they were kind of goopy. Was the problem the pan? The potatoes? I’m not Alton Brown, so I couldn’t tell you for sure, but my hunch is Yes and Yes. What I can tell you for sure is that the combination of a well-greased griddle pan plus my garlic-mashed potatoes works great for potato cakes.


The garlic-mashed potatoes I make contain no milk or cream; instead, I use sour cream and cream cheese, plus a little bit of Dijon mustard and a lot of roasted garlic. They are tangy and creamy and on the stiffer/drier side. As in, they would be able to hold their shape if they were served with an ice-cream scoop in a school cafeteria. In my book, that simply means that they’re just right on the night that you make them (want to sculpt a mashed potato mountain with a gravy lake? go for it), and they’re the perfect texture for making potato cakes a few days later.


Once you’ve made the mashed potatoes, the only thing left to do is add some sautéed onion (I think a little texture is nice) and snipped chives (it’s pretty) to your leftovers, shape your cakes, and avoid turning up the heat to cook them faster because you’re so excited about eating them. They go great with fried or poached eggs and a cup of coffee.


Note: The pictures are from the first batch of potato cakes that I made, which were thicker than my second batch. The recipe below will give you thinner cakes, which have a better crunchy-outside-to-creamy-inside ratio.


Potato Cakes:

makes 4, serving 2

  • 2 1/2 tsp. butter, divided
  • 1/4 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 c.)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 c. leftover garlic-mashed potatoes (see recipe below)
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the butter in a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion with the pinch of salt until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the onion starts to cook too quickly.
  2. Thoroughly mix the cooked onion and chopped chives with the leftover mashed potatoes.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter with the olive oil in a medium griddle pan or non-stick pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, shape the potato mixture into 4 patties, each about 3″ in diameter.
  4. When the griddle is hot, cook the patties until golden brown, flipping once, about 3-5 minutes per side. They can be a hard to flip, so lift them up a little to make sure the bottoms are brown enough, and when they’re ready, really shove your spatula under there. Serve immediately.


Garlic-Mashed Potatoes:

makes enough to serve 2 generously and then have leftovers for 2 batches of potato cakes on Saturday and Sunday

  • 1 whole head garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 3 T. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T. sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp. smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 4ooº. Slice the top 1/2″ or so off of the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, and seal the foil tightly. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. (Now is a good time to take the cream cheese, sour cream, and butter out of the fridge.) Cool slightly.
  2. Bring the potato chunks to a boil in a pot of salted water (salt it like you would pasta water), then turn the heat down to maintain a low boil and cook until fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. I usually shake them around in the warm pot again after I drain them, just to make sure they’re nice and dry.
  3. Mash the cooked potato chunks with next 5 ingredients (cream cheese through kosher salt) and the cooled roasted garlic—just squeeze the head of garlic, and the soft roasted cloves will come out of their skins where you chopped the top off; no need to peel individual cloves. Add more salt if desired and freshly ground pepper to taste.


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