Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Annual Latke Fry


It's the happy Jewish festival of light, Chanukah, and that means a celebration filled with delicious fried potato pancakes. Known as latkes, these crispy fried potatoes rank as one of the tastiest foods we've ever eaten. Recipe variations abound and include the addition of sweet potatoes, zucchini and other root vegetables. All of those would be wonderful, we're sure, but the pure potato latke is a heavenly creation and, if you only eat them rarely (as the calorie content would dictate) then we say go for the original.

The variation continues in the method of grating. How easy it is to pull out the food processor with the shredding attachment and make quick work of that mound of spuds. But those would be hash browns, not latkes. A grating attachment on that processor will yield gummy spud soup. Nope, we're "old school" on this issue and say that hand grating is the only accurate method. It's a pain to do and you might think of reducing your guest list when faced with so much potential fingernail and knuckle damage. But we've found that throwing large parties and asking everyone to contribute to the grating spares the cook's hands and produces a large batch of freshly grated potatoes fast. One taste of the delectable fried creation and everyone lobbies for future invitations, despite the work.

Incidentally, the time and oxidation problems involved in this recipe mean that restaurant potato pancakes are almost always made from mashed potatoes. You may think they taste nice but they, in no way, resemble the taste of latkes. Box mix, you say? We don't know you.

6 Baking potatoes, peeled
1 Small onion, peeled
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Canola oil for frying

Using a box grater, grate all the potatoes and the onion into a large strainer set over a bowl. When done with all the grating, discard the liquid that puddled in the bottom of the bowl. Place the potatoes in the bowl and add the egg, flour and salt. Mix well. Heat about an inch of oil in a skillet and ladle out the potato mixture, forming pancakes approximately 3" in diameter. Fry on medium-high heat until edges turn brown, flip and continue frying until golden brown.

It's best to work with multiple skillets, if possible, but you can also stack the cooked latkes in a warm oven while you finish frying the rest of the batch. Note that liquid may puddle in the bowl again while you're working and you can spoon out much of it.

The 6 potatoes should feed 3-4 people although it's hard to stop eating these. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.


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