Pantry Cooking: Mashed Potato Cakes and Poached Eggs

I've been thinking up ways to expand past my "Week-End Update" posts, and cooking has been at the top of my list for a while.  The problem is, I'm definitely in the learning process, which means that meal planning is currently a stressful activity for me as I have to sift through magazines each week for recipes.  I am never more excited than when I can look at a few ingredients, put them together on my own somehow, and have it turn out!  In honor of that simple joy, I present the inaugural post of "Pantry Cooking": recipe experiments based on what I've got around the house.  

Here's what I had in my pantry, plus some cherry tomatoes from the farmer's market:

The Lineup: mashed potatoes, eggs, garlic, parsley, and a shallot

Poached eggs are my new favorite go-to protein, so I really wanted something that would complement the gooey yolk, and that would add flavor and texture to the mashed potatoes.  My solution: make a patty, fry it up.  

Step 1:

 I minced the garlic, half of the shallot, and a handful of parsley.  I'd be using both the garlic and the shallot raw, so to mellow the flavor a bit, I rinsed the shallot in ice water.  As for the garlic, I wasn't sure that a simple mince would incorporate well enough into the potatoes, so aimed for a smashed-minced combo.  (I am in complete awe of chefs like Anne Burell who can instantly pulverize a clove of garlic with one smack of their palm against the knife, but when I tried it myself, my hand only bounced of the knife back at me, and the garlic clove was barely bruised. Instead, I went with the salt-and-scrape method, which left me with a chunky paste by the time I ran out of patience.)

Step 2:

I mixed all of this into the cold potatoes along with with a shake or two of red pepper flakes, then formed patties that were about a half inch thick. Wanting to build up a little bit of crust to help hold the patties together, I sprinkled them with bread crumbs and melted butter into the pan instead of just a swish of oil. 

Now, I'm sure that you can take this to the next level by mixing some binders into the mashed potatoes, or by putting the patties through a traditional breading process, but I need Saturday lunch to be quick and no-mess, so I just gently patted the bread crumbs into the patties before dropping them into the pan to cook for about 4 minutes per side.

(That's Step 3)

Here's how they turned out:

The cakes threatened to fall apart on the flip, but a smooth spatula helped me to avoid any disasters. I make my mashed potatoes a bit dry and clumpy instead of smooth and creamy, which I think was a necessity for this recipe. Once there was a good crust on both sides, they came out of the pan perfectly. There was a slight crunch to the crust, and a steamy, creamy inside with a lot of flavor. We ate 2 patties each with poached eggs on top. Please excuse the ugly eggs in the picture--we tried a new technique that was supposed to avoid raggedy whites,  but I think we need more practice. 

The Verdict:

quick and easy, used up our leftovers nicely, and didn't feel as heavy as a fried hash brown (more flavor, too!).  I'll happily make them again the next time we have mashed potatoes.