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Happy Hanukkah: Who’s making latkes?

photo-89The way our particular mixed-faith household plays out during the holidays goes something like this:

Mom/Christmas:

  • 3 dozen trips to the mall to shop for presents
  • cookie decorating project
  • night of tree decorating
  • three plastic tubs filled with house decorations come up from the basement
  • said decorations take over the house, which include three sets of manger action figurines and a Santa on a motorcycle
  • lavish Christmas dinner

Dad/Hanukkah:

  • a mad tear through every cabinet to find the menorah and two leftover candles so we can mumble our way through the prayer
  • latkes

It isn’t the holidays without the traditional potato pancakes. I make them the way my mother did, which I have to say is a complete pain in the tuchas, but really the only way I know to make latkes.

I peel baking potatoes and yellow onions in a ratio of 4:1 and grate them by hand on a box grater. (I’ve tried using the food processor, but the texture comes out all wrong.)  I set the resultant, browning goop in a colander over a bowl to drain out the juices. Then I transfer it to a bowl and stir in salt, eggs (one per onion) and just enough flour until it gets that just-barely-cohesive texture — about 2 tablespoons per onion.

And then I stand over a skillet of sputtering oil and fry them until I have dozens of latkes seeping grease into paper towels. I emerge smelling like a McDonald’s french fry.

I grew up eating them with applesauce and sour cream. We’ve since subbed out Greek yogurt for the sour cream because we like it better. Usually, some smoked salmon finds its way to the table, as well.

Anyone have a better way?

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

22 comments Add your comment

Josh

December 20th, 2011
10:26 am

I’ve heard variations lately using sweet potatoes? Ever tried it?

JS

December 20th, 2011
10:56 am

I use matzoh meal instead of flour and leave the skin on the potatoes since that’s how i like my hash browns. Otherwise mine is similar. I’m going to try food processor grater attachment this year as I’m making them for 20 people so hopefully texture will be ok.

Jen

December 20th, 2011
11:10 am

We always use cornflake crumbs, although lately I’ve had to start making my own cornflake crumbs because no one seems to sell them anymore. We also cop out and use the food processor, but they’re still yummy. Cornflake crumbs add a bit of sweetness.

Billie

December 20th, 2011
11:42 am

IMO, hand processing always best for foods with high water content — potatoes, cabbage, etc. Processor seems to exert extreme pressure that leaves processed contents limp instead of perky.
Happy Hanukkah and Christmas, all!

Joey

December 20th, 2011
12:17 pm

That is the traditional recipe, and still the best one. Once you begin using other ingredients the Chanukah element falls away and they become something else entirely. (My opinion)

RGR

December 20th, 2011
12:55 pm

I am a purist. Hand grating is the only way to go! The food processor changes the texture.

John Kessler

December 20th, 2011
1:27 pm

Josh — Yes, I used to make them when I was a chef. It took some trial and error, but I eventually got it when I started trying to emulate that Vietnamese dish with whole shrimp embedded in fried sweet potatoes: The basic technique I came up with is this: Grate the sweet potatoes (food processor is fine) in big shreds and mix with coarsely chopped scallion and enough egg and flour to just form an actual batter. Season and then form the cakes on a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and freeze them. Then you can peel them off and store in a Ziploc. When it’s time to serve, deep fry them. Really nice creamy/crunchy texture. Guests used to ask for extras.

steph

December 20th, 2011
1:41 pm

I make two different versions and leave the skin on for both.. one is your same latke recipe from above. I also use a box grater; it stinks. My other version is subing sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, leaving out the onion and adding a bit of cinnamon. My family generally likes the sweet potato ones better, but I dig on the regular ones and since I’m the one making them they have to have both. This year I am thinking about trying out panko because I would like them crispier.

Typical Redneck

December 20th, 2011
1:41 pm

altmod

December 20th, 2011
4:05 pm

We serve ours with sour cream, applesauce and fresh guacamole. (My son is half Mexican.) Guac goes great on latkes!

dre

December 20th, 2011
4:55 pm

I make mine with lobster meat and bacon, then top them with meat and cheese. You get a bye living in a mixed household, correct?

Adam's McRib

December 20th, 2011
6:06 pm

Yum! Anyone know of any restaurants serving latkes in the northern (think Gainesville) hinterlands?

And is latkes plural or singular? Or is it like hash browns, where there is no such thing as A hash brown?

Dave

December 20th, 2011
6:07 pm

I’ve tried making them with little success. Maybe I’ll try your method. In the interim, Bagel Palace at Toco Hills serves them, though they often over brown them. Darn, now I want some, now.

recipegirl

December 20th, 2011
6:51 pm

What would happen if the potatoes were rinsed of their starch after shredding? I shred mine then rinse them and squeeze out moisture then let them dry before making hash browns. They come out incredibly crispy that way. I know latkes are supposed to hold together, so would rinsing the starch make them too loose?

Slotl

December 20th, 2011
7:47 pm

I use Matza Meal instead of flour. We like our Latkes crispy so we add a tablespoon of baking soda and use whipped egg whites. We squeeze the excess liquid from the potatoes using cheese cloth. I do use a food processor in two steps. First step I shred the potatoes and onions. Second step is to take the shredded potatoes and onions and using the chopping blade to get to the desired consistency by pulsing. Works like a charm.

happy hanukkah

December 20th, 2011
7:51 pm

Latke mix from the “kosher” section of any supermarket follow directions on box + bag of hashbrowns from the fridge section of the store (you know the ones in the green bags right next to the eggs).
Makes GREAT latkes! Oh so easy, been using this method for years.
Have a friend who does this – If you are lucky enough to have a side burner on your grill do the frying out there & then the house won’t smell.

Sheila

December 20th, 2011
9:01 pm

After I peel and grate the potatoes, I also grate my onions. I like the texture it gives the latkes. I also pour cold water over the shredded potato and onion mixture for about 30 minutes. This keeps the potatoes from turning dark and it also removes some of the starch and makes them less gummy. Very crispy, but moist on the inside. Yum! Happy Hanukkah John!!

Reds

December 21st, 2011
9:24 am

My (totally non-Jewish family) makes potato pancakes from leftover mashed potatoes mixed with egg. :) Good. Not as good as the traditional ones, but a good way to use up leftover mashies and change them around a bit.

Veggie

December 21st, 2011
10:53 am

Sidney’s Just South on Roswell Road had the best.

kmb

December 21st, 2011
11:06 am

“And then I stand over a skillet of sputtering oil and fry them until I have dozens of latkes seeping grease into paper towels. I emerge smelling like a McDonald’s french fry.”

Made them last night pretty much using your receipe with these modifications that worked well. I used a very large cast iron enamaled dutch oven to fry the latkes. This eliminated the oil everywhere that comes from using a skillet. I then put the latkes on a rack with paper towels under the rack. No greasy mess and very firm/crispy outer layer of latke. Finally, I borrowed an idea from a Jewish cook book and took about a third of the mixture and used the steel blade of my food processor to make it a puree. I added that back to the main mixture. Latkes came out with crispy outside and soft inside.

John Kessler

December 21st, 2011
12:19 pm

kmb – sounds great. Made mine in a Dutch oven as well. We ended up with a very weird but kind of perfect assortment of applesauce, sour cream, Greek yogurt, smoked salmon, sliced avocado and arugula on the table. With a bottle of Piper Heidsieck Monopole to toast the Maccabees….

Mindy J

December 21st, 2011
10:59 pm

I made my latkes with Simply Potatoes (the shredded ones) tonight and they came out yummy. And, it was much easier and less time consuming!