Consider the latke (Chanukah’s version of fast food). It is, in my opinion, the most perfect, delicious use for the potatoes – better even, in some circumstances, than the French fry, potato chip, or potato kugel. The latke has a dark golden crispy crunchy outside and soft tasty middle.
I suggest that you use starchy potatoes for latkes. Russets and Yukon Gold are my favorites. Squeeze as much moisture out of the shredded potatoes as you can. Too much liquid makes for a thin pancake. Try not to make them too large or too thick – the outside will cook up just fine, but the inside will be raw – and take care not to overcook. They are best served immediately with sour cream, apple sauce, or all by themselves. You don’t have to peel the potatoes if you wash them thoroughly. Peeling will give the latke a lighter color, but that’s about it.
When it comes to latkes, there is an old debate as to what exactly is the “best” recipe. There are hundreds, nay thousands, of recipes, all purported to be the “ultimate.” Not all the following recipes are the traditional potato/egg mixture but I promise, all of them will have you standing in line waiting for the next batch to finish.
I have no idea where this recipe came from but it’s really, really good.
4 to 5 medium to large Yukon gold potatoes
1 large onion, shredded (you can use a food processor)
1 1/2 tablespoons flour or matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Oil for frying
Peel and cut 2 of the potatoes into one-inch chunks. Boil the chunks in salted water until tender (15 to 20 minutes). Drain and mash the potatoes slightly. Sprinkle the flour or matzo meal on top of the mashed potatoes and set the mixture aside. Shred the remaining potatoes and mix them in a large bowl with the shredded onions (this mixing is to keep the potato from turning brown). Squeeze and drain as much liquid as possible from onion/potato mixture. Add the eggs, pepper, and salt to the onion mixture and mix to combine. Add the mashed potatoes to the shredded potatoes and mix to combine. Make 3- inch patties. Heat oil and fry the patties in 1/4 to 1/2 inches of oil. Cook for about 5 minutes on the first side and then turn them over with a spatula and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes approx 8 to 12 latkes, depending on size.
Traditional latkes (pareve)
This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Jewish Cooking in America,” by Joan Nathan. These are thin “pancakes” with no flour or matzo meal.
2 pounds russet (baking) or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium onion
1-1/2 cups chopped scallions, including the green part
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
Peel the potatoes and put in cold water. Using a grater or a food processor, coarsely grate the potatoes and onions. Place together in a fine-mesh strainer or tea towel and squeeze out all the water over a bowl. The potato starch will settle to the bottom: Reserve that after you have carefully poured off the water. Mix the potato and onion with the potato starch. Add the scallions, egg, and salt and pepper. Heat a griddle or non-stick pan and coat with a thin film of vegetable oil. Take about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the palm of your hand and flatten as best you can. Place the potato mixture on the griddle, flatten with a large spatula, and fry for a few minutes until golden. Flip the pancake over and brown the other side. Remove to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately. (The latkes also can be frozen to be served at a later time, after crisping in a 350-degree oven.) Makes about 2 dozen latkes.
Peppered sweet potato latkes (pareve)
4 1/2 cups peeled, shredded sweet potatoes
1/2 to 2/3 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
oil for frying
In a large bowl, combine the shredded sweet potatoes, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. Heat the oil in a large skillet (I like to use a cast iron one). Drop mixture by heaping spoonfuls into hot oil. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until golden. Flip the latke over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until the second side is golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
Tri-color latkes (pareve or dairy)
I got this recipe from December 2007 Coastal Living Magazine and it’s so elegant and so good I serve it year around whenever I want something special.
1 zucchini, grated
1 yellow squash, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon oil
1 small leek, sliced
1 large baking potato, peeled
1/2 sweet potato, peeled
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 small red onion, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
oil for frying
4 ounces thinly sliced cold smoked salmon
Sour cream or pareve substitute
Arrange grated zucchini and squash on a large baking pan; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let vegetables rest 15 minutes. Drain well, pressing between paper towels, and set aside. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a small sautÃ© pan, and sautÃ© leek 3 minutes or until soft. Set aside. Grate potatoes, and press between paper towels to remove excess water. Place potatoes in a large bowl; add zucchini, squash, leek, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, and stir gently. Add red onion and next 6 ingredients, stirring gently to combine. Heat 2 to 4 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spoon heaping tablespoons of latke mixture, squeeze out extra liquid, and form into flat patties. Fry latkes, in batches, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove from skillet, and drain on paper towels. Top each with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of sour cream, and caviar. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Modified from Costal Living Magazine, December 2007
Parsnip sweet potato pancake (pareve)
2 1/2 to 3 cups shredded Russet or Yukon Gold potato
1 1/4 cup parsnip, shredded
1 1/4 cup sweet potato, peeled and shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups onion, shredded or chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons oil
Line a colander with paper towels. Place the shredded potatoes, parsnip and sweet potato on top of the paper towels and sprinkle the salt on top. Let drain for 1/2 hour and then squeeze out the excess moisture. Place the vegetable mixture to large bowl. Add the onions, flour, and pepper. Mix just to combine and then stir in the egg. Heat the oil in a skillet and use about 1/4 cup of the mixture per latke. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. You may need to cook this in two batches as you don’t want to crowd the latkes. Makes 9 to 12 latkes.
Submitted by Diana Luttson Queens, NY.
Mushroom and carrot latkes (pareve)
2 shredded potatoes
2 to 3 shredded carrots
1 small red onion, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons sliced green onions, green part
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms (you can use portabella)
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 cup flour
In a bowl combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, mushrooms, and green onion and set it aside. In another bowl, combine the eggs, garlic, and onion salt and then stir the egg mixture into the vegetable mixture. Add pepper to taste. Add the flour and stir until combined. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the batter into the oil. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10 depending on the size.
Apple latkes (dairy)
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup grated apple (I like granny smith)
oil for frying
Maple syrup or confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon for garnish
In a bowl, combine the egg with the yogurt, mix to combine, and set aside. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and sugar. Peel and core the apples, then grate them; you can use a food processor. Pour egg-yogurt mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture, add grated apples ,and fold all the ingredients together. Pour enough oil to come about 1/4-inch up a skillet and put on stove to heat. Dollop spoonfuls of apple batter into sizzling oil; a rubber spatula – the one you used to fold the batter together – will help you scrape the batter off the spoon and press down on the little latkes in the pan. Fry for a minute or two, until latkes are golden brown on underside; you can see from the top as they start firming up underneath. Flip them with two metal spatulas, and fry for another minute on the uncooked side. Remove to tray lined with paper towels or brown paper, to blot excess oil, and continue cooking until you’ve used up all the batter. Serve with syrup or confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon. Yield: about 20, 2-2 1/2 inch latkes
Modified from “Feast, Food to Celebrate Life,” by Nigella Lawson.
Mashed potato latkes (pareve)
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
1 large egg, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoons grated
Salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying
In a bowl combine the mashed potatoes, garlic, and egg. Mix to combine, add the flour and onion, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil until it is hot and fry heaping tablespoons of the potato mixture. You should make sure that you flatten the latkes slightly with a spatula. Cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.