Hanukkah is one Jewish holiday where I feel right at home food-wise, since I grew up eating latkes. Of course we didn’t call them latkes – we called them potato pancakes, and they are a standard in the Slovak kitchen. My Grandma used to come up and make them for us in our kitchen sometimes on Saturday nights. We were so anxious to eat them, I don’t think we even waited to all sit down at the table together – we just lined up next to the electric fry pan with our plates and practically grabbed them from the spatula as Grandma was laying them onto paper towels to drain!
My Grandma grated her potatoes by hand using the small holes of the grater and never drained the liquid. This meant she needed a fair amount of flour to sop things up, and ended up with a rather thick, dense, floppy and wonderfully delicious pancake.
The potato pancakes I make now are a bit different than the ones I grew up with. They are based on my mother-in-law Irene’s recipe, and they are pretty perfect if you ask me. Actually, Irene didn’t really give me a recipe, just approximate amounts and a gestalt. But I decided to try and nail down the amounts tonight as I made them.
The trick is to use the large grating blade of the food processor to shred the potatoes and onion, and thento drain away the liquid. Eggs hold the potatoes together and coarse motsa meal fills in the spaces without the heaviness of flour. Cook the latkes in an electric fry pan – it’s really so much easier and safer than doing it over the stove and you get a more consistent pancake as long as you don’t overload the pan. If you do it right, what you end up with is sort of a latke nest, with lots of crevices of crispiness on the outside and a few wonderful soft pockets of old time potato pancake in the middle.
Sour cream and homemade applesauce are the only other things you need. My kids, of course, also like ketchup.
Latkes (or Potato Pancakes)
For this batch, I used Yukon Gold potatoes and Streits Motsa meal that I borrowed from my friend Rachel down the hall. (Without Rachel I would never cook – she never runs out of anything…) I had never used that brand, and I like it – it is a coarser grind than Manichevitz, and so instead of just sopping up the egg and clumping together, the meal sort of stayed aloof on the outside of the shredded potatoes. This made for a less dense pancake. I also used canola oil because it is healthier, and noticed no difference from the traditional vegetable oil. You can vary the amount of onion depending on your tastes. Mr TBTAM likes his on the oniony side.
3 pounds potatoes (I used Yukon gold tonight)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 large onions
A little less than 1/4 cup Motsah Meal
Canola oil for frying
Peel potatoes. Shred using the food processor and remove to a large bowl. Shred the onion the same way and add to the bowl. Open out a large clean dishtowel onto the counter and dump the potato onion mixture on it. Top with a second clean towel and lightly roll to mop up the excess liquid (Don’t overdo it, you need a little of the potato starch and liquid for things to stick together.) Dump back into the bowl and add the eggs and the motsah meal. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat about a 1/2 inch of canola oil in electric frying pan at highest heat (mine goes to 400 degrees Fahrenheit). Scoop some of potato mixture into a large spoon, then put into the oil, flattening with the back of the spoon. Cook until the edges start to crisp and the underside is light brown, then gently flip and cook the other side.
Remove from pan to a cookie sheet lined with paper towels or newspaper. Keep warm in a low oven while cooking the rest of the potato pancakes.
Serve with sour cream and warm homemade applesauce.
This of course, is not the only way to make latkes.
4And, for a genuine latke making lesson from a genuine Jewish Mother, watch Feed Me Bubbie– Latkes.