How To Make Latkes

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Hanukkah may be over today, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to make latkes. If you’ve never made latkes before, may I suggest you do so tonight?

It’s pretty easy and pretty rewarding. Granted, it’s not guiltless food: eating a bunch of latkes is basically equivalent to eating a bunch of french fries, so you may want to serve them on a treadmill with a side of personal trainer. But holiday time is about treating yourself, isn’t it, and when was the last time you tre

[THIS POST HAS BEEN INTERRUPTED BY A FAN WHO JUST APPROACHED ME AT THE COFFEE SHOP WHERE I AM WRITING THIS. SHE SAYS SHE’S BEEN READING ME FOR A LONG TIME, THAT SHE’S A GEOGRAPHY TEACHER AND THAT SHE LIVES IN BUFFALO. I TOLD HER THAT I AM TERRIBLE AT GEOGRAPHY, THAT I REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHETHER PHILADELPHIA WAS NORTH OR SOUTH OF NEW YORK, AND SHE GAVE ME A PITYING LOOK.]

Where was I? Oh yes, latkes. Let’s continue below, shall we?

I got the recipe from this month’s Saveur and the technique (for the recipe is more of a technique than an actual recipe) comes from Joan Nathan, the Jewish cooking guru.

Essentially you peel a bunch of potatoes (Yukon gold), put them through the shredder of your food processor (that’s how I did it, anyway), intermingling it with a raw onion which you shred too, and then you put the shredded potato and onion in a colander over a bowl and squeeze out all the liquid. Once the liquid is squeezed out you transfer the dried out potatoes and onion to a bowl:

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Here’s where you need the recipe: you add a certain amount of matzoh meal (3 Tbs?), an egg or two (I don’t remember), salt and pepper and then–rather amazingly–the starch from the potato liquid which remains at the bottom of the liquid bowl once you pour out all the liquid. [I’d be more exact in this recipe, but the magazine is at my apt. and I’m at a coffee shop where fans are stalking me. They’re all staring at me while I write this.]

Ok, so let’s say you just mix all that together–don’t be so exact, it isn’t science, it’s Judaism–and then you add a bunch of oil to a pan and heat it. You take walnut size balls of latke mix and flatten them in the hot oil:

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Oil is what we’re celebrating on Hanukkah, in case you didn’t know: the fact that oil burned for 8 nights and kept those Maccabees well-lit (there’s nothing less attractive than a shadowy Maccabee). Flip them over and cook on the other side:

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Then drain on paper towels:

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Since this is quite a heavy dinner (the word “gut bomb” came up), I served it with a healthy, stealthy beet salad–also quite Jewish, I think:

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I used a Barefoot Contessa recipe: there’s orange zest in there, orange juice and orange segments. And then Coach Farm goat cheese on top because Craig’s a cheese nut.

And speaking of Christian Craig, he’d never had a latke before in his whole life. Here he is sampling his very first one: (notice, they are served with apple sauce and sour cream in abundance)

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His verdict? “Oy! This latke is geshmak! I’m going to plotz.”

Make latkes tonight and celebrate your inner Jew.

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16 comments

  1. Looks good! I did buy a 15 pound bag of potatoes with intention of making latkes. Maybe I SHOULD make them for dinner. As you were saying, there are a lot of variation on latkes. Personally, I don’t fry them in as much oil. I’ve also seen them grated finer (to the point of mush)….and I usually eat latkes with ketchup. But it’s not the usual condiment of choice for latkes.

  2. Yum! This year a went a little Southern, and made potato croquettes instead, since I was faced with a batch of leftover mashed potatoes. They were still delicious, still cooked in the celebratory oil, and still served with apple sauce. Still, I missed my traditional fare. I think next year I’ll go all out and even make a brisket. Talk about gut bomb!

  3. Your latkes and your beet salad look delicious!

    In the spirit of debate, I did want to toss out a somewhat dissenting view on the latke prep . . . I use russet potatoes (less moisture than Yukon Gold), hand grate the potatoes and onions (not fun, but good for texture), and rinse the potatoes thoroughly and squeeze out the moisture as the starch surfaces and discolors. This based on David Rosengarten’s recipe and similar, I believe, to my first latke experience with the Silver Palate cookbook.

    Thoughts?

  4. well, way to go- now I’m hungry (no, I’ve never had latkes but I haven’t had potatoes in at least 2 days- which is a long time for me!)- and it’s midnight here and not exactly a good time to go doing all that… and all that’s here are stale pretzels…

  5. I used a new recipe this year that used flour and baking powder. I probably would have used matzo meal, but wanted to stick to the recipe. They worked out very well. If you are making a lot, it is good to put them in a 300 degree preheated baking sheet. Keeps them nice and hot while keeping them crisp. I also recommend homemade applesauce.

  6. I have been making latkes for years but each Hanukkah, since I only make them then, it is like I am a latke virgin all over again. It doesn’t seem to get easier. Yukon Gold potatoes? I have only used russets in the past. That gives me a reason to try making latkes again before next Hanukkah.

    Also..how do I get rid of the advertising that covers your blog words..I can’t just close it or move it..what is the secret? It happens every time!

  7. Yum! To celebrate our Inner Jew (Jonathan Safran Foer showed us that Ukrainians can have an inner and outer jew) we always make latkes for Hannukkah. My secret ingredient is a crisp apple grated into the mix. This year it was a Pink Lady, but a Granny Smith works great.

  8. “Don’t be so exact, this isn’t science, it’s Judaism …” LOL

    Love it! I made latkes last week because I somehow managed to have only one potato in my fridge .. I actually got nine out of that one potato, and they were fantastic! I’d never had latkes before, either. Now they’re all I want to eat!

    ((Adam, I hate to say it, but I plan on stalking you as well once I get back to New York. Don’t be afraid, I’m tiny! =D))

  9. Christian Me has been eating latkes all my life. Or rather, the Polish version, aka Placki. Same thing basically, except not served with sour cream and applesauce, at least not in my family.

  10. Latkes are one of my favorite foods, but I can never seem to be able to make them right, no matter what the recipe. So I depend on restaurants to make them for me, though usually they aren’t very good, either.

    I’ll be heading to NYC later this week; perhaps I can find a place that makes good ones there at some point…

  11. So my boyfriend is Jewish and I am celebrating my first Hanukkah with him this year. I actually grew up eating Latkes (we never chose a religion growing up so we kind of just stole all the good traditions from other people’s) But Ive never made them! Im trying this year so wish me luck…i can barely make toast… Also, i was a little freaked out when I learned they are eaten with apple sauce..I always put Ketchup on mine. My bf was horrified upon witnessing that…