Latkes Recipe for Hanukkah


Let me begin by laughing out loud at the phrase: “gourmet latkes”. HA! Latkes are one of those down-home, remember bubbe/grandma, can’t wait for Chanukahcomfort foods. To try and elevate them to anything above and beyond that does them a great disservice. 

So, I’m going to start with a “non-recipe” –- potato latkes as passed down in my family. 

Start with potatoes. There’s no specific number, just estimate about one per. Peel them and put the peeled potatoes in water to keep them from getting brown. 

Now, I HAVE modernized the next step, but we’ll start with the old tradition. Get a metal grater – the four-sided ones with the knuckle murdering sharp edges. Using the medium sized holes, grate all the potatoes. The joke is always that you need some knuckle to make them kosher. But try and avoid injuring yourself during this step. OR you can switch over to the new, handy dandy food processor and using the blade on pulse to chop the potatoes in small batches. I don’t like them too fine, though my mother-in law made hers with mashed potatoes. So, go figure! 

Take some onions and mince them up. Again, use your own judgment. Making potato latkes is not rocket science, so put more in if you like them oniony, and fewer if you want them less so. 

When you’re done with the potatoes, take some eggs – about two for every 4 potatoes, and mix them into the grated potato/onion mix. 

Now, I know a lot of modern recipes add flour to the latkes. But I prefer matzoh meal. It gives them more body and, I find, helps hold things together a bit better. Besides, this also makes a latke you can use over Passover as well! 

The next step depends on whether you want to go with my grandmother’s traditional recipe, or go the healthier, completely vegetarian route. At any rate, you need to add some sort of liquid fat to the latkes. We use melted schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), about 1/3 cup for every four potatoes. If you go this route, it’s traditional to “keep it kosher” and serve this recipe with applesauce, which is pareve (neither meat nor dairy) rather than sour cream, which would be mixing meat and dairy. If the idea of schmaltz isn’t your preference, you can also just add vegetable or canola oil instead. 

Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes and then check its consistency. If it seems too loose, add a bit more matzoh meal. If it’s a bit too thick, add another egg. This is all where the non-recipe part comes in. 

Mix it all together and start adding salt and pepper to taste, and my grandmother and mother and I DO taste it as we season it. Amazingly, none of us have ever gotten sick from this either! 

The trick now is to put a good amount, about ¼ inch, of oil in your largest frying pan over medium-high heat and be patient. The oil should be good and hot before you begin frying up the latkes, or else you’ll get a soggy mess. Now begin to drop tablespoons of the mix into the oil. Occasionally press the latke into the fat so it will brown evenly. When the underside is brown and crusty, turn it over. When each batch is done, drain them on a paper towel and keep them warm in a 250-degree oven for no more than 20 minutes

Serve with applesauce or sour cream (only use applesauce if you’ve made them using the schmaltz). 

Again, that’s just my family’s recipe. There are as many latke recipes as there are families. And, if your family doesn’t have a recipe of its own, there are hundreds or recipes out there on the Internet. So, enjoy!

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Georgia said...

According to my daughter, the secret to latkes that don't fall apart is 1) using starchy potatoes, like Russets, 2) squeezing the liquid out of the grated potatoes, and (most important) 3) reserving the potato starch from that liquid --it settles quickly to the bottom--and adding it back to the latke "batter". http://girlymae.vox.com/library/post/potato-latkes.html

misseileen said...

Draining the potatoes before you add the eggs helps keep the latkes together and makes them crispy, too.
The only thing missing from the latkes was homemade apple sauce. That is part of the tradition in my home. I use 4-6 apples (depends on how big. My favorite apples for the applesauce are MacIntosh). Peel and core the apples, them cut them up. Place in a saucepan with water. The water should come up in the pan 1/2 as high as the apples. Cook the apples on a low simmer until soft, then mash the apples. Add sugar to taste. Pretty simple.
You can buy applesauce, true, but I always forget to and it's fun to do with the grandkids.

tamdoll said...

My husband is the latke maker at my house - I don't think he's ever added fat to the batter, but our favorite is to use Yukon gold potatoes and 1/3 sweet potatoes. I know he uses a thin towel or cheesecloth to squeeze out all the juice - using an electric grater makes the onions very watery. Yesterday he bought scallions and mushrooms - I think he's going to try adding it all together, too.

Barbra said...

Love receiving your blog and have found many wonderful etsy sellers through it. Regarding today's post, sometimes the photos on the e-mails cover the text. Not sure if you're aware of that. Ironically my latkes are re-heating in the oven now and I'm worried that 39 won't be enough for 5 people!

barneyp510 said...

OK - now I am seriously hungry!


Leslie Sirag said...

We don't add fat to our latke batter either, and I've been baking rather than frying for the last few years--not traditional, but healthier.
Tonight, for the first time, we had latkes (and candles, and presents) at the house 2 of our daughters share. Talk about naches! There's something ineffably fulfilling about seeing the traditions passed along.

tamdoll said...

I love it that a food post gets so many comments!