Sunday, December 28, 2008


Latkes are all about tradition. Fried potato pancakes are an important part of Chanukah, as they are made with oil and the whole holiday is about oil. You can learn more about Chanukah here. It’s my favorite holiday and though minor in the scheme of Judaism, it’s still really fun. Some of my most treasured childhood memories revolve around playing dreidel with fake Mexican money with my brother (the money is a whole different story), while my folks fried up delicious latkes for dinner. As I got older, I helped with the arduous task of grating all those potatoes. There are a few different ways to do these. The way I learned was from my dad who learned from his grandmother. This is a Jewish peasant style that resembles hash browns. While I do love hash browns, these are so much better.

Since this week was Chanukah, I had a latke party with my friends. They came over and I cooked and we ate and it was wonderful. My favorite part of holidays are spending them with people you love and eating good food.

Important notes for making these: drain, drain, drain. The grated potato will be very watery and you want to drain all of the water out or you’ll end up with mushy pancakes. It’s a pain, but so worth it. One of my deli (Deli by Sue Krietzman) cookbooks describes making latkes like becoming a slave to the stove, which is so true, but the results are worth it. Another thing worth pointing out is that your fire alarm will go off. All the oil gets a bit smoky. I cannot remember a single year in all my life where the fire alarm didn’t beep at least once. It’s part of the tradition.

Latkes from my dad:

Serves 6

6 potatoes
2 eggs
1 onion
1½ tsp. kosher salt
½ c. matzoh meal

A general rule, according to my pops, is for every 6 potatoes, you need 2 eggs and 1 onion.

Peel the potatoes and onion. Grate the potatoes and onion into one bowl. Drain it. Drain it again. Drain it until you’re really sure it’s drained. Then do it again.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix in salt and matzoh meal. Add this mixture to the drained grated potato and onion mix.

Pour oil into a pan. Make sure it’s hot! Start it on high, watch it and then turn it down. According to the Deli cookbook, you should drop a large dollop of the latke mix into the pan and flatten with a spoon. This never works out well for me. I get two pans going and form patties in my hand, which helps to drain more liquid from it, and throw them into the pans. I usually try to have at least 6 cooking at a time. Then I rinse off my hands, flip and repeat.

It takes a couple of minutes on each side. You’ll know they’re done when golden brown and crisp. You’ll need a lot of oil and to keep greasing the pans. Take your time. The stovetop owns you until they’re all done.

Serve immediately with sour cream and applesauce.

They were a big hit, as always, and that’s why I make them every year. With all the grating and everything, they are just so dang good and worth the time.

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