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SEASONAL RECIPES

Recipe: Leeks cooked in milk star in these golden, crispy potato cakes

Leek and Potato Cakes.Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 4

The star of these potato cakes are leeks gently cooked in milk and butter until they are soft and sweet. Sand and grit can hide in the long leek layers, so clean them well. Halve them lengthwise and fan them out under cold running water. Then slice across the halves and cook them gently before stirring into mashed russet potatoes. If you want to use leftover mashed potatoes, omit the milk in the recipe and saute the leeks in butter before adding them to the potatoes. Form eight patties and chill them for an hour (or as long as a day) until they're firm before frying. Serve these golden, crispy, irresistible patties with eggs for breakfast, as a side for supper, or topped with smoked salmon for brunch. A little lemon zest in the mix is the surprise element that brightens these cakes, something we can all use in the middle of gray January.

Olive oil (for brushing)
pounds (about 3 large) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1large leek, halved lengthwise, well washed, and thinly sliced crosswise
4tablespoons unsalted butter
½cup milk
Grated rind of 1 lemon
6tablespoons fine, dry, unseasoned breadcrumbs, or more if needed
Large handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2tablespoons olive oil

1. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

3. Meanwhile, cook the leek. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the leek, 2 tablespoons of the butter, milk, and lemon rind. When the milk comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the leeks soften.

4. Drain the cooked potatoes in a colander and return them to the pan. Set the pan over low heat and stir the potato chunks for 1 minute, or until much of the water has evaporated and the potatoes look dry.

5. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes well. There may be a few lumps; that's OK. With a spatula, stir in the leek mixture, breadcrumbs, all but 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. If the mixture seems very wet, stir in more breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let the mixture cool to warm room temperature.

6. Using about 1/2 cup of the mixture per patty, form it into 8 patties that are about 1/2-inch thick. Place them on the oiled baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day, until the patties are firm.

7. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and when it is hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Fry the potato cakes in batches for 3 to 4 minutes on a side, or until golden. (To turn the patties, which can become delicate as they heat, slip a silicone spatula all the way under each patty and flip over.) Keep the first batch warm while you fry the remaining patties. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 4

The star of these potato cakes are leeks gently cooked in milk and butter until they are soft and sweet. Sand and grit can hide in the long leek layers, so clean them well. Halve them lengthwise and fan them out under cold running water. Then slice across the halves and cook them gently before stirring into mashed russet potatoes. If you want to use leftover mashed potatoes, omit the milk in the recipe and saute the leeks in butter before adding them to the potatoes. Form eight patties and chill them for an hour (or as long as a day) until they're firm before frying. Serve these golden, crispy, irresistible patties with eggs for breakfast, as a side for supper, or topped with smoked salmon for brunch. A little lemon zest in the mix is the surprise element that brightens these cakes, something we can all use in the middle of gray January.

Olive oil (for brushing)
pounds (about 3 large) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1large leek, halved lengthwise, well washed, and thinly sliced crosswise
4tablespoons unsalted butter
½cup milk
Grated rind of 1 lemon
6tablespoons fine, dry, unseasoned breadcrumbs, or more if needed
Large handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2tablespoons olive oil

1. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

3. Meanwhile, cook the leek. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the leek, 2 tablespoons of the butter, milk, and lemon rind. When the milk comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the leeks soften.

4. Drain the cooked potatoes in a colander and return them to the pan. Set the pan over low heat and stir the potato chunks for 1 minute, or until much of the water has evaporated and the potatoes look dry.

5. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes well. There may be a few lumps; that's OK. With a spatula, stir in the leek mixture, breadcrumbs, all but 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. If the mixture seems very wet, stir in more breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let the mixture cool to warm room temperature.

6. Using about 1/2 cup of the mixture per patty, form it into 8 patties that are about 1/2-inch thick. Place them on the oiled baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day, until the patties are firm.

7. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and when it is hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Fry the potato cakes in batches for 3 to 4 minutes on a side, or until golden. (To turn the patties, which can become delicate as they heat, slip a silicone spatula all the way under each patty and flip over.) Keep the first batch warm while you fry the remaining patties. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.Sally Pasley Vargas