This is my updated version of the classic British dish, Bangers & Mash. I've gone to the extreme, using mashed potato cakes with a delightfully crunchy exterior and a soft, flavorful interior instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, but I'm not stopping there! I'm taking the bangers to the next level by stuffing them with cheese and wrapping them with bacon. And for the ultimate topper, my favorite brown gravy with caramelized onions. There are multiple steps to success with this, first you have to make the potatoes on the cook top and refrigerate them, while they cool, you prepare the bangers and get them baking, and then you make the gravy and fry the mash cakes. The potato cakes are not made from leftover mashed potatoes.
It's not exactly what you want to fix for dinner if you're in a hurry, but one of these days, if you get lucky enough to not be in a hurry, which doesn't happen very often around my house lately, this meal is totally worth the effort - especially if you have a "meat & potatoes" lover in the house, and.... I do!
I cooked the potatoes the night before and refrigerated them overnight, saving me time when I'm ready to prepare the rest of the meal.
Here we go...
The Fresh Potato Cakes
I take no credit for this recipe, except the 3 little changes I chose to make. I saw this on one of my favorite cooking shows, Cooks Country, on PBS. I followed their directions exactly and then also added three other things. They recommend you don't substitute russet potatoes with any other kind because the starch content in russet potatoes is perfect for this particular recipe. They're so good, I'll never make potato cakes the old way using leftover mashed potatoes again!
2 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
(I used 3 large baking sized potatoes)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
1 large egg yolk plus 2 large eggs
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
My additions: 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/3 of the caramelized onions I prepared for the gravy.
Cooks Country's Notes:
Using two spatulas to flip the cakes helps prevent splattering. We like to change the oil after frying the first batch of cakes because any dark panko remnants left behind will freckle the second batch. You can strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer if you prefer to reuse it, but be careful because it is very hot. Plan ahead: The cooked mashed potatoes need to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, which makes it easier to form the cakes.
1. Place potatoes in medium saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch, then stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tip of paring knife inserted into potatoes meets no resistance, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan; let cool for 5 minutes.
2. Add Parmesan, chives, egg yolk, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to cooled potatoes.
* Also add additional 3 ingredients here (garlic powder, onion powder, and caramelized onions, if desired). Using potato masher, mash until smooth and well combined. Transfer potato mixture to bowl and refrigerate until completely cool, about 1 hour. (or overnight).
3. Beat remaining 2 eggs together in shallow dish. Place panko in second shallow dish. Divide potato mixture into 8 equal portions (about 1/2 cup each) and shape into 3-inch-diameter cakes, about 3/4 inch thick. (I just divided the mixture into 8 round balls about the same size, I didn't bother with measuring). You can see the caramelized onions I added in the first picture below! The details about that are in the gravy directions. Working with 1 cake at a time, carefully dip cakes in egg mixture, turning to coat both sides and allowing excess to drip off; then coat with panko, pressing gently to adhere. Transfer to plate and let sit for 5 minutes.
4. Line large plate with paper towels. Heat 1/2 cup oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place 4 cakes in skillet and cook until deep golden brown on first side, about 3 minutes. Using 2 spatulas, carefully flip cakes and continue to cook until deep golden brown on second side, about 2 minutes longer, gently pressing on cakes with spatula for even browning.
5. Transfer cakes to prepared plate. Discard oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Repeat with remaining 1/2 cup oil and remaining 4 cakes.
I've been making gravy like this for a long time. It's what I use with pot roast and multiple other dishes, and it's not hard to do. You can omit the caramelized onions if desired. Make the gravy first if you want to add some of the caramelized onions to your potato cakes. The gravy is easily reheated when it's mealtime, so you can make it the day before also, refrigerate and reheat at mealtime.
2 1/2 cups water
1 packet Lipton Beefy Onion soup mix
1 packet McCormick Brown gravy mix
1 fresh onion or 1 (10 oz.) package frozen diced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper, to taste (no salt needed!)
Caramelize the onions: Add olive oil and butter to medium sized frying pan. Once butter is melted, add onions, pepper, and sugar. You can omit the sugar if you want to, but it helps the caramelization process along. Once the onions are cooked to the level you desire, remove from heat and set aside. I love using the frozen diced onions for this, they work perfectly and they're already cut up...
Add 2 cups of water to a medium saucepan and stir the Lipton soup mix into it. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes to allow onions to soften.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup of water with brown gravy mix and stir together well, then add to soup mix once it has simmered for 12 minutes. Add 2/3 of caramelized onions to gravy if you want to add 1/3 of them to the potato cakes. If not, add all the onions to the gravy.
Side note :) I sometimes also add a can of cream of mushroom soup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to this gravy, giving it a thicker texture and more volume, but not for this recipe!
Here's where versatility reigns supreme. Today, I'm using Eckrich Skinless Smoked Sausage because it's what I have on hand, but you can use any type of link sausage you want. There are so many different kinds and flavors of link sausages these days... find just the right one for you. I like using Brats or Eckrich. If you want to spice it up, try hot links or a smoked sausage with jalapeno peppers. Just keep in mind, if your sausages are raw, they will need to be almost fully cooked before you get to the bacon-wrapping process. Don't stuff raw sausages with cheese until after they have cooked almost fully, just before wrapping them with the bacon.
6 link sausages
6 slices bacon
3 cheese sticks, cut in half (or cut pieces off a block of cheese if desired)
Since the Eckrich I'm using is fully cooked, here's how I chose to prepare them:
First, lay bacon slices (one for each sausage) on a wire rack sitting in a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees in the oven until some of the fat has rendered, until it's about half way cooked - about 6 minutes. Don't turn the oven off, but remove bacon from oven, allow to cool enough to handle.
While the bacon is cooling, cut a slit into each sausage with a paring knife. Don't cut all the way to the end or the bottom. Insert a slice of cheese into each sausage and press down gently into it. I happened to have cheese sticks in the fridge, so I used them, but just cut pieces off a block that will fit into the sausages - I'm using Colby-jack today.... use what you want.
Wrap cooled, partially cooked bacon around each sausage and secure with a toothpick on each end. Place wrapped sausages onto the same rack you cooked the bacon on, return to oven and allow to cook until bacon is crispy. I only had thick cut bacon, but I don't recommend it because it takes longer to crisp up. When the bacon is as crisp as you want it, remove it from the oven and take all the toothpicks out.
Putting it all Together:
Place a potato cake on a plate, top with bacon-wrapped, cheese stuffed sausage. Spoon desired amount of onion gravy over sausage and potato cakes and serve hot.
And there you have it! The potato cakes didn't taste greasy, the cheese was intact within the sausage, and the bacon was crispy. The gravy will soften the exterior of the potato cake as it sits, but you still get crispy bites. I only cooked 4 of the potato cakes and put 4 back in the fridge, uncoated and not fried. I think I'll cook them in the morning and top them with a fried egg and serve it that way, with a bacon-wrapped banger on the side. Sounds like a good breakfast to me!!