Why This Recipe Works: As in many Jewish families, Ilise and Ina have recipes handed down from generation to generation, from bubbe (grandma) to eema (mother), modified along the way to accommodate for personal preferences, likes and dislikes. Some enjoy their latkes – which are simply fried potato pancakes – large and fluffy, others prefer small and crispy. Some get fancy by adding or substituting veggies – zucchini and sweet potato are popular. Others are latke purists, insisting on nothing but russet potatoes, a little onion, salt and pepper, and the hot hot oil.
For this recipe Ilise adapted a basic recipe with guidance from the veteran latke-makers in our family. It really does take a village! We’re pretty happy with this version which may be made ahead, frozen, and reheated in the oven if that suits your fancy. The alternative – cooking live in the moment – ensures that your house will smell like a deep fryer for at least 12 hours, but sometimes that’s just fine. Another option is to set up an electric fryer on a table outdoors, if the weather cooperates.
The Playlist: Making latkes is going to take a while. Between the potato shredding and the matzo meal mixing, not to mention the deep frying and splatter-avoidance, you’ll need an energetic playlist to keep you focused and having fun.
Here’s a good Hanukkah-themed playlist from Spotify. Enjoy!
Please click on the photos below to enlarge them and read the captions.
Is this a labor intensive project? Yes. Is it going to be messy? Mm-hmm. Will there be lingering effects? Oh yes (fried food aroma everywhere + disposing of all that oil). Is it worth it anyway? YOU BETCHA. Special occasions call for special foods and projects – this is a good one.
Recipe: Ilise Goldberg with Jan and Allen Lev
Yield: Makes 20-28 latkes, depending on size of the pancakes
- 5 lbs Russet Potatoes, well washed
- 4 Eggs
- 1 ¼ Cups chopped Onions, Drained (grate in food processor)
- 4 Tablespoons Matzo Meal, Panko and/or flour (may add more if too wet, less if too dry)
- 1-2 Teaspoons Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ Teaspoon ground Black Pepper
- Pinch Baking Soda
- Canola Oil for frying
- Grate potatoes in food processor – no need to peel potatoes. Cut the potatoes into cubes to prepare for the food processor.
- Do all potatoes with the grating disk, and then do half of the grated potatoes with the steel blade.
- Drain as much liquid from the potatoes as possible – very important as wet potatoes don’t fry well. And don’t be surprised that the potatoes first turn pink and then brownish. They get browned in the cooking process and no one pays that much attention to the fact that they’re not white inside.
- In another bowl beat eggs; mix eggs into potatoes, then add onions, salt, baking powder, baking soda and pepper.
- Add matzo meal/panko/flour, adjusting the quantity as necessary (see note above).
- Pour oil into skillet to depth of about 3/4- inch (That way, the pancakes will be covered by the oil and cook better). Heat until hot but not smoking – about 375 degrees. (To test put a small piece of onion in the oil and when it starts to turn brown the oil is hot enough.)
- Add batter to skillet with a large spoon (or form the patties in your hand to allow for the ability to squeeze out excess liquid), leaving about 1 inch between each. Flatten slightly with back of spoon.
- Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp and golden, turning with two forks or tongs halfway through.
- Transfer to paper towels; drain well. Serve hot.
- To freeze, place on a cookie sheet in single layer and place in freezer.
- When frozen nice and hard transfer to plastic bags. To bake the latkes from frozen, cook in a 450-500 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes.