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For the Love of Hanukkah Latkes

Hanukkah is very early this year (starts Sunday, November 28). Many of our Jewish readers as well as their Gentile guests at Hanukkah celebration meals that are dominated by piles of potato latkes and braised brisket (unless they were invaded by vegans) will have already enjoyed this year’s quota of delicious oily potato latkes. The latkes are actually a secular symbol (the oily part) of the triumph of the Maccabees in driving the forces of the Greek King Antiochus IV from the Temple in Jerusalem. After the battle as they rededicated the Temple, a one-day supply of ritual olive oil to light the menorah miraculously lasted eight days.

Well, any excuse to gobble down a tasty fried treat without any guilt is good enough for me. So if this article is a tad late, still better late than never.

I have four secrets that make my potato latkes special and successful.

1.     I cheat…instead of risking bloody knuckles and time spent wringing water out of shredded russet potatoes, visit the supermarket, buy bags of Simply Potatoes shredded potatoes. I then grind them up more in my food grinder and have perfect potatoes for latkes, all without the blood and water.

2.     I use peanut oil. Unless there is an allergy to peanuts in the family, it is the best oil for pan frying.  

3.     Pan frying requires a pan that is perfect for that function. Luckily, I have a beat up 12-inch pan that works perfectly. It is nonstick, but more importantly, the sides slope in sch a way that everything fried in it sears and crisps up to perfection. You can also use a seasoned cast iron skillet.

4.     Absolutely no Matzo Meal as a binder. It turns the latkes into lead.

In my family, my daughter Tia still remembers (and never lets me forget) when I made latkes in her first home and left my greasy finger and handprints all over her beautiful new kitchen. Ha!! The chef doesn’t clean up…the help does! To continue in that tradition, my wonderful, smart and beautiful granddaughter Sophie was my assistant. Good choice, since she continues the Malkin family tradition of loving to cook…from me to her mom to her.  

The recipe for latkes is simple. Make up a batch of potato latke mix, heat up the pan and fry them three at a time, while keeping the latkes well separated. Drain them on brown paper bags or on a rack. You can then refrigerate them or even freeze them if you want to prepare them a few days in advance.

This recipe yields two to three dozen latkes, depending on the size of each latke. You can adjust the quantities according to your needs.

  • About 1 pound of russet or Yukon Gold potatoes—you can grate and wring or cheat like me with Simply Potatoes
  • 1 ground large onion (8 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour (I adjust this as needed to help bind the latke)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  Peanut or other vegetable oil, for frying

I then form each latke in advance, so they are lined up and ready to go when I start to fry.

·       Heat up the pan with at least a 1/4 inch of oil (sprinkle water to see if it sizzles), then fry them three to a pan about 5 minutes on each side until crispy and brown.

·       Dump old oil and add fresh oil throughout the process.

·       Serve with sour cream, apple sauce or a sprinkle of salt.

Ess, ess mein kindt!