Boxty vies with champ and colcannon as Ireland’s best-known potato dish. It may have originated in the late 18th and 19th centuries, when potato harvests began to fail, as a way of using poor-quality potatoes that were useless for boiling. The watery, sometimes even rotting, potato was put into a cloth and squeezed to remove as much of the undesirable liquid as possible. The remaining pulp was shaped into cakes and baked on a heated griddle. When eaten instead of bread for the evening meal, milk or cream, and salt might be added to the mixture, which was known as dippity.
Granny Toye from Clones, County Monaghan, now 88 years of age, gave the recipe to me. Granny Toye says that pan boxty may be eaten hot or cold and may be reheated. A tablespoon of fresh herbs provides a delicious, if untraditional, flavoring to the dish.–Darina Allen
LC Hash Browns Answer to the Fudgy Browny Note
The only way we can think to describe pan boxty? As hash browns’ answer to fudgy brownies, with a crisp surface and a dense, moist but not greasy, almost but not quite gooey interior. It’s also quite possibly the most immense tater tot you’ve ever encountered. (Hey, we did what what was needed to entice our kids to try this–and it worked.) Pan boxty also works with really quite perfect potatoes, not just rotting ones. And as with so many traditional recipes, the recipe comes in all manner of shapes, sizes, and incarnations. The one constant? That pan boxty is itself a constant in Irish cookery, witnessed by this classic ditty. (Feminists, please note, LC cannot take credit for this rhyme nor will LC be held responsible for it.)
Boxty on the griddle
Boxty on the pan
If you don’t eat boxty
You’ll never get your man.
Pan Boxty Recipe
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour | Serves 4
- 6 medium (about 3 pounds) russet potatoes, unpeeled
- Small handful all-purpose flour (2 to 3 tablespoons)
- Butter (about 4 tablespoons)
- Fresh herbs (optional)
- 1. Scrub the potatoes but don’t peel them. Line a bowl with a flour sack towel or some cheesecloth. Grate the potatoes onto the cloth, then gather the ends of the cloth and squeeze the liquid from the potatoes into the bowl. Set the potatoes and cloth aside, and let the potato liquid in the bowl sit until the starch settles, 10 to 20 minutes. You should have 8 to 10 cups of grated potatoes.
- 2. Carefully drain the water from the starch in the bottom of the bowl, reserving the starch and discarding the water. Add the grated potatoes, a small handful of flour (maybe two tablespoons or so), and a generous pinch of salt and toss to coat the potatoes.
- 3. Melt a generous bit of butter in a large cast-iron skillet (10 to 12 inches) over medium heat. Add the potato mixture and pat it down into an even layer. It should be 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cook over medium heat, letting it turn a nice golden brown. Brown one side before turning it over. Don’t increase the heat above medium to rush it, but do peek occasionally to make certain the potatoes aren’t browning too quickly. You want the outside to turn pale brown by the time the inside is slowly becoming tender. Flip the boxty. (Here’s the thing with flipping the boxty. (You can do this by sliding a plate over the skillet, carefully inverting it, then carefully slipping the boxty back into the skillet. Or you can use a couple of spatulas and a flick of the wrist. Or if you prefer a chunky hash, flip the potatoes over in chunks and press them with the back of the spatula to make them even.) Cook the pan boxty on the other side until crisp and golden on the outside, tender and creamy on the inside, about 40 minutes total, depending on the heat and the size of your skillet. Again, be patient and don’t crank the heat or the outside will scorch while the inside remains underdone.
- 4. Cut the boxty into 4 wedges and serve it straight from the skillet.
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Pan Boxty Recipe © 2012 Darina Allen. Photo © 2012 Kristin Perers. All rights reserved.