Happy Chanukah friends, family, and blogosphere! Time to make latkes! Everyone in my family loves latkes aka potato pancakes. Part of my husband’s family is Jewish so I have come to love this dish. Last year, we spent the holidays with his family and I had fun learning how to make latkes and partaking in the tradition. A couple of years ago, we got the Latkes for Dummies recipe from his Grandma, but didn’t get around to making them until this holiday season (plus I couldn’t find where I put it so she e-mailed us the recipe–Thank you!). The Latkes for Dummies recipe is really tasty and very similar to the family recipe except that the family recipe is done by taste.
Hanukkah or Chanukah is known as “the festival of lights” that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and commemorates the recapture of the Holy Temple from the Greeks. Oil is central to this eight-day holiday because of the miracle in which the oil used to light the Temple’s menorah was supposed to last only one day, but burned for eight days. To celebrate Chanukah, the tradition is to eat foods fried in oil such as latkes and jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot).
Here’s the oil that I used, a nice safflower oil. I like to use this oil in cooking because it has a high smoke point. The oil can tolerate higher temperatures, and thus, there’s less worry of degradation into free radicals brought on by high heat past the smoke point. Plus, no nasty oily odor.
Latkes and box graters go hand-in-hand. Make sure to use the fine-side with raised holes, a square-like shape. Often you see latkes that are similar to hash browns or fritters. Those are good too, but we prefer it this way where it is more like a pancake. You could also use a food processor, but make sure you get the same porridge-like consistency that you get from grating the potato on this finer side of the grater. You may have to drain out excess water from the potatoes.
See the difference in the batter? It’s more pancake-like than hashbrown-like. These are grated russet potatoes, but any starchy baking potato would work. I’ve heard that all-purpose Yukons would be nice too.
Tip: if you rub some lemon on your potatoes before you grate it, it helps the potato from oxidizing and getting brown. You won’t taste any lemon at all in the finished potato pancakes. You can rub your grater with some lemon too or squeeze just a little bit into the bowl as you grate. But watch out for the seeds, of course.
Besides oil and grated potatoes, the other ingredients are onions (grated on the same side of the grater), matzo meal, eggs, and salt & pepper. I didn’t have matzo meal, but wanted to make them gluten-free so I used gluten-free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill brand) instead of matzo meal. I just substituted it 1:1. My husband, a seasoned latke eater, couldn’t tell the difference in the gluten-free version. Interestingly, lots of latke recipes on the interwebs either use matzo meal or flour, but I guess traditional latkes use the matzo meal. Using a gluten-free all purpose flour is a great option for those who want to keep the tradition alive but are eating gluten-free, or for people like me who aren’t entirely gluten-free but like to eat that way most of the time.
When you fry the latkes, you have to do the “swim test.”
This is a great tip that I learned from my husband’s Grandma. Make sure you have enough oil so that the latkes are “swimming.” It’s hard to see with my black skillet, but basically you want them partially submerged in oil, but not deep-fried. I made them a little smaller so I could make multiple latkes in my 10-inch cast iron skillet. You can see the crispy edges forming 🙂
Fry them on medium to medium-high heat about 5 minutes per side or until golden brown.
After the flip, one side is a nice golden brown. The latkes are swimming and the oil is bubbling 🙂 When they were done, I let them cool down a little on paper towels and blotted them with another sheet of paper towels to take out most of the surface oil. Serve the latkes fresh and while still warm.
Sour cream, applesauce, or some sugar are the traditional toppings. Or, use your favorite toppings!
Below is the recipe scanned by Grandma. I added the gluten-free option in there. Serving size varies according to size of the latkes.
Latkes sprinkled with some sugar. My favorite way to eat latkes is with apple sauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon. What’s yours?
- Recipes for Health: Spicy Carrot and Spinach Latkes (nytimes.com)
- Who Doesn’t Love Latkes (stacyknows.com)
- Spinach, Potato & Feta Latkes (andreasgardencooking.com)
- Crispy fried potato latkes (wyff4.com)
- The Unexpected Trick That Makes the Crispiest, Tastiest Latkes Ever (thekitchn.com)
- imabonehead: Blue Kale Road: Sweet Potato Latkes with Ginger and Sesame (bluekaleroad.com)