Latkes sound awesome!
December 23, 2008 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Good Latke recipes or any helpful hints in general?

I have to be honest, I am not Jewish but Catholic. Why would I want to make Latkes then you ask? This question got me interested. I was helping with the menu planning and we needed something warm and crunchy. I figured that I could try and make something special, some different, something that would make the in-laws think "Why are there latkes at a traditional Christmas dinner?!?!?" My only problem is that I have no idea how to make them. Sure I did a little google fu but it seems that a lot can go wrong with this simple dish. Could I please get some tips, hints, recipes, suggested wines to help me bring a little cultural diversity to the dinner table this year?
posted by Mastercheddaar to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
standard recipe but replace part or all the shredded potato with shredded zuchini
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:54 AM on December 23, 2008

Best answer: Latkes

Peel and grate …
2 russet potatoes
2 yukon gold potatoes
1 onion
and mix well in a large bowl (mixer bowl). Cover entirely with cold water and let stand (in fridge) for 30 minutes.

Drain bowl and wipe clean. Add:
2 large eggs
3 tbsp flour (or potato starch)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
some garlic (maybe 1-2 tsp)
up to ¼ cup sliced green onions
up to 1 tbsp various chopped herbs as desired
and whisk until well blended.

Squeeze handfuls of potato out with your hands then wring in towels until all moisture is squeezed out; return to bowl. Let air dry for a few minutes then mix potatoes and egg mixture with spatula.

This is the important part! Really get that shredded potato dry!

Heat pan with high sides to medium. Pour oil (maybe ¼") into pan. Scoop up ¼ cup of potato mixture onto wide spatula and flatten with your hand. Gently slide pancakes into hot rippling oil, leaving plenty of room between them. Cook until edges are well browned and middle golden brown, at least 4 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towel to drain, then into oven to keep warm. Serve hot.
posted by browse at 7:56 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

The lovely woman over at Smitten Kitchen just did a Potato Pancakes, even better entry. I usually find her recipes and instructions spot on.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:11 AM on December 23, 2008

Best answer: Straight from my recipe notebook:
Recipe courtesy of Marc Silverstein for Food Network Kitchens (December 1999).

2 pounds russet potatoes, grated fine
1 medium to large onion, grated fine
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying
Sour cream and apple sauce, as accompaniments

Personal note: The ingredients list is from Silverstein, but the rest of the recipe was for some reason never retrieved (read: printed fully out) and the online version is long gone. So the method below might be his, but might not be; it works well for us. The part salvaged from the incomplete recipe that is vital is the drying part. A relatively dry potato-onion "batter" makes all the difference (we've made latkes for years but they only really became joygasmic at our house once we found Silverstein's version).

Peel the potatoes and rough chop (into thirds or so) so they're in chunks large enough to feed through the food processor. Do the same for the onion. Grate both into the food processor using the rough-grate blade disc (not the fine one) and feeding the chunks into the processor (empty the processor bowl as needed and continue until everything is grated into rough short strings, kind of like homemade pasta). Using a kitchen towel, dry the grated potatoes and onions thoroughly (this is important). Put them in a large bowl (we use the largest widest mouthed one we have; a silver salad tossing bowl). Add the beaten eggs and matzo meal and mix with your hands until it's the correct consistency. Add the salt and pepper and mix a bit more. We then heat up just enough vegetable oil in the large fryer-sized cast iron skillet. Using a spatula and a spoon, we place a lump of the potato mixture onto the spatula, flatten it with the spoon, and slide it into the oil (we do 3 pancakes at a time). When the edges begin to get crispy and golden brown, check to flip sides. As each pancake finishes cooking (we like them golden brown, not too dark but crispy through the whole exterior) place them on a rack above an old cookie sheet. If you wish to keep them warm as you fry, place this rack/sheet in a semi-warm oven (we had ours at about 145 F) and keep taking it out and in as more pancakes finish and become ready to place on the rack.

I cooked all of dinner tonight kind of on a casual whim and I was surprised at how easy and good it turned out. I made some ad-libbed apple sauce with leftover empire apples (some of our older apples were too soft to be enticing as eating apples but fine for other purposes), freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar (I don't normally add this but tonight the apples seemed a bit too tart even for my taste) and a bit of lemon juice (spruces up apples always) and water. Just stuck it all in a deep saucepan and cooked it down at medium heat. Turned out well. As it was cooking I prepared the latke mixture (something I've done before). I'd say tonight I used 2 1/2 pounds of russets, 2 1/2 large onions (they were huge onions, and one was one of those that you find after peeling has a small side onion attached to it)--I always make ours a little more onion-y than called for--and the rest of the ingredients. I wasn't sure at first that there was enough binding agent, but the latkes came out just fine. And the applesauce was still tart and warm when we began eating. Yum.
Also, if you're wary of frying, I recently stumbled on a (supposed, doesn't seem very kugel-y to me but what do I know) "kugel" recipe in Jewish Food by Matthew Goodman that is pretty much straight up latke mix baked into a casserole instead of fried, the only difference (and key to the recipe) being well caramelized onions. Here it is straight from my notebook as well:
Potato Kugel

3 large onions
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 pounds (about 5 medium) russet potatoes, peeled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Thinly slice 2 of the onions.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often, until lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

4. Grate the potatoes and the remaining onion in a food processor equipped with a shredding disk or by hand. Transfer them in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil, the caramelized onions, eggs, and matzo meal, and season with the salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.

5. Bake until the kugel is well browned on top, about 55 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve warm.

Personal Note: This comes from a Jewish cookbook I grabbed on a whim this summer at a blowout book sale out east. It has an entire section on kugel, including an apple kugel that stews in kirsch! It cracks me up too, because the kugel section randomly references Henry James and then out of nowhere connects a quote of his to, um, kugel. It's all so very Animal Crossing, if ya know what I mean...

But anyway. This is great, because it's so freaking easy. The key to the entire dish is well caramelized onions. Other than that, it's pretty much latkes baked into a big casserole instead of fried--which is great for me, because I love making latkes with my parents but am a wimp and won't deep fry on my own! So this is a handy substitute.

Made it for "German Potluck Part 2" at Gary and Rachel's last night. Fun.
Really, latkes are simple--onion, potato, matzo, egg--but that simplicity can make getting the ratios correct maddening. Practice makes perfect. You'll soon begin to recognize the texture you're going after. Mm.
posted by ifjuly at 8:48 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Rethinking the latkes
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:49 AM on December 23, 2008

I saw a great how to video over at Chow the other day. If you want to make latkes, I'd start here.

PS: I think sour cream OR apple sauce. Not both. But whatever floats your boat.
posted by theantikitty at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2008

PPS: Don't forget to click through to the actual recipe linked up top. There are additional ingredients that go into the latke after the potatoes that she doesn't show in the video. The video seems to be all about technique.
posted by theantikitty at 8:58 AM on December 23, 2008

Really, really getting the grated vegetables dry is the most critical element in getting them to fry properly and getting the right non-greasy interior texture, I think. Cheesecloth works best. Properly dried, a wad of raw grated potato should feel barely damp to the touch and should flake, not stick or squish.

I like to grate longways on the big holes so I get slightly longer bits of potato, but that is probably just a personal preference.

(Latkes are not traditional in my family, but one way or another I've made a LOT of them, and really enjoy the results now.)
posted by peachfuzz at 9:31 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would just like to publicly state that my then-brand-new-wife (we've been married 15 years) who is also not Jewish, decided she wanted to impress me our first Pesach (yes, Pasach). So she made me potato latkes with curry! Dear sweet wife.

I had to gently tell her one should not change the basics. Oh, a little here and there but a latke shouldn't be messed with.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:49 AM on December 23, 2008

peachfuzz is right. cheesecloth is the secret to squeezing the most liquid out of your grated taters. using the grating attachment on a food processor makes things much easier, too.
posted by gnutron at 9:50 AM on December 23, 2008

So much good advice in here.

I want to emphasise that you should make absolutely sure your oil is completely heated before putting in your latkes. The results otherwise are disappointing.
posted by batmonkey at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2008

Close the kitchen doors and put your coats in another room! That fried-oil smell really sticks, and will make your outerwear smell like a tenement! A delicious, delicious tenement.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:16 AM on December 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all! So pretty much you have to make sure that the potatoes are very dry before you mix with egg and whatnot, fry in small groups and don't get too creative. I think I can handle that. :>)
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:29 AM on December 23, 2008

Well, it may be because I didn't know about the drying out the potatoes part, but be careful about splattering oil! Every time I make latkes I end up with a film of oil all over the kitchen, to the point where it feels like I'm ice skating on the floor. Fun times, but a pain to clean. Using some sort of splatter guard can help keep the mess down.
posted by hatsforbats at 12:14 PM on December 23, 2008

Here's a recipe for latkes that calls for a 1/4 cup of beer. This sounds really yummy to me, though I haven't tried actually them.
posted by marsha56 at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2008

My sister makes epic latkes and the key to the operation is that she keeps them a bit chunky and fries them up very thin. The crunch is the fun, not a big starchy middle.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 3:07 PM on December 23, 2008

For the apple sauce, well, I can't find any in Japan, so I've experimented. Think of charoset, just sauted. I chop the apples into little cubes, maybe 1 cm, then add them to a fry pan with some butter. I let them get a little soft (you still want the bite, though), then add honey, stir for a bit, then some red wine (just a splash for flavor/color, you don't want soup) and a pinch of cinnamon. Cook over a medium heat until the wine has been soaked up into the apples and/or evaporated. Also good with blueberries mixed in.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:39 PM on December 23, 2008

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