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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.

Trouble Shooting
  • 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 challah instead.
  • 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 course.
  • Ate too many.
    Keep track next time!
  • Kids want to eat them with ketchup.
    Just say no.

Happy Hanukah!

(They're great at Passover too -- just use matzoh meal instead of flour and check the oil.)

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