Yesterday when I left for work, I was nearing the back of the pantry for supper food. "the back" means mostly canned meat, canned vegetables and a little fresh -- I had a couple potatoes, an onion, some celery and carrots. Monday or Tuesday mornings have been my once-a-week shopping days through most of the pandemic, a big change from my former near-daily visits.
Then I remembered -- when I made slow-simmered beef stew on Sunday, I'd thawed some cased sausage, two Irish bangers and one hot Italian, and ended up only adding the hot Italian* when I realized how much stew beef was in it already. So there were two flavorful banger sausages† ready to go.
It's a straight line from "bangers" to "bangers and mash," fairly standard UK pub fare, or so I'm told, usually served with onion gravy and "mushy peas." Instead of peas, I had canned flat green beans, which I like and Tam will endure, and the gravy, oh well.
So dinner was sorted. When I got home, I started the sausage, discovered I had three big potatoes (and held one in reserve) and decided to try microwaving the spuds. Stuck them with a fork, put them in a Pyrex bowl and gave 'em the usual 3:30 and turn for 3:30 more, quartered them and nuked them for another few minutes. Then a little butter, salt, stirring with a sharp knife and then a big fork, the latter while adding milk‡, and they were indistinguishable from the stovetop version.
The sausages were cooking while I was conducting the Great Mashed Potato Experiment. I like to start them in the skillet, get a little color on the sausage, and then add a little water; cook it down, turn them and do the same, then add a bit more water and cover, turning and adding water until done. The liquid picked up a lot of color and flavor, of course, and with the potatoes down and resting, covered, in the oven, inspiration struck.
Or maybe it was just the spice cabinet door. I'd left the green beans (remember them?) in a covered pan over low heat, with a little dried parsley and a dash of onion powder so they wouldn't get too lonely. Onion powder...
It's not the most subtle thing on the spice shelf. It's got a good, honest onion flavor, though. The sausages were done; I added a bit more water, fished the bangers out and set them on a plate in the oven next to the mashed tatties to get acquainted. Added little onion powder to the pan, a little less garlic powder, some dried chives, and left it to bubble. Flour gravy was out, but a teaspoon of corn starch dissolved in cold water with a couple of dashes each of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce made an excellent thickener; I mixed it, added and simmered the gravy 'til it was thick enough, tasting and adding a little more onion powder.
Served with a heap of mashed potatoes nestled in the curve of the sausage, gravy puddled in the potatoes and across the banger, with a small bowl of green beans on the side, it was as nice a dinner as anyone could want, and about 40 minutes from cold stove to plate.
After dinner, there were left-over mashed potatoes. Two big baking potatoes makes a lot of mashed! About two cups worth. I bagged it and put it in the fridge, thinking about breakfast. This morning I was still thinking about it, so I put the leftovers to work.
Mashed potato pancakes are deceptively simple. Get them wrong and they'll fall apart! Two cups of mashed potatoes plus a couple of well-beaten eggs, a couple of teaspoons of flour and "sufficient" salt will do the trick -- I'd like to be able to tell you how much salt because that helps hold them together, but I'm still guessing. A quarter of a teaspoon? What I added from the shaker worked but a little more would not have hurt the flavor.
You just mix it all to get a thick batter and plop it by the heaping tablespoonful into a lightly-greased skillet over medium heat; fry for three or more minutes until it slides easily onto a spatula, flip, smash flat, and give it at least three minutes more before turning. It's done when both sides look done. I added some dehydrated chives to the mixture. Good with hot sauce, sour cream or applesauce, depending on your preference. If you add grated potato, you'll be close to latkes. Or reibekuchen. Or rösti. Or hash browns -- it all depends on how much grated potatoes are in the mix, and how willing you are to rules-lawyer the definitions. Maybe it's aloo tikki or boxty! The underlying rule? Fried potatoes are good! And in any country I know of where people eat potatoes, they've invented some kind of fried potato cakes.
* This is a nice trick to add a little depth and complexity to soups or stews. If it's cased, squeeze it out into a skillet, brown it, drain it, and add it to the stew. I sauteed some small sweet-pepper rings in the spicy grease, and drained an added them, too, a bit of color and extra zing.
† These are named after the originals, inexpensive sausages with a high proportion of filler to meat -- and a lot of spices to make up for the lack. They tended to split open with a "bang" when fried up. Modern ones have plenty of meat -- and plenty of seasoning, rich and complex.
‡ Speaking of pantry staples, the individual-sized boxes of shelf-storable UHT milk can be bought by the dozen and last six months or more. My Mom used to keep powdered milk around and recommended it to me, but modern powdered milk doesn't last well once the box is opened up. UHT milk works at least as well and is a great alternative if you don't routinely use much milk