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Dec 06

Happy Hanukkah – Let’s Make Latkes!

 
 
Hanukkah is right around the corner, but any time is a good time to make these tasty potato pancakes.

 
Latkes are my favorite way to have potatoes. I was 10 the first time I made them; my mom had an electric skillet and it was one of the recipes listed in the user manual. I had made them a few times when the manual went missing and I had to recreate it from memory. As a result, this is more a list of ingredients and construction techniques than it is a recipe with measurements and times, but don’t worry, they’re easy to make and worth the effort.

 
Note: for those who are gluten sensitive or have Celiac disease, potatoes are naturally gluten free so you can easily make gluten-free latkes by substituting a good quality potato flour (not potato starch) for the all-purpose flour.

 


 

Some Notes About the Ingredients

 
When I make latkes I don’t measure anything, I mix everything to taste. I’ve listed some rough amounts (relative to the number of potatoes you’re using) to give you a place to start but feel free to mess with the amounts to get something closer to your tastes. The one rule of thumb is that you’ll get approximately 2 latkes for every medium sized potato you use.

 
I like to use a combination of red, white, and yellow potatoes, but you can use whatever potatoes you’d like or happen to have on hand. This recipe is a very good way to use up old potatoes that are starting to get a little knotted and squishy.

 
When I use fresh onion, I typically use white onion but any kind of onion will work just as well.

 

Ingredient List

 

  • Potatoes
  • Onion:
    if dehydrated: 1-2 palm-fulls for every 4 potatoes
    if fresh: 1 small onion, grated, for every 4 potatoes; if you’re using less than 4 potatoes consider using a medium-sized shallot instead
  • Eggs: depending on the starchiness and age of the potatoes you will need anywhere from 1 to 3 eggs for every 4 potatoes
  • Garlic:
    if dehydrated: 1/2 – 1 palm-full for every 4 potatoes
    if fresh: 4-5 cloves for every 4 potatoes
  • Parsley:
    if dehydrated: 2-4 palm-fulls for every 4 potatoes
    if fresh: 1/2 a small bunch for every 4 potatoes, chopped very fine (a food processor works really well for this if you have one).
    If you’re using a knife to chop the parsley, I recommend pulling the leaves from the stalks and chopping the leaves in a bunch. The stalks
    can be bitter and don’t chop easily (although that might be due to my poor knife skills). The stalks are no match for a food processor
    though, so if you’re using one, then just rip off the top of the bunch and throw it all in and chop it until it’s fine.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Flour: depending on the starchiness and age of the potatoes you will need anywhere between 1 and 4 tablespoons (T) for every 4 potatoes

 

Dried/Dehydrated versus Fresh

 
The original recipe called for dried onions, dried parsley, and garlic powder; any combination of dried or fresh can be used but which you use will affect the final product:

  • Using fresh onion will add more water to the mix, which makes the latkes slightly less crispy, but provides a richer onion flavor.
  • Using fresh garlic does not affect the overall water content as much, but can makes the garlic flavor significantly more potent and fiery if you use a lot. Fresh garlic can also be harder to mix evenly; using a garlic press will make the process easier.
  • Using fresh parsley will give the latkes a fresher, lighter, and a more herbal flavor overall. It works particularly well when it’s paired with fresh onion. The downside is that fresh parsley tends to be very dry so the overall mix is will be wetter when compared to using the dry parsley, which partially re-hydrates and absorbs some of the liquid in the mixture.

 

Directions

 
01. Turn the oven on to 350°F (≈176°C)

 
02. Shred the potatoes and onion; you want the shreds to be roughly the same size as pre-grated cheese. You can go a little smaller or bigger, but if you make them too much smaller the mixture tends to break down and you’ll end up with something closer to mashed potatoes (good, but not latkes); if you make them much bigger, the mix won’t bind as well. I usually grate the potatoes and onion by hand, but you’ll save yourself some work (and some tears) if you use a food processor.

 
03. Dump the potato, grated onion, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

 
04. Using your hands, mix in one egg until it’s thoroughly combined. I have found that mixing the potatoes with your hand is easier than using any sort of utensil. The key is to keep your fingers open, stiff, and slightly curved; imagine combing your hair with your fingers, that’s about the amount of tension in your hand that you want, but curve your fingers so they act like a whisk.

 
05. Sprinkle the mixture with 1 – 2 tablespoons of flour and mix again.

 
06. Taking a small amount in your hand, squeeze it with a moderate amount of force and examine the result. The clump of potatoes should hold the shape but the individual potato pieces should be distinguishable.

If the mixture is too wet, add more flour – a tablespoon at a time – until the consistency is correct. If the mixture is too dry and does not bind well, add another egg and increase the flour – still a tablespoon at a time – until the consistency is correct. Very large batches (5-8 potatoes) generally require more than 2 eggs.

 
07. Turn off the oven, prepare a cookie sheet/rack/roasting pan/etc. by lining it with paper towels, and place it in the oven. You won’t be cooking anything in this pan or the oven; this is where you will put the latkes once they’re cooked to keep them warm.

 
08. Add enough oil to a large sauté pan or skillet so that it is roughly as deep as the width of a finger; the idea is to have the oil deep enough that you can effectively brown the latkes on one side and have the oil be halfway up to the opposite side so that the potatoes will cook through properly without burning the outside. Bring the oil to temperature over medium to medium-high heat; exactly how high/low the heat should be depends on your stove (gas vs electric) and the type of pan you are using. Trial and error will help you dial into the correct setting for your hardware (pan + range) but medium is a good starting point. Alternatively, the cooking can be done in an electric skillet at 375°F (≈190°C) so you don’t have to worry about it.

 
09. Taking a handful at a time, squeeze the mixture to remove excess moisture and bind the ingredients, then place the potatoes in the pan and aggressively pat it down with your fingertips (or a pancake turner if you’re timid about putting your hands in a pan of hot oil) to spread and flatten the mixture out into the shape and size of a pancake. Note that there is no fixed size for latkes; however, a good rule of thumb is to make them small enough that you can fit three to a pan (assuming a standard sized sauté pan) with room to spare. At the least, you should make them small enough that they are manageable when you flip them.

 
10. When the first side is golden brown (3 – 5 minutes), carefully flip it over and brown the other side; the second side will brown faster than the first. When the latke is done, remove it from the pan and place it on the paper-towel lined pan. Sprinkle the latke with salt while it’s still hot and place the pan in the warmed oven until you’re done cooking and ready to serve them; because the oil has not come to temperature yet, the first batch will, generally, be fully cooked but not as golden as the subsequent batches.

Note: The potatoes will absorb a small amount of oil as you’re cooking; if you are making a large number of latkes, you will need to replenish the oil periodically.

 
11. Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce and enjoy! :D

2 comments

  1. Liz

    I love these so much! They are the messiest, crispiest, and tastiest potatoes I have ever had. Perfection!

  2. The Mama

    Yummy! :)

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