Contestant, Illinois State Fair, 2021

Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance


Illinois State Fair

August 13, 2021




Mommy’s Potato Pancakes

Linda D. Cifuentes, Mahomet, Illinois



Hi! It is the Czech Chick here! I am making another one of our family favorite recipes.


You might be saying to your self what is so different or unique about potato pancakes… and I thought they were German. Well let me address those thoughts. First of all my mom; Helen Brezinsky Holas made the best potato pancakes in the world. I know, I know, everyone says their mom made the best whatever; But my mom truly did make the best potato pancakes.


What made them so special you ask? The simplicity of them. They are made of grated potatoes, grated onions, a little bit of flour, an egg, and salt. Of course fried in oil. No one ever said Czech cooking was healthy but it is oh so tasty!!


There is no added garlic. No added spices. Some people serve their potato pancakes with sour cream , apple sauce, or horror of horrors maple syrup. Mommy was a purist—the pancakes came out of the frying pan; were sprinkled with salt and piled on a plate. That was dinner. The other thing that made Mommy’s potato pancakes so special were that they were crispy. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was talking to my brother Tony and he said when you make them make them thin and crispy just like Mommy did. I remember buying a potato pancake mix one time and I mixed it up thinking I was going to be eating my mom’s pancakes. To my disappointment it was like eating a mashed potato cake. Definitely not thin and definitely not crispy. I have not found any pancakes that compare to my mom’s.


Now, as far as thinking potato pancakes are German, don’t forget that before there were separate countries there was the Austro-Hungarian Empire; so a lot of foods crossed over culturally.


Not only were potato pancakes special to me because they were one of my favorite foods but because it was one of foods I got to help make. At a very young age my mom sat me on the couch with a bowl in my lap that had a box grater. My job was to grate the onion while Mommy grated the potatoes. This was almost as good as eating the pancakes because I loved cooking with my mom. Even though I was just grating an onion I felt like I had the most important job because that is how my mom made me feel. And of course I would tell everybody that I helped make dinner.


I have included pictures of my mom and one with me when I was young, but I bet you are wondering what is the deal with the music and the picture of the man. Well that man is my Grandpa Vince Brezinsky my mom’s dad. He was a bus driver and his nickname was “Red” because he had bright red hair. Grandpa played the drums and could make music using a knife and a fork drumming on a plate. He played in multiple Concertina bands in Berwyn and Cicero. You probably are scratching your head thinking what does this have to do with potato pancakes. Well, Grandpa is one member of the family I never really mentioned in previous stories and thought it was about time I did. The Houby Festival and Parade which is a big part of my Czech heritage started in 1968 which was the year before we lost my Grandpa. Up and down Cermak Road while you were waiting to watch the parade there were booths selling things and multiple stations making and selling potato pancakes—close to Mommy’s but not quite as good. Also on many corners there were small little groups of musicians from local Concertina groups. My sister and I struck up conversations with “the old timers” and they new our Grandpa. They said he was one of the best drummers they knew. So I think about potato pancakes , the Houby Festival, our Czech Heritage and my Grandpa Vince.


My last story about potato pancakes is about my Dad. The Berwyn- Cicero area used to have many Czech restaurants. One of those was The Pelican Restaurant in Cicero; it was a buffet. One of the items on the menu was potato pancakes. There was a little Babi in the back who made them and brought them out to the buffet station. My Dad would position himself so he would see her coming; be the first one to the station; and wipe out all the pancakes by bringing them back to our table.


I have such fond memories of Czech food and family. That brings me to the last pictures. My not-so-little anymore great nieces Carolyn and Ashlyn. I am hoping to instill our love of food, family, and heritage in them.


Lastly when you eat the potato pancakes ,since I can’t serve you right from the hot oil; please pretend you are on the back porch on Gunderson Ave in Berwyn and Helen just took out a heaping batch of crispy potato Pancakes. And please picture My Dad Tony and their four little ones: Linda, Tony, Joey, and Cindy diving in! And of course pass the salt shaker and Enjoy!!





Mommy’s Potato Pancakes

Linda D. Cifuentes, Mahomet, Illinois


1 1/2 baking potatoes, peeled and grated

1 small onion, peeled and grated

1 egg

3 tbsp flour

1/2  tsp salt

Vegetable oil for frying



Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, except oil. Heat oil in large skillet. Add pancake mixture using a ¼ measuring cup, flattened as thin as possible. Cook to desired crispiness.



*** I found that it was not as much fun grating the onion as when I was a little girl!!

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