The Ultimate Latke
Latkes (potato pancakes) are probably the best known Hanukkah food in the U.S.A. They come out of the food traditions of Eastern Europe, and traveled across the Atlantic with the many waves of Jewish immigrants from countries like Germany and Poland. There are as many ways to make latkes as there are families that make them. My latke recipe was born out of many holiday seasons working as a caterer and private chef, in other words, lots of trial and error. I often make a mix of sweet potato and yukon gold potatoes, but you can make this recipe with any type of potato you like.
Many of the Bubbies (grandmas) and Tantes (aunties) in my life have adopted this recipe as their own, which is BY FAR the GREATEST honor I could ever receive. So I feel confident in saying that this is truly the Ultimate Latke Recipe. If you think otherwise, by all means, post your recipe below, and let's plan a fry-off for next year!
The Ultimate Latke Recipe
3 large sweet potatoes
5 large yukon gold or white russet potatoes
2 large onions (or 3 medium)
1 1/2 cups flour (more if needed) - or a starch of your choice for gluten free (corn, arrowroot etc)
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying*
Shred potatoes with a food processor or a box grater.
Rinse the potatoes in cold water and drain 3 or 4 times until the water is clear and the starch is removed from the outside of the potatoes. Drain well, squeezing out any excess water.
Peel and slice the onions into quarters. Place the onions in a food processor and blend until they are well chopped. Add the eggs and flour and puree until smooth. Alternately, you can shred the onions and squeeze out the water, then mix with the flour and eggs.
Add the onion mixture to the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and toss until the potatoes are well coated. The potatoes should have a thin coating of the onion/egg mixture. You can add a little more flour to the batter if it seems like it needs more binding. If you want to make gluten free latkes, corn starch can be substituted for the flour and makes a very crispy latkes. Place the batter in a colander set over a large bowl, so that the water that starts to seep from the potatoes (from the salt in the batter) is removed. Note: if your batter starts to seem too dry, you can mix a little of this liquid back in.
In a heavy frying pan, over medium high, add about 1/2inch of oil until a small amount of batter dropped in it sizzles as soon as it is dropped in. Using tongs or a large spoon, place small mounds of batter around the frying pan and gently press them down to make the tops flat. The oil should be sizzling very fast around the edges. When the bottoms are well browned, turn latkes over and cook a few minutes more until they are olden brown. The oil must be very hot so that they cook quickly and do not absorb the grease. If your latkes are soggy and greasy, your oil is not hot enough. Taste test your first latkes and adjust seasoning.
Remove latkes and place them on a rack to cool in a single layer. This is key as they are not sitting in the grease, so do not get soggy. Once they have cooled, you can lean them up against each other as shown in the picture below. You can reheat latkes while they are stacked like this. The heat circulates well around them, and since they are not lying flat, none of them are absorbing oil from the bottom of the pan. To re-heat latkes, place them in a preheated 400 degree oven until hot.
*Note on Oil for Frying: I have been using safflower or sunflower oil, or other non-GMO (genetically modified oil) that doesn't burn at high temperatures. Canola, corn and soy, if they are not labeled otherwise are likely to be GMO oils.
Stay tuned for our Food Squad - Celebration of Oil Show on Friday (and by podcast any time after 3pm Dec 15th) where we will travel far beyond latkes to mark the holiday of oil this year! With guests Jason Sobocinski of Caseus & The Big Cheese, Babz Rawls Ivy of Love Babz, and Marshall Cruz on his secret to excellent empenadas.