Jayne Cohen cooks up crisp, delicious latkes, or potato pancakes, for Hannukah in her book, Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lovers Treasury of Classics and Improvisations. For more information about Jayne, visit her website Jewish Holiday Cooking.
Classic Potato Latkes
1 ½ lbs Russet (baking) or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ lb onions, peeled and quartered
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon matzoh meal or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp baking powder
Olive or canola oil, for frying
Coarsely shred the potatoes and the onions, using the shredding disk in a food processor. (Don't wash out the food processor as you'll be using it again right away.) Transfer the mixture to a colander or strainer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to press out as much moisture as possible.
Remove the shredding disk from the processor and replace with the steel blade. Return about one third of the shredded potatoes and onions to work bowl and process, using the pulse motion, until roughly pureed. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining potatoes and onions from the colander, and the egg, matzoh meal, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Mix until thoroughly combined.
In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (cast-iron is ideal), heat about ¼ inch of oil over high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Drop ¼ cup of the batter into the pan, and flatten with a spatula. Repeat with more batter, cooking no more than 4 or 5 latkes at a time; crowding the pan will give you soggy latkes.
Regulate the heat carefully, reducing it to medium as the latkes fry until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes. To prevent oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon) to turn the latkes carefully. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side.
It's best to flip the latkes only once, so that they don't absorb too much oil. So, before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.
As the latkes are done, transfer them to paper towels or untreated brown paper bags to drain.
Continue making latkes in the same manner until all the batter is used. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but always allow the oil to get hot before frying a new batch.
Serve straightaway, accompanied by applesauce or sour cream. If it is necessary to keep the latkes warm, place them in a single layer on a rack set on a baking sheet in a slow oven (200 F) until they are all ready to be brought to the table.
Cook’s note: For galettes a l’oignon et pomme de terre — the addictive onion and potato pancakes sold at the Sunday organic market in Paris — follow the above recipe, but increase onion to ¾ lb, replace matzoh meal with about 2 Tablespoons grated cheese (such as Parmesan), and decrease salt if necessary, according to saltiness of cheese. Before serving, sprinkle with coarse salt.
Cheese Latkes With Fresh Persimmon Sauce
For the fresh persimmon sauce
3 medium, dead-ripe persimmons, preferably the jelly-soft, acorn-shaped Hachiya type (see Cook’s Note)
1 or 2 pinches of salt
2 or 3 tsps fresh lime or lemon juice
1 to 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
For the latkes
½ lb farmer cheese (a 7.5-oz package is fine)
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
4 large eggs, separated
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup matzoh meal
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Unsalted butter and mild vegetable oil such as canola or avocado, for frying
Prepare the sauce: cut off and discard the leaf end of the persimmons and slice the fruits in half. To puree the fruit, scoop out the flesh and press it through a food mill or fine-mesh sieve. For less mess — with just a bit more elbow grease — puree the washed fruit unpeeled; the peels will remain trapped by the mill or sieve. Add the salt, lime or lemon juice, and maple syrup to taste. Refrigerate the sauce to marry the flavors.
Make the latkes: in a food processor, combine the farmer and cream cheeses, egg yolks, and vanilla and process until well blended and smooth. Add the matzoh meal, salt, and cinnamon, and process until thoroughly incorporated. Transfer the batter to a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they form firm peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Heat 2 tablespoons each of butter and oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls and fry until the bottoms are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Using two spatulas, turn and cook until lightly browned on the other side, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove and keep warm on a heated platter of baking sheet in a 200 F oven. Continue making latkes with the remaining batter. Add more butter and oil only if necessary, always allowing the fat to get hot before frying more latkes. Keep an eye on the heat to make sure that the butter does not burn.
Serve the latkes hot and pass the persimmon sauce.
Cook’s note: With Hachiya persimmons, ripeness is all: the difference between mouth-puckeringly astringent and voluptuously sweet. The rounded, squat Fuyu persimmon contains no harsh tannins and is never astringent; though excellent sliced, it will not make as luscious a puree. Choose meltingly soft Hachiyas with deeply colored, unbroken skin.
Crispy Shallot Latkes with Sugar Dusting
1 ½ cups thinly slices shallots (about 1 lb)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or fine-quality olive oil
About 1 ½ lbs russet (baking) or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 large egg, beaten
About ¾ tsp salt
About ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp baking powder
In a heavy medium saucepan, cook the shallots in the butter or olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they become golden and crispy, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels and let cool.
Shred the potatoes, using the shredding disk in a food processor. Transfer the potatoes to a colander or strainer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to press out as much moisture as possible. (Don’t bother washing out food processor.)
Remove the shredding disk from the processor and replace with the steel blade. Return about one third of the shredded potatoes to the food processor and roughly puree, using the pulse motion. Transfer the puree to a large bowl, add the remaining potatoes and the egg, salt and pepper to taste, the baking powder, and matzoh meal. Stir in the shallots. Mix until thoroughly combined.
In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (cast-iron is ideal), heat about ¼ inch of oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Using a ¼ cup measure, drop the latke batter into the pan and flatten the latkes with a spatula. Cook no more than 4 or 5 latkes at a time; crowding the pan will make the latkes soggy.
Regulate the heat carefully as the latkes fry until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes. To prevent the oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon) to turn the latkes carefully. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side. (Avoid turning the latkes more than once or they will absorb too much oil. Before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.)
Transfer the cooked latkes to paper towels or untreated brown paper bags to drain and sprinkle them lightly with sugar (I use a scant ½ teaspoon for each.) Continue trying latkes in the same way until all the batter is used. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but always allow the oil to get hot before frying a new batch.
If you must, keep the latkes warm, arranged in a single layer on a rack set over a baking sheet in a slow oven (200°F) until they are all ready to be brought to the table. But they are at their best served as soon as possible.
Pass additional sugar when serving (little salt shakers filled with sugar are attractive and make it less likely that a guest will dump an inedible amount of sugar on a latke), and, if desired, accompany the latkes with sour or yogurt cream and a fresh fruit sauce.
Evan Kleiman's Latke Recipe and Homemade Applesauce
This recipe is the one Evan's mother and now Evan have been making for years -- years and years. It came from one of her mom's best friends, Roz Katz. Mom and Roz met as co-op nursery school mothers. The Katzs still grate the potatoes by hand using the old fashioned grater that is like a grid. Evan's usually in a hurry so she uses the food processor.
Latkes - Potato Pancakes
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 small onion, peeled
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Grape seed, peanut or corn oil for frying
Latkes can be made using a potato grater or in the food processor. If using a potato grater first grate the potatoes and the onion into a bowl. Add the beaten egg and the remaining ingredients and mix well.
To make in a food processor with steel blade add potatoes and onion to the bowl with egg. Process until coarsely chopped. Add remaining ingredients and process until the texture is as you wish.
To cook I recommend using a large non-stick skillet and peanut or oil. Put enough oil in the pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat oil until hot but not smoking. Stir the potato batter and make pancakes about four inches in diameter turning once when the first side is deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with homemade applesauce, sour cream and powdered sugar.
Hanukkah means latkes, or potato pancakes to many of us and often the best thing about them is the accompanying homemade applesauce.
Applesauce couldn't be easier to make…simply chop up you favorite apples….or maybe a mix of several varieties…if you feel really lazy you don't even need to peel them…just core and seed. Then place in a pot with an inch of water…place over medium high heat until the water starts boiling then stir and cover the pot…turn down the heat and let the apples begin to soften…when they are softish…remove the lid and start to stir occasionally so that the apples begin to break down and to prevent burning. You want a thick, rough pureed mass…begin to taste….want a little more sweetness? Add some sugar. Some spice? Add a bit of cinnamon or ginger either dried, fresh or ground….but all the while watching and stirring. The applesauce will begin to brown as the sugars in the apples begin to caramelize….important to watch..
When the apples have reached a stage you like from a light buff color to rich copper….take them off the heat.
Eat warm or chilled.
Music break: Adios by Billy Strange with the Mexican Brass