I’ve been on a potato kick lately and found this recipe in a cookbook by the great Napa restaurant, Tra Vigne (now, sadly, closed though their pizzeria remains open). Polpettes means “little balls” in Italian and generally means small meatballs that are intended to be kid-sized. This recipe takes that concept but uses riced potatoes and fresh mozzarella instead to make a great comfort-food side dish.
Assemble the ingredients, which are pretty simple: about 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes (I used Yukon Golds), 2 ounces of fresh mozzarella, salt and pepper, plus herbes de Provence (not shown: olive oil, as well as panko crumbs, one egg, and coarse ground Dijon mustard).
Boil the potatoes until just done, then cool. Quarter each potato, then quarter the quarters.
Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes in a 325 degree (Fahrenheit) oven to let the potatoes dry a bit. Cool again, then either put through a ricer, grate using the large holes on a grating board, or press through the holes of a colander. I used a potato ricer using the plate with the largest holes.
You don’t want to mash the potatoes — ricing or pressing leaves a bit of texture to them. Here’s how they looked after ricing:
Now, toss the potatoes with salt, pepper, and herbs, then divide into 8 equally sized balls.
Cut the fresh mozzarella into four thin slices.
Press each potato ball flat, then place one slice of mozzarella on top, then press another potato ball on top of that. Square each of them off a bit.
At this point, I started thinking the potato polpette would be a bit, well, bland if I cooked them like this so I ended up doing a panko-egg wash dip. First, beat one egg with about one tablespoon of coarse Dijon mustard.
Press each polpette into the panko crumbs, then dip in the egg-mustard wash, then dip again in the panko. Place in a large sauté pan where you’ve heated about 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil.
Cook about 4 to 5 minutes per side, then (optional) turn on their edges and cook for about 20 seconds per side. This ensures that all the sides are nice and crispy.
Remove from heat and serve.
These were great — a lovely combination of different textures and just the right amount of zing from the mustard. We served it tonight with rainbow trout fillets and sliced brussels sprouts, along with a lovely Bordeaux-style blend from Linden Vineyards, the 2013 Claret. (Read more about the Claret on the Facebook page for Virginia wines!)