How to make Hanukkah Potato Latkes
(They're great at Passover too -- just use matzoh meal instead
of flour and check the oil.)
(for two hungry adults -- can be multiplied):
- 4 - 5 potatoes (use baking, not new)
- 1 - 2 onions (as much as 2 large onions to 4 big potatoes)
- Scallions: Non-traditionalists who can't leave well enough alone should consider adding up to one half cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 inch of oil
- salt & pepper
- 1-2 Tbs matzoh meal or flour (only if needed)
- Wash the potatoes well and peel the onion. Some people like
to peel the potatoes, but it isn't necessary. If you do peel
the potatoes, cover the peeled potatoes with cold water so they
don't turn grey.
- Grate the potatoes and onion. The best way to do this is
to abandon all tradition, get out the food processor and use
the smallest shredder disc (the cheese grater disc). Using the
small square disc (the carrot shredder) makes an interesting
and highly non-traditional variation. The large grater disc
makes ones that are most like your grandmother's, if she used
the large side of the cheese grater, but the small shredders
taste better. Don't use the metal blade unless you want latkes
with a very smooth texture, like the ones from a mix. Do the
potatoes first, then do the onions right into the same bowl.
To minimize onion juice in the air, halve the onions and place
them cut side down in the food processor.
- Pour the oil into a couple of frying pans, 1/4 to one half
inch deep, and heat the oil until a drop of water bounces on
top. Don't be afraid of all this oil; the latkes don't work
unless they are deep fried, and the amount of oil they absorb
is a function of the temperature of the oil and the liquid in
the latke mix, not the amount of oil in the pan. Anyway, the
mitzvah is the oil. (A minority opinion claims that very thin
latkes can be fried in just a minimal amount of oil, like pancakes,
but the majority holds that this is not as tasty. All agree,
however, that thicker latkes must be deep fried.)
- Squeeze as much as possible of the liquid out of the potato/onion
mixture. Pour off what you can, then put the whole thing in
a spaghetti colander and push down, or spread it out on paper
towels and press hard. The more liquid you remove, the less
likely the latkes are to fall apart.
- Return the mixture to a bowl and add the optional scallions,
egg, salt and pepper, and mix. Be generous with the salt. If
the mixture seems very loose or watery, add a little flour or
matzah meal to hold it together.
- Using a large spoon, form the latkes and drop them into the
oil. The oil should reach at least to the middle of the latkes.
If you wish, flatten them. Flatter latkes are crispier and often
less oily; thicker ones have a nice contrast between the crispy
outside and the moist inside. Fry until brown, then flip and
fry the other side.
- Spread the latkes one layer thick on paper towel to drain.
If necessary, you can put them in a 250 degree oven, paper towel
and all, to stay warm, but they usually don't last that long.
- Serve hot with sour cream and/or apple sauce.
- Too greasy.
- Either your oil is not hot enough, or your latkes are too
thick. Also try shredding the potato pieces smaller next time.
- Latkes fall apart in the oil.
- Make the latkes smaller -- silver dollar size often works
best. Be sure your oil is still hot -- don't add too many
latkes at once. Try using a smaller size shredder. Or add
more egg. Or squeeze more liquid out. Or add some more flour
or matzah meal. Don't use more than a couple of Tbs of flour
or you will taste it; if that isn't enough use crumbs of old
- Turned grey.
- Work faster. Keep cut but ungrated potatoes covered with
cold water. Mix the onions with the grated potatoes. Keeping
the batter covered with plastic wrap helps too.
- Not enough latkes.
- Make more next time. Expect normal grownups to eat about
at least two medium to large potatoes if served as a main
- Ate too many.
- Keep track next time!
- Kids want to eat them with ketchup.
- Just say no.
(They're great at Passover too -- just use
matzoh meal instead of flour and check the oil.)
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December 4, 1998.