French Fridays with Dorie: Matafan (Fluffy Mashed Potato Pancakes)

Matafan (Fluffy Potato Pancakes)

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  If you celebrated the holiday, I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends.  We spent Thanksgiving weekend in Boston with my best friend and all I cooked was the cranberry sauce.  I won’t even pretend to feel guilty – my priority was playing with Adorable Godson II.  There were a few food highlights from the trip and an earlier stop in NYC, so stay tuned for those.    

I really enjoyed this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, matafan, starting with its name.  Matafan means  “hunger killer” in the Franco-Provençal dialect and refers to the potato cakes the farmers used to prepare for breakfast before heading out to do the days’ work.  The French matafan evolved from a simple potato cake to a galette-like conconction with the addition of flour, cheese and eggs.  The  “hunger killer” moniker is not limited to these: Argentineans call matahambre  a steak/veggies/egg roulade.  Puerto Rican matahambre are sweet bakery rolls eaten as a snack between meals.   (Word nerd me would love to know if there are any more foods literally known as “hunger killers”).  A not-so-literal cousin to the matafan are Ecuadorian llapingachos, another pan-fried mashed potato and cheese cake.

Although making these fluffy potato pancakes takes close to two hours, the potatoes bake in a bed of salt for hour and a half.  I really liked this method – the salt draws moisture from the potato and gives it an airier texture.  After allowing the potatoes to cool slightly, I peeled and “riced” them using a strainer and my pilón’s pestle.  That step was the most cumbersome of all – I had to push the potatoes through the sides of the strainer rather than the bottom.  The smooth texture definitely makes up for the hassle; I wish I had tried this technique on my only attempt at gnocchi.

Tools for making matafan

I first served the cakes as a side dish for grilled chicken with the suggested brush of butter.   They were a nice change from regular mashed potatoes, and have great potential for customization (both with mix-ins and toppings).  I look forward to seeing the variations the rest of the Doristas created.

The two leftover cakes received the breakfast treatment.  I love anything that can be schmeared with maple syrup!

Matafan with maple syrup

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group where we work our way around Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.  I’m happy to be back after a brief break!  To see how the rest of the Doristas played with their matafan, click here.

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Author:Adriana

Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

23 Responses to “French Fridays with Dorie: Matafan (Fluffy Mashed Potato Pancakes)”

  1. December 2, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Weren’t these amazing ? I am definitely making them again over the weekend – they are perfect for any meal, right?

    • December 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      They were! I’m wondering if there’s any way to either speed up the process or try to pre-bake the potato. I have a leftover salt-baked potato I will experiment with later in the weekend.

  2. December 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I love your two kitchen toys here! Although I made my Matafan batter using a shortcut way (20 mins!), the pancakes still tasted really good. Glad you liked them too :).

    Oh, and yeah, we’ve missed you too! Welcome back.

  3. December 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    That ecuadorian version sounds tasty, as I was reading the recipe I thought that cheese would be right at home with all the other ingredients. May have to give that a try sometime.

  4. December 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    That strainer is beautiful! I’ve never seen one shaped like that. I agree–anything that works with syrup is ok in my book.

    • December 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      It’s from Ikea, but it must be at least eight years old – my husband already had it when I met him.

  5. December 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Glad to have you back cooking with us! That mortar and pestle set looks absolutely gorgeous. And I really like that little language lesson too!

  6. December 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I missed you too. Love your strainer. Yes, these matafan killed my hunger. I ate 9 just while I was frying them…guess I’ll make a meal to go with them next time.

  7. December 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I bet they were so good with the syrup! I’m definitely going to try that sometime.

  8. December 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    I love learning new things when I read blogs, it makes me feel like my surfing is really an educational pursuit! I may have to find one of those strainers. I used the food processor, and I think it made my potatoes a bit sticky.

  9. December 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I’m in love with your pilon! I’ve read so much positive reviews from these pancakes I gotta make them soon 🙂

  10. December 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    I found these to be an absolutely wonderful treat. It didn’t seem like a very long time for me…I put my potatoes in the oven to bake and started to put up christmas decorations. Before I knew it, the potatoes were done. I’m going to make these for a party I’m having, as an appetizer. Great post…very interesting. Your Matafan look delicious!

  11. December 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Yum! I love that you had these for both dinner and breakfast…they look fabulous~

  12. December 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    I loved the syrup idea that I served them that way first. Great post!

  13. December 3, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    I think it worth trying to just keep them in the fridge and reheat? Regardless I will love these sweet or savory.

  14. December 3, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Nice looking kitchen equipment you have there!
    Your pancakes look really good!
    I can almost taste the syrup soaked ones!

  15. December 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    They look great with the maple syrup! I’m envious of your food mill – needed one for my Agrodolce sauce and used a small strainer along with my pestle which took 3x as long! Though I only use my potato ricer about once a year, it’s a handy tool and will last forever. Mine belonged to my great grandmother. You are right about the lamb stew – it’s very sweet. I think the flavors would work great with chicken thighs – let us know if you try it.

  16. December 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I loved reading the paragraph about the meaning of matafan and how different countries make it and you can see how it has been so easily adapted to a sweet and savory dish. I like that you tried it both ways and it really does lend itself to so many different mix-ins. It sounds like you had a great Thanksgiving in Boston and what a treat to be able to relax and just enjoy it!

  17. December 4, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    Great post. Your pancakes look perfect, and I loved reading about hunger killing foods in other cultures!

  18. Cakelaw
    December 5, 2011 at 3:17 am #

    So glad you liked these. You were more determined than me to get the right tecture.

  19. December 5, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Interesting. Might have to give that a try. ‘Tis the (potato pancake) season, and all that.

  20. December 5, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Your pancakes look perfect! I wonder if I would have the patience? lol.

  21. December 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Beautiful pancakes! These looks quite delicious.

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