Rot Everything. Basque Browns!

Welcome to our regular recipe column from teacher and stand-up comedian Sarah Whitmore.

WAIT! Maybe not everything. I know, local reader, you are sick and tired of hearing about closet kombucha and local sauerkraut. In reality, you might be sick and tired because your food hasn’t been left out on the counter long enough (under highly intentional and controlled conditions). Yup, I’m talking about fermentation.

If I’m any example, letting your food go nearly bad could save your life—or improve it at least. I have suffered all sorts of nonsense from so-called food. Standard baked goods gave me eczema, headaches, feet aches, knee pain, flatulence (what a release, to share that last bit publicly).

Until I started eating plenty of fermented foods—especially sourdough ferments—I had a lot of belly aches. For years, I avoided the offending foods (bagels, cookies, pies, croissants), desperately fashioning substitutes. A dismal decade spent sculpting moist clods of bean flours and root starches into the shapes of the foods I craved. I love a good bean flour as much as the next lug, but for croissants?

Gut Health Real Talk

Then I learned about healing with pre- and pro-biotics. I started buying and making fermented food, eating and drinking these bubbly staples throughout each day. I almost hate to write it, but I did improve my gut health. I know, it’s almost like writing, I make all my family’s clothes from vegetables scraps. It’s true though. Not about the vegetable scraps—but eating home-fermented foods has changed my health dramatically. Particularly eating homemade sourdough bread.

Like so many of us, working our way through quarantine lockdown, I became an avid sourdough baker. Sourdough loaves can be tricky to master, but making starter is super easy and cooking with it can elevate all sorts of dishes. It deepens and brightens flavor, and adds a chewy spring and undeniable texture to a variety of foods.

I followed the Clever Carrot ( blog method to create a sourdough starter because the author said, “Don’t overthink it.” I didn’t—and I have a strong, healthy starter.

Ferment Nerds

If you already have a starter going, you can make this delicious dish today. If not, plan for an end-of-week treat. Inspiration for the recipe comes from my ardent love of hash browns, latkes and Asian-style scallion pancakes. These Savorbang patties combine the crisp, green freshness of spring with the satisfying crunch and buttery interior of a great slab of hash browns or a rich, crispy latke.

Photo credit: Sarah Whitmore


3 cups grated yellow potatoes

(3 medium-large size)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup sourdough starter discard

5 green beans

3 scallions

Handful of young pea shoots (try Radical Family Farms)

2-3 tablespoons marinated mild red pepper, divided (½ diced, ½ sliced thin for garnish)

1 teaspoon ground Piment d’Espelette or other good quality paprika

4 tablespoons cooking oil (I used avocado)


Remove ¾ cup of starter from your base ferment. Sprinkle this discard with a bit of flour and stir vigorously. The starter should be the consistency of a just-pourable batter. Set aside. Feed your base starter as usual.

Trim and slice lengthwise, very thin: 5 green beans and 3 scallions, including about 2 inches of the green tails of the onions.

Grate potatoes, then lay them on a cheese cloth or porous dishtowel. Thoroughly squeeze to drain all excess liquid.

Fluff shredded potatoes in a bowl and spritz with lemon juice.

Add salt and mix (if potatoes become soupy due to salt, drain again, then add another pinch of salt).

Sprinkle Piment d’Espelette or paprika over potatoes.

Add starter, combine well.

Fold in sliced green beans, scallions, diced red pepper and pea shoots.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Scoop and form even rounds of mix, leave in bowl.

Heat oil (1 inch deep) in a well-seasoned skillet to medium-high.

Drop a tiny bit of mix in oil to check heat—mix should sizzle vigorously.

Form ½ inch-thick patties from the rounds and set into hot oil.

Sear patties on each side until crisp and deep golden brown—about 3 minutes each side.

Remove from skillet and drain well—first on paper towels and then a mesh rack.

Place fried patties on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Bake 15 minutes or until very crisp—not blackened.

Remove from oven. Basque Browns will be crunchy on the outside, with vegetables still fresh and firm within, and surrounded by a tangy, creamy, buttery, potato-ey marvel of a sauce.

Top the Browns with strips of marinated red pepper.

Serve over miner’s lettuce or new arugula with sour cream or crème fraiche on the side.

This dish can be made 94% better still if served with a dollop of kimchi, the superstar of fermentation.


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