Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Potato chremslach, aka Martian spacecraft

I have a very clear memory of eating these potato patties at my grandmother's seders when I was young.  I don't think she made them after 1968 when she discovered cholesterol.  My cousins and I devoured them and we used to call them Martian spacecraft, probably because we had problems with the double "ch" sound.

The most common chremslach  (the singular is chremsel, but you can't eat just one) are matzah meal or farfel fritters that are served sweet for breakfast or dessert.  These are completely different, and considerably less healthy.  They are made from mashed potatoes seasoned with schmaltz (rendered poultry fat -- do I even need to explain this?) and onions, stuffed with either chopped liver or gribenes (chicken cracklings),  dredged in matzo meal and shallow fried, preferably in schmaltz, but if you don't have enough schmaltz, a combination of schmaltz and oil will do fine.  You can consider this a healthy alternative.  They really do look beautiful sizzling away in a cast iron skillet, so I will try to remember to post a picture the next time I make these, in a couple of years.

I have though about making this for seder for several years, but reason (aka Amy) got the better of me.  This year, I found myself with a lot of chicken skin from which I made schmaltz and gribenes,  and I made these chremslach for hol ha-moed Shabbat dinner for six people, when my parents came over.  My father said they were better than what his mother used to make.  They are really not all that hard and can (and perhaps even should) be made in advance.



  • 1.5 pounds russet or other starchy potatoes, about 3 large
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup schmaltz, plus one tablespoon  (see  this recipe to make schmaltz)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper,  preferably white, but black is acceptable)
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup gribenes, chopped into small pieces if the pieces are large (these should be salted lightly if they are not already; see  this recipe to make gribenes)
  • egg wash of 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup matzah meal, more if necessary.
  1. Peel the potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch chunks, and boil in well salted water until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onion in one tablespoon of the schmaltz until soft and golden but not brown.  Set aside.
  3. When the potatoes are tender, drain and return to the dry pan to steam on medium heat.  This will dry them out and make them nice and floury and easier to mash.  (The pot will look like it will never come clean, but just soak it in cold water without soap for about 30 minutes and the starchy stuff will come right off. )  Put the potatoes through a food mill or ricer and if you don't have one, mash them.
  4. Mix the sauteed onions into the potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.  These will be some of the best mashed potatoes you have ever had.
  5. When the potatoes have cooled a bit, mix in the yolks.
  6. Divide the potatoes into 8-10 portions, each should be about the size of a smallish egg.
  7. take one ball at a time and flatten it in our palm into a thick concave pancake.  Fill with a heaping teaspoon of gribenes, close up the ball and flatten into a patty the size of a small thick hamburger.
  8. Dip you hands in cold water, and then dip one patty at a time in the egg wash and then in the matzo meal, and set aside on a place lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate for an hour, or overnight.
  9. Heat fats in a skillet (preferably cast iron) on a medium flame until it sizzles when you dip a piece of potato in it, 
  10. Carefully lower in one patty at a time, and fry for about 6 minutes on each side until well browned.
  11. Drain on paper towel.  Since there is a good chance that these will not have heated all  the way through, heat these in an oven before serving.  They are also good made up to two or three days in advance You can heat them on 350 for 20 minutes, or leave them in a slow oven (250 egress) for an hour or more.  They will not dry out and be extremely crisp.
  12. Serves 4-8 people, depend on appetite and risk tolerance.


  1. Heart attack city, please post a pic..

    1. I haven't made them in a few years for just that reason. I hope to make them this Pesach and will remember to take a pic