For Hanukkah or Year-Round
My husband loves latkes with meat loaf. I'll eat them with anything.
What's not to love about shredded potatoes held together with a little egg and flour and then pan fried to a golden, crispy finish. These simple potato pancakes are particularly popular during the eight days of Hanukkah, but in fact they are a great side dish to anything that otherwise goes well with frites or home fries.
There are three keys to success: one, use starchy, rather than waxy potatoes. Two, drain the shredded potatoes of their excess liquid before cooking. And three, use very hot oil. Some prefer their latkes to have a more pancake than potato texture and if that's you, use matzo meal instead of flour.
Serves four as a side.
3 to 4 large Idaho russet baking potatoes. Yukon Golds are a good alternative, but since these are generally smaller, you'll need more to produce about 6 cups of shredded potatoes.
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
Vegetable oil -- enough to cover the bottom of a skillet by 1/4-inch. Peanut oil is a good choice for its neutral flavor and high burn temperature. If you can't use peanut oil or don't have any, a blended vegetable oil or canola oil are good alternatives.
- Peel the potatoes and grate them either by hand, using the large holes of a box grater, or with the grating blade of a food processor. Your goal is to have about 6 cups of shredded potatoes.
- Once all the potatoes are shredded, transfer them either all at once or in batches into an immaculately clean kitchen towel, folding the towel around the potatoes so that you can wring the moisture out of them. Wring the excess water out of the potatoes, working over the sink. Return the dried potato shreds to a large, dry mixing bowl (if you had kept the pre-wrung potatoes in the bowl, dump out any water that may have accumulated).
- Add 1/4 cup flour and two slightly beaten eggs to the shredded potatoes and combine to coat.
- Place enough peanut oil in the bottom of a large skillet or sauté pan placed on high heat.
- When the oil is very hot -- the surface will be shimmering but not smoking -- place spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the oil, each spoonful being one serving size. Using the bottom of your spoon, flatten the mixture into pancake shapes so that they have an even thickness.
- Cook about 2 to 4 minutes a side until golden brown and crispy.
- Serve immediately with sour cream or applesauce.
Tip: Fry in small batches so that the oil stays hot. If you're making a large batch of latkes, transfer them to a warm 200ºF oven while you cook the rest.
Tip: Some like to combine melted "schmaltz" -- this is rendered poultry fat -- to the oil to add flavor. If that's your preference, you can find chicken fat (Empire, which is a brand of kosher meat products, is a good choice) or duck or goose fat (look for D'Artagnan).
Tip: Some like onions added to their latkes but maybe it's the Irish in me, but I like them all potato. But if you want to add onions, cook 2 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions until caramelized in the same hot oil or oil/schmaltz combination that you'll later fry the latkes in. Add the caramelized onions to the mixture of shredded potatoes, flour and eggs and combine.
Tip: Fry in a cast iron or other heavy skillet instead of a non-stick because you shouldn't get a non-stick pan blazing hot as it can damage the surface. Plus you want the latkes to get brown, a challenge with Teflon. And if you're using all this fat, what is the point of using a non-stick?