Jump to content

Latkes


Anna Blume
 Share

Recommended Posts

How are all the latke makers preparing them?

I made a few last night, using a minimalist recipe that calls for egg, but no other binder. You just squeeze the liquid out of the hand-grated Russets and minced onion, then mix in a beaten egg and a little salt before frying.

I ended up adding a small amount of dry bread crumbs since the first couple of pancakes were a bit too fragile and water was starting to collect in the bottom of my bowl. Actually, I started out by adding a tablespoon of dried, unsweetened coconut from an unlabeled bag sad.gif --the aroma quickly alerted me to the error and it was easy to scoop out the corrupted mixture and replace it with Panko.

Fried them in olive oil, of course. Applesauce made w reduced cider. Thickened yogurt instead of sour cream.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How are all the latke makers preparing them?

I made a few last night, using a minimalist recipe that calls for egg, but no other binder. You just squeeze the liquid out of the hand-grated Russets and minced onion, then mix in a beaten egg and a little salt before frying.

I ended up adding a small amount of dry bread crumbs since the first couple of pancakes were a bit too fragile and water was starting to collect in the bottom of my bowl. Actually, I started out by adding a tablespoon of dried, unsweetened coconut from an unlabeled bag :( --the aroma quickly alerted me to the error and it was easy to scoop out the corrupted mixture and replace it with Panko.

Fried them in olive oil, of course. Applesauce made w reduced cider. Thickened yogurt instead of sour cream.

My family's recipe is uber simple:

7 or 8 potatoes

3 Tbsp of flour

1.5 tsp of salt

1 tsp of baking soda

cinnamon & sugar to taste

2 eggs

grate up the potatoes - press out the water - mix up everything in a big bowl - let it sit for a few minutes while the oil heats up - do a final squeeze per handful just before you put it in the pan so it doesn't scald you - and voila. We had semi-heated debate on applesauce v. sour cream. I personally put a dollop of sour cream on, cover it with a larger spoonful of applesauce & sprinkle a bit of cinnamon & sugar on top. YUM!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How are all the latke makers preparing them?

Grandma's Best Latkes Ever

Serves 3 as a side dish

[last night I doubled this recipe for me, my wife, and the kids, and we had very very few leftover latkes. admittedly, the kids decided this was their main course...]

3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 1" pieces

1/2 medium onion, quartered

2 eggs

2 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Place onion, eggs, dry ingredients, and small handful of potato in a blender. Pulse briefly on a low setting, just until all of the potatoes and onions have run through the blades. Add the rest of the potatoes to the blender, and pulse on a medium setting, again just until the potatoes have run through the blades. I keep the top off and use a rubber spatula to feed the potatoes into the blades. DO NOT OVERBLEND. You should still have some smallish potato chunks in the blender, and the consistency should be like oatmeal. You may land up with a little bit of liquid in the blender; when you spoon the potato mixture to the frying pan, try to leave most of the liquid behind.

Fry in a good amount of vegetable oil over medium heat - maybe 1/4 inch deep. I use a small ladle to lay the batter in the pan, and can fit 3-4 latkes in a medium-size frying pan. If you like extra crispy latkes, press down on the latke with the back of the ladle when you first lay the batter in, so it becomes very thin. This way you can get them thin and crispy without blackening! Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

When they come out of the pan, lay them on brown paper bags to soak up the excess oil. You can keep them warm in an oven on low temperature if you are making multiple batches. I had 4 frying pans running on my cooktop last night, and still needed 3 batches to go through my doubled recipe (we make them very thin in my family).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mel & Daniel: Thanks! It's interesting that you both use flour and baking soda. The traditional recipes this cultural interloper has seen either omit any flour-based ingredient (and some, egg for that matter) or call for matzoh meal. Thus, my Panko. I wonder if the soda lightens the mixture at all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mel & Daniel: Thanks! It's interesting that you both use flour and baking soda. The traditional recipes this cultural interloper has seen either omit any flour-based ingredient (and some, egg for that matter) or call for matzoh meal. Thus, my Panko. I wonder if the soda lightens the mixture at all.
It seems then that you found recipes for latkes made at Passover when no leavening and no flour ingredients are used... By the way, in D.H. Hwang's new play "Yellowface" he uses Cultural Tourist, which is a better term than interloper! :-)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The recipe I use calls for potatoes that are shredded, squeezed in a towel to remove excess liquid--then about 2/3 of those are pureed in a blender with onion, eggs, a small amount of matzo meal and some baking powder (and salt). Then the remaining shredded potato is mixed into the batter. This gives them better texture than a totally blended batter, but they hold together better than a completely shredded mixture. I tend to use peanut or grapeseed oil when frying if I want something really crispy, because those oils have a higher smoke point.

My family eats them with sour cream and applesauce, but since I am allergic to apples, I have cranberry sauce instead, which actually is very nice.

I had some leftover latkes, and reheated them a couple of days later in a frying pan, and served them with braised short ribs. Without the sour cream and fruit, they were an excellent medium for conveying the winy braising sauce.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The recipe I use calls for potatoes that are shredded, squeezed in a towel to remove excess liquid--then about 2/3 of those are pureed in a blender with onion, eggs, a small amount of matzo meal and some baking powder (and salt). Then the remaining shredded potato is mixed into the batter. This gives them better texture than a totally blended batter, but they hold together better than a completely shredded mixture. I tend to use peanut or grapeseed oil when frying if I want something really crispy, because those oils have a higher smoke point.

My family eats them with sour cream and applesauce, but since I am allergic to apples, I have cranberry sauce instead, which actually is very nice.

I had some leftover latkes, and reheated them a couple of days later in a frying pan, and served them with braised short ribs. Without the sour cream and fruit, they were an excellent medium for conveying the winy braising sauce.

Many people do not realize that latkes have the ability to divide families: blended v. shredded, apple sauce v. sour cream, and latkahs or latkees.

I :( The LeeVees

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's another twist: egg vs. no egg. My mother-in-law was horrified when I suggested adding an egg to the potato mixture to lend body and cohesion. "You don't put eggs in latkes" was her firm pronouncement.

I'm afraid your MIL is mistaken. You ought to show her a recipe from Joan Nathan, who is the ultimate authority on Jewish food in America. Her recent latke recipe in the New York Times calls for eggs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm afraid your MIL is mistaken. You ought to show her a recipe from Joan Nathan, who is the ultimate authority on Jewish food in America. Her recent latke recipe in the New York Times calls for eggs.
Or simply Of a Different School.

I've also consulted recipes that call for grated potatoes, a little salt and olive oil. Mark Bittman, who mind you, calls for butter or canola oil, publishes one recipe of that nature that he refers to as "purist".

My matzoh-flour version, by the way, is from Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook, a recipe from David Firestone "'The Latke King'" who also adds parsley at his then-annual party for Chanukah in Queens.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or simply Of a Different School.

I've also consulted recipes that call for grated potatoes, a little salt and olive oil. Mark Bittman, who mind you, calls for butter or canola oil, publishes one recipe of that nature that he refers to as "purist".

My matzoh-flour version, by the way, is from Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook, a recipe from David Firestone "'The Latke King'" who also adds parsley at his then-annual party for Chanukah in Queens.

I've seen recipes for sweet potato latkes, too. And ones with zucchini in them. I could be mistaken, but since potato pancakes are eaten all over Mittle-Europe, there are numerous non-Jewish versions that are made without onion, without eggs and which are made with wheat flour rather than matzo meal as a binder. As Joan Nathan described in her article, fried foods were always eaten by the Jews during Chanukah, but prior to the migration into Eastern Europe, they were made with cheese fried in olive oil. Since the primary cooking fat available in Eastern Europe was chicken, duck or goose fat, fried cheese was no longer an option--it wouldn't be kosher. One wonders what was used prior to the introduction of the potato into Europe during the 1500's. Probably barley or buckwheat. Or maybe turnip.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's interesting to review this thread, one year later. I made a small batch of latkes last night for the three of us--four large Yukon gold and one small sweet potato, which yielded 16 latkes. We had two left over. I used my typical method of shredding and squeezing the liquid out of the potatoes and then taking about half and blending them with 1/4 of a medium onion, three eggs, salt and since I noticed too late that I didn't have any matzo meal, I used cracker meal--about 1/3 of a cup. I fried them in a mixture of corn, peanut and grapeseed oil and they were nice and crisp on the outside and fluffy inside. I realized while we were eating that I had neglected to put any baking powder in the mixture. But it wasn't missed. My family are traditionalists, and eyebrows were raised when I told them that I had included a small sweet potato ("Why on earth did you do THAT?"). But there were only expressions of enjoyment as they were consumed and I was forgiven my forsaking of latke orthodoxy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My family are traditionalists, and eyebrows were raised when I told them that I had included a small sweet potato ("Why on earth did you do THAT?"). But there were only expressions of enjoyment as they were consumed and I was forgiven my forsaking of latke orthodoxy.
What would happen were you to coat them in Belgian dark chocolate and sprinkle kosher salt on top?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I grew up with blender latkes after I learned to make them myself in 5th grade. Before then, they came from a packaged mix from the Kosher section, one of my mother's few real failings as a cook.

We tried the Frankenstein Latke recipe in last week's Washington Post, which called for grated parsnips, parboiling waxy red potatoes, and using the oven to bake the latkes in a small amount of oil.

The verdict: Oven frying sucks. Pan frying is faster and produces better results. The parsnips were very hard to detect in the finished product. We omitted them from the batch we made for the chowpup's Sunday school class. We really liked the results from parboiling the potatoes, which eliminated the crispy outside, undercooked inside problem I typically have with grated latkes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've definitely contemplated hosting dr.com potlucks chez moi. And my annual Chanukah Latkefest (provided GULC's schedule cooperates) will be open to all. :(

We need a Latke-Hamantash debate!!

Or maybe a latke cookoff? My bubbe's recipe is carefully guarded. I think blood and skin from ricing the potatoes is probably a key ingredient...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We actually also have a family shortcut recipe that involves a blender instead.

My family's shortcut recipe switched from the blender to the food processor, sometime in the late seventies or early eighties, when they first became popular. The advantage of the f.p.over the blender, is that rather than simply pureeing all of the potatoes, as the previous blender method had, the family f.p. recipe has the f.p. fitted with the shredding blade and the potatoes are shredded, put into a towel and squeezed to remove some of the water in the potatoes. Then part of the shredded potatoes (about 1/3) are pureed with the onion, egg, baking powder, salt and matzo meal,. The shredded 2/3 are mixed with the 1/3 puree. Then the cooking begins. Where in the 1950's the blender was considered a great improvement over the hand grating of the past, this 1/3-2/3 food processor method produces a latke with a much more pleasing texture and mouthfeel. Not to mention the scraped knuckles that are avoided.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm convinced the shredding blade was created just for latke-making purposes -- I love it.

My family's shortcut recipe switched from the blender to the food processor, sometime in the late seventies or early eighties, when they first became popular. The advantage of the f.p.over the blender, is that rather than simply pureeing all of the potatoes, as the previous blender method had, the family f.p. recipe has the f.p. fitted with the shredding blade and the potatoes are shredded, put into a towel and squeezed to remove some of the water in the potatoes. Then part of the shredded potatoes (about 1/3) are pureed with the onion, egg, baking powder, salt and matzo meal,. The shredded 2/3 are mixed with the 1/3 puree. Then the cooking begins. Where in the 1950's the blender was considered a great improvement over the hand grating of the past, this 1/3-2/3 food processor method produces a latke with a much more pleasing texture and mouthfeel. Not to mention the scraped knuckles that are avoided.

This is incredibly similar to my recipe -- grandma's, of course -- although we leave the potatoes pretty much all in shreds (no puree, but maybe I should try that). Grandma's doesn't call for baking powder, and she often subbed regular AP flour for matzo meal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What you are describing is a fairly classic German-style potato pancake. The baking powder in the puree gives it a fluffiness along with the laciness of the shreds. It's really the best latke I have ever made or tasted. And matzo meal. What can I say? A.P. flour is--dare I say it--somewhat on the goyish end of the latke continuum...

We are also talking about a woman who, despite not having a goyish bone in her body, threw an annual Christmas dinner for 30-40 people, and spent weeks baking Christmas cookies. :( So I have no idea where the flour came from...probably just expediency when it was hard to find matzo meal in Hawai'i during the war?

Spot-on on the German, though: Mathes, Stern, and Bierman surnames all come into the mix here.

I might experiment with the baking powder idea, based on your description.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We cut the pieces small before feeding them to the blender, and only pulse until mixed. Still chunks and no puree. And still strain the liquid.

Even after I've strained the liquid, my latke/german pancake mixture sometimes developes a grayish, unappetizing puddle in the bottom of the bowl. Any tips on how I can avoid this in the future?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even after I've strained the liquid, my latke/german pancake mixture sometimes developes a grayish, unappetizing puddle in the bottom of the bowl. Any tips on how I can avoid this in the future?

That's what happens when the mixture oxidizes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap--pressing the wrap directly onto the potato mixture. Make sure that the wrap is in place in between batches.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's what happens when the mixture oxidizes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap--pressing the wrap directly onto the potato mixture. Make sure that the wrap is in place in between batches.

I don't do much well, but I've figured out latkes.

I just use the same towel I used to strain the potatoes to lay over the heap until ready to cook. There's still some oxidation (mine end up rust colored) but no biggie. And yes, I press the towel down onto the potatoes.

I'm onion, flour and egg, maybe some salt. And I shred, big shreds, and no puree - what ends up coming out look like fried soft shell crabs with 100 legs. Lotsa crispies on the outside but a nice tender, almost bread-like center.

We ate once with jewish friends - turns out the husband did them just as I did. The wife preferred a less crispy version, maybe she pureed the mix first. Dunno - she wasn't cooking :(

So a few questions:

1. I tend to just use a clean dish towel for the straining, and hope my clothes washer did a good job. Works for me, but should I used something else?

2. What is the effect of NOT using russets? Gold/red/others - worth a try?

3. I always peel - you really have to, right?

4. I've only got a pan able to cook 4 or 5 at a time. So I set the toaster oven on about 200 degrees and once each batch has drained, I toss them in there until all are ready - any better way to do this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So a few questions:

1. I tend to just use a clean dish towel for the straining, and hope my clothes washer did a good job. Works for me, but should I used something else?

2. What is the effect of NOT using russets? Gold/red/others - worth a try?

3. I always peel - you really have to, right?

4. I've only got a pan able to cook 4 or 5 at a time. So I set the toaster oven on about 200 degrees and once each batch has drained, I toss them in there until all are ready - any better way to do this?

1. I use muslin towels for straining. I try to avoid fabric softener sheets when I wash my cooking towels, because they have a pretty strong perfume imbedded in them. Occasionally I bleach them, when they have gotten badly stained.

2. I like the flavor/texture of Yukon Golds.

3. I've never heard of making potato pancakes with unpeeled potatoes.

4. Get another pan, then you can do eight at a time. Lodge 10" and 12" cast iron pans are fairly cheap and they work best for frying. I usually end up in the kitchen frying and serving them right out of the pan. they are so much better than if they've been held in an oven, especially if they are piled on top of one another--they steam and get soggy that way. If you do need to hold them in an oven, make sure that they are on a rack and just one layer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4. Get another pan, then you can do eight at a time. Lodge 10" and 12" cast iron pans are fairly cheap and they work best for frying. I usually end up in the kitchen frying and serving them right out of the pan. they are so much better than if they've been held in an oven, especially if they are piled on top of one another--they steam and get soggy that way. If you do need to hold them in an oven, make sure that they are on a rack and just one layer.

Thanks for all the advice!

I'm already using a 12" pan, I must be making big latkes! And I've never had the soggy issue in the oven - since I'm only shredding, the latkes tend to have lots of 'spikes' and thus sit in an oven more like the way twigs might sit in a bag - lots of air between them - and I let them sit on a towel for a bit before going in. If anything, the oven actually seems to dry them out a bit.

I'm probably overcooking them :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm throwing this out there to see what ideas you all come up with. We've figured out logistics but I'm curious to see what other ideas are out there.

A week from Sunday I am helping to prepare and serve approximately 500-800 latkes in a short period of time*. We have two ovens and a salamander at our disposal, plus a stove top with 4 or 6 burners (I can't remember) and a griddle. Any ideas on how to ensure we serve hot, crispy latkes? Currently, all but ~100 will be prepared off site and rewarmed in the oven/salamander.

*Despite my strenuous arguments against this, the latkes are being served with a variety of toppings: chutneys, salsas, etc. I'm a purist; give me apple sauce or sour cream**.

**MelGold gets full credit for finding the best Hannukah album ever.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyone have a synagogue or temple willing to host? Have Cuisinart and fry-pan, will travel.

Well now I feel stupid.

I've had trouble with oxidation and just generally don't make latkes too often, as it actually hurts to grate 8 russets by hand.

I own a cuisinart. I should probably use it :angry:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Last night I decided to celebrate the first night of Hanukah with latkes. Having not planned ahead I used what I had at hand... sweet potatoes. But what recipe? I did a quick internet search and found ahealthy latke recipethat does not require frying. I thought... wow, perfect and my guests will appreciate fewer calories.

Using a food processor takes the difficulty out of making latkes. While grating the sweet potatoes, I thought about the baked latkes.

Baked?

Really?

The whole point of using oil to fry food during Hanukah is to commemorate the "miracle" that less than one day's worth of oil lasted eight days.

As I grated the onion, I decided...

FRY!

I added a third egg to the recipe, and a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of a yummy pepper I got at Penzy's (Aleppo).

Heated a frying pan with a few tablespoons of canola oil and went to work.

The sweet potato latkes were a hit!

What's your favorite latke?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, everybody, but especially DanielK and zora for comments and suggestions reviewed after consulting an overlooked recipe on Epicurious.

Truly splendid results from variation on D's recipe, I believe:

1 large Russet

2 medium-sized Yukon Golds

Quarter of an enormous red onion

1 very large egg

2 T flour

1/2 t each baking powder and salt

Used a box grater to shred peeled potatoes by hand, then grated some of the onion which was finished w a knife since grating released too much water. Grated potatoes went into a bowl of ice water and then got whirred in salad spinner twice.

A small ladle proved perfect for measuring out batter. Canola oil. Lovely in two shades of golden thanks to a bright orange egg yolk and the effect of oil on lacy shreds. Highly recommend potato diversity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, everybody, but especially DanielK and zora for comments and suggestions reviewed after consulting an overlooked recipe on Epicurious.

Truly splendid results from variation on D's recipe, I believe:

1 large Russet

2 medium-sized Yukon Golds

Quarter of an enormous red onion

1 very large egg

2 T flour

1/2 t each baking powder and salt

Used a box grater to shred peeled potatoes by hand, then grated some of the onion which was finished w a knife since grating released too much water. Grated potatoes went into a bowl of ice water and then got whirred in salad spinner twice.

A small ladle proved perfect for measuring out batter. Canola oil. Lovely in two shades of golden thanks to a bright orange egg yolk and the effect of oil on lacy shreds. Highly recommend potato diversity.

To eliminate the slight hint of goyishness in this recipe, use matzo meal instead of flour. Also, if you have an available food processor with a shredding blade, Julia Kindele is all in favor of labor saving (and knuckle-saving) devices instead of hand shredding. When making a large batch, with the machine you get it done before the any of the potatoes oxidize and turn an unappetizing brown.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not Passover, I stand by my greater pleasure in last night's results and embrace my identity as a cultural tourist. :)

Just to be a brief tour guide here: potato latkes are not traditional Ashkenazi Passover food, and matzo meal is used on a regular basis all year round: ie. for matzo ball soup, and as a panade for kotleten and meat loaf. An alternative to matzo meal would be cracker meal--the difference is obviously baked flour rather than raw flour, which will have a subtle effect on depth of flavor.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to be a brief tour guide here: potato latkes are not traditional Ashkenazi Passover food, and matzo meal is used on a regular basis all year round: ie. for matzo ball soup, and as a panade for kotleten and meat loaf. An alternative to matzo meal would be cracker meal--the difference is obviously baked flour rather than raw flour, which will have a subtle effect on depth of flavor.

Zora, matzo meal is not required to make a potato latke a potato latke, in fact most recipes I have call for flour and not matzah meal. Anna feel free to continue to make latkes anyway you want. This Jew approves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zora, matzo meal is not required to make a potato latke a potato latke, in fact most recipes I have call for flour and not matzah meal. Anna feel free to continue to make latkes anyway you want. This Jew approves.

I guess it depends where you're from. I have to agree with Zora.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

my family recipe from several generations also uses flour, not matzo meal.

Throwing down the gauntlet here: my family recipe, also from several generations (was your family perhaps from somewhere other than Belarus?) insists on matzo meal. Several generations of really good cooks, by the way. (I come by it honestly.) And as much as I have rebelled against the traditions of my past, I would never consider making potato latkes in the Germanic style, with flour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine

Since I am 100% White Russian on both sides of my family (all my great-grandparents and grandparents emigrated from small villages near Minsk), I am guessing that the "latkes with flour" recipe in your family came from elsewhere in the Pale. Poland, perhaps, since the others are Litvaks. Wait, are Ukarainian Jews also Litvaks? I know that the Belarussians and Lithuanians are. I do know that Polish Jewish food can be very different. My aunt (my mother's younger sister) married a Pole and he had a hard time adjusting to our family's food traditions. He apparently liked everything much sweeter, or something. For that reason, and the fact that his dialect of Yiddish was really different (much less refined, according to my mother--at the beginning he was sort of like an Alabama farm kid marrying into an aristocratic Yankee clan) he was teased relentlessly until he adopted the family's dialect and foodways. There is a story that Uncle Joe pined for years for a dish that his mother had made--some sort of soup. Finally, my aunt got in touch with Joe's sister in Paris, and got the recipe, and made it for him. Reportedly, the soup tasted awful to him. He couldn't finish it. It had been much more delicious in his childhood memory, when his peasant family had barely enough to eat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...