Mise en potato
December 4, 2010 12:37 AM   Subscribe

I am expecting about 22 people to eat latkes at my place tonight. How can I prepare as much as possible before starting cooking or earlier in the day?

I am using this recipe which I have done before to great success, albeit with a much smaller group. This time I figure I might need to make eight portions of this (96–128 latkes) to feed everyone.

I use the shredding attachment of my 7-cup food processor (fits about 2 lb potatoes) instead of grating by hand. I also ignore the ridiculousness about preparing in advance and reheating. I only serve them right out of the frying pan. That makes things more difficult for me, but I can't imagine doing it any other way. That said, I would like to make things as easy as possible. Having to stop in the middle of frying to shred another batch of potatoes is a little frustrating. I can probably count on some assistance from my guests, but I would like to make it as easy as possible.

Some specific questions:
  1. How much of the potato prep can I do in advance without them turning brown and yucky? Can I peel and cut all the potatoes into food-processor–sized chunks earlier in the day if I keep them soaked in cold water in the refrigerator? I figured after that point, I would shred them two pounds at a time.
  2. Is there any harm in cutting all of the onion earlier in the day (using the food processor multipurpose blade) and refrigerating until cook time?
  3. What about beating all eight eggs together and adding all the salt earlier in the day?
  4. Will I be sorry if I use my 12-inch stainless steel skillet instead of my 10-inch nonstick one?
Feel free to make other suggestions.
posted by grouse to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Shred all of your potatoes ahead of time and store in the refrigerator completely covered with cold water. This will keep it from turning grey and also reduce some of the potato starch. When you are ready to cook, use a salad spinner (it is totally worth buying just for this project) to get rid of all the water from the potatoes you need for the next batch. Also no harm in cutting all the onions and mixing the eggs (not sure about the salt though) Just don't mix the ingredients with each other until you are ready to cook.
posted by metahawk at 1:05 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a salad spinner. I never even thought about using it for this. Great idea, using towels is such a pain.
posted by grouse at 1:09 AM on December 4, 2010

Wouldn't a bunch of the potato shreds escape through the holes in the salad spinner?

Another suggestion for getting the water out: use a potato ricer, if you have access to such a gadget. Works super well for this purpose.
posted by illenion at 1:40 AM on December 4, 2010

Eggs and salt should be fine in the fridge for a couple of hours--I've done it with no noticeable effect. Onions can be chopped and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

Re: Larger pan: You probably won't regret it, but you should be aware that it'll be harder to cook things evenly. In a ten inch skillet, you can start several latkes, flip them once, and assume that they'll all be done at about the same time. Twelve inches, for me, at least, often means that there's a complicated system of flipping, then flipping again but also rotating them 180 degrees, then flipping them again. This increases the risk that your cakes will break apart, which, obviously, is ungood. This is more pronounced on gas stoves than electric ones, in my experience, but has been a problem for me on both kinds. The smaller skillet will take longer, but probably be more hands-off.
posted by MeghanC at 2:11 AM on December 4, 2010

Could you cook them all in advance and then just reheat them in the oven? That's what my hosts did last night. This might not work if you're going for the really lacy-crispy sort of latke, but for the thicker latke, this was just fine.
posted by metarkest at 4:19 AM on December 4, 2010

With that number of people, I'd be keeping both skillets busy. Otherwise, I think you're fine with the pre-shredding-chopping-salting-beating. You might want to try a practice run with the stainless skillet; I'd expect the latkes to stick at first, but release when cooked. If you attempt to flip them too early, as is possible with the nonstick, you'll just break them apart.
posted by jon1270 at 4:45 AM on December 4, 2010

Per my mom, it will save you lots of time to NOT peel the potatoes. Give them a scrub, cut out the eyes, but then pop 'em right in the Cuisinart. She says no one ever notices once they're in shreds, they have a better flavor, and they're even healthier. Or as healthy as they can be, considering they're fried potatoes and onions.

No harm in cutting the onion early. Eggs are fine, too.

Mom says the pan doesn't matter, as long as your latkes are swimming in oil. Just increase your oil and they'll float anyway.
posted by juniperesque at 6:33 AM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

At the party I went to last night (about half that size) all the latkes were made before we arrived, and kept warm in the oven. The hosts popped a plateful in the toaster oven when they wanted them piping hot. (And yes, these were big, thick latkes.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:06 AM on December 4, 2010

Some lemon juice mixed in with the potatoes may prevent browning. Works with apples and other veggies...
posted by xammerboy at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2010

I use cheesecloth to strain the excess moisture from my taters. That way I can really squeeze it as dry as possible.

If I were you, I'd seriously consider frying earlier in the afternoon and keeping the latkes toasty in the oven. 100+ latkes is a lot of work. Otherwise you'll spend all night in the kitchen, not with your guests.
posted by gnutron at 7:12 AM on December 4, 2010

Also, one frying pan? I'd keep a pan going on every available burner.
posted by gnutron at 7:15 AM on December 4, 2010

One large frying pan can hold 3 latkes at a time -- at least that's how many we could fit in last night -- and they take about five minutes to fry.

128 latkes in a single pan, assuming perfect efficiency in all other preparation, will take three and a half hours to cook.

I'd rethink your position on preparing in advance. Either that or invest in more frying pans.
posted by ook at 7:31 AM on December 4, 2010

Another disadvantage to frying on demand is that everyone eats at different times. Someone is going to get their first latke 45 minutes after the first latke was served.

I'd suggest making half or three quarters of the latkes ahead of time. Make sure everyone gets one or two real, on-demand, just fried latkes; then, serve the reheated ones. This might be a good compromise.

As others have said, the ingredient prep is fine. And I've never had an issue with my potato shreds flying through the holes in my salad spinner, for what it is worth. I'd definitely do the cold water soak and spin dry method for the potatoes you plan to fry during the party.

Happy Hanukkah!
posted by k8lin at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2010

One more tip: If you pre-shred and refrigerate your ingredients, take them out of the fridge early enough that they won't still be chilled when you start frying; dropping cold ingredients into hot oil is a recipe for soggy, greasy latkes (especially if you're in a hurry and not allowing time for the oil to reheat between batches).
posted by ook at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2010

For crispy latkes I put the potato shreds in a big basket strainer, and press them down periodically. It's less effort than squeezing in a towel, and works fine. A spinner sounds good but is still not quite as effortless.

Ditto needing more pans, and ditto not peeling. Even using two pans it takes a while to cook enough latkes for all our family, but the thought of making 128 is intimidating.
posted by anadem at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2010

I think k8tlin's got it. At the very least, make half of the latkes in advance and warm them in the oven. Otherwise you will be cooking for the duration of your party. You can still keep a few fresh ones coming out so that everyone can get a taste of at least one latke fresh off the griddle, but you won't have hungry people queuing endlessly. Also, with that much frying going on, the air will be full of frying smell, which can get a bit stale and overwhelming. Not sure what else you might be serving, but in my experience, about 3-4 latkes per person is usually about right, so you might also be estimating your total production on the high side.
posted by amusebuche at 8:08 AM on December 4, 2010

Make-ahead latkes!
posted by jasper411 at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2010

My MIL always makes all of her latkes in advance for her parties, and then reheats them in the oven until crispy. No fresh ones needed, really, and they taste great.
posted by Eshkol at 8:35 AM on December 4, 2010

I have a salad spinner. I never even thought about using it for this. Great idea, using towels is such a pain.

Apparently my 5000th comment was about salad spinners and I didn't even realize it at the time. And then I forgot to use the salad spinner.

Latkes were a big success. Doing almost all the prep work in advance in large quantities made things run very smoothly. My method was much as I described:
  1. Puree 8 medium white onions in food processor. Strain the onion to reduce water content. Refrigerate.
  2. Lightly beat 8 large eggs. Add 4 tsp salt. Refrigerate.
  3. Peel and halve 8 lbs of potatoes, placing them under cold water as you go.
  4. Use the food processor's grating disk to grate potatoes. Place each batch of grated potatoes under cold water as you go. Refrigerate.
  5. When you are ready to cook the latkes, mix batter a quarter of the total amount at a time. Put a quarter of the shredded potatoes and 1 cup of pureed onion on some cheesecloth. Wring all the water out of the cheesecloth. Put potato and onion in bowl and add 100 mL of egg mixture. Mix.
  6. Fry delicious latkes in pure olive oil.
  7. Serve immediately.
I peeled the potatoes because it seemed like scrubbing the potatoes would be about as much work as peeling them. Maybe I'm missing something.

I tested pre-frying a latke and keeping it warm in the oven. This was the worst latke of the evening. Never again.
posted by grouse at 11:42 PM on December 4, 2010

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