Boxty on the Griddle…

Boxty on the griddle
Boxty in the pan
Learn to make the boxty
Or you’ll never get a man.

I found that rhyme years ago. Boxty is an Irish potato pancake. I first tried boxty at an Irish restaurant and became an immediate fan. Hoping to recreate the taste at home, I thought, “It’s a latke. How hard can it be?” I searched and searched (this was a few years before blogging became the phenomenon it is today) and all I came up with was: boxty is spelled a million ways, cooked a million more ways, and it’s really easy to mess up boxty. You have to have the right balance of cooked, mashed potato to raw, shredded potato. And then you have to have the right level of heat in the pan, the right level of fat in the pan, and your timing has to be impeccable, your rent had better be all paid up, and the humidity can’t be over 73%… you get the idea. The usual result of a first-time boxty attempt is burnt on the outside, raw on the inside, and most of it stuck to the scorched pan.

Fast forward to St. Patrick’s Day 2012. Cooking blogs abound, as do suggestions for how to make one’s first boxty less of a disaster. I wrote up a game plan, and here it is. If you don’t have a microwave steamer, you might need to modify this. You can even use instant mashed. Your secret is safe with me.

Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)

They’re not greasy. They just have halos.

5 medium potatoes
1/4 c buttermilk
1 T butter
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c milk
1/4 c flour
2 t minced onion
1/4 t Jane’s Crazy Mixed-up Salt or other favorite savory seasoning blend
oil/fat for frying

Peel 2 potatoes and cut into cubes. Steam in a microwave steamer on high power for 5 minutes, then mash with 1/4 c buttermilk and 1 T butter. Set aside to cool. Peel and shred the remaining potatoes and steam in a microwave steamer on high power for 3 minutes. Combine mashed potatoes, shredded potatoes, egg, milk, flour and minced onion and seasonings. Heat oil (we used olive oil and some–gulp–bacon fat) in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once a drop of water in the fat sizzles but doesn’t spatter, drop tablespoons of the potato mixture into the pan and flatten slightly. Once these patties start to brown around the edges, flip and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all batter is used. Serve warm. Makes about 20 boxty.

We topped ours with some homemade chive butter (using up the last of last year’s frozen chives before the new ones are ready to harvest). The kids ate their boxty either plain, with ketchup, or with HP Sauce, depending on the kid. I have no idea how legit these condiments are for boxty, but what can you do? This recipe was a little labor-intensive to make just any old morning, but I am interested in making boxty again. The par-steaming of the shredded potatoes really seemed to keep them from burning on the outside before they cooked all the way through.

Yes, bacon fat on a Lenten Saturday. Not very Vatican II, is it? Well, in our archdiocese, the tradition is that the Lenten rules are suspended for St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day (March 19), so we are holding to that tradition here with our Lent 2012 Challenge. I’m grateful to be Irish, and I’m grateful to be Catholic. I probably would not be both simultaneously if it weren’t for the sufferings and perseverance of Glorious St. Patrick. All hail! He’s the patron of the Irish, and I like to think of him as the patron of people who don’t like where God sends them. If you’re having trouble blooming where you’re planted, get to know St. Patrick. He’s worth a little celebration, at least.

PS: I made a recipe without beer for a beer-related holiday! Aren’t you proud?


About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at .

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