Potato Latkes – You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love ‘Em

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Mouth-watering any time of year, potato pancakes, or latkes as the traditional Chanukah treat is called, are generally topped with apple sauce, sour cream, your favorite jelly, salt and pepper or – in my family – sugar, all the way. It’s a ketchup- or mustard-on-hotdog kind of thing. You love what you were raised on and raise an eyebrow in question of taste of those who eat otherwise.

These days, with cooking shows commanding millions of eyes and everyone publishing family favorites – of all kinds of recipes – online, and even posting YouTube how-to videos, there is a latke for every palate.

They all follow the same basic recipe: Grate by hand or shred by food processor the potato or potato substitute. Squeeze out moisture with cheese cloth, paper towel or dish towel. Mix in all other ingredients except the oil. Drop two full tablespoons of batter per latke in a heated, oiled heavy frying pan, and brown on each side for a couple of minutes or less. Since most of the time, lots and lots of latkes are called for when it’s holiday time, heat your oven to 200° and keep early batches warming on paper towel-lines baking sheets.

Over the years I have tasted dozens of variations on the latke theme, but just as I always wish I’d ordered chocolate ice-cream when I venture away to strawberry or another impulse of the moment, I always gravitate back to the simple potato latke, pure and plain.

Here are the ingredients for my favorite and a few others that are almost as good or, according to those I have fed over the years, even better.

Perfectly Plain

2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes

1 tablespoon grated onion

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup peanut oil for frying

Zesty Zuccini

3 pounds zucchini tossed with 2 teaspoons of salt after shredding, and allowed to stand 30 minutes before squeezing out liquid

1 1/3 cups plain fine dry bread crumbs

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

About 1 cup vegetable oil for frying; start with 1/3 cup and add more as needed

Savory Sweet Potato

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated

2 scallions, finely chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Quick Tips

· Cooked latkes can be frozen on a baking sheet, then transferred to a sealable bag or container and frozen up to 2 weeks. Reheat in a 450°F oven for about five minutes. Forget about them, as I once did, and you will be serving charcoal wafers!

· Latkes may be made up to 8 hours ahead. Reheat on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 5 minutes.

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