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Perfect Latkes

2008-12-23 , ,

Every Hanukkah I take a go at making potato latkes. My grandmother Sylvia made very good ones but she had no written recipe that I saw, a food grinder attachment for her Kitchenaid mixer, an electric skillet and decades of experience. She also made batches big enough to feed the extended family and ran things like apples and bread into the mix of potato, onion, egg and matzoh meal.

Truth be told, I prefer a more crisp, coarse latke than results from a food mill or pulsing with a food processor so I’ve tinkered with the recipe. This year I think I’ve perfected it. I’ve kept the fiddly traditional assembly steps but used flour instead of matzoh meal, combined multiple “grinds” of potato and used a deep electric skillet. The electric skillet seems to be key. I’ve used flour before (it’s common in French Toast recipes to make them crispy) and the results were good but not perfect. These are perfect.

The ingredients are:

  • 5-6 large Russett potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3-4 tbs. flour, possibly more
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Makes about 24 latkes.

In a colander or large strainer, drape a cheese cloth or clean dish towel. In a food processor with the chopping blade installed, pulse 1/3 of the potatoes and the onion until it has the consistency of
apple sauce. Remove and place on the cloth in the strainer over a bowl. Using the medium shredding disk for the food processor (or a box grater), process another third of the potatoes. Repeat with a fine
disk or grater for the last third. Place with the finely ground portion in the cloth and strainer. Rinse the potato mixture with cold water to remove the starch then fold the edges of the cloth over it. Twist the cloth to squeeze out the water and let it stand 30-45 minutes in the strainer. Continue squeezing and twisting the cloth until it stops producing more liquid. Discard the liquid. Unfold the cloth and put the potato mixture in a large bowl. It should be white or very slightly pink. If it is very pink or gray there is too much starch left and should be rinsed and squeezed again. Preheat a half inch of vegetable oil in the skillet to 375 F. Add to the bowl the beaten eggs, 2 tbs. flour and salt and pepper. Be generous with the salt. Mix well. Add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, until
the mixture looks wet but holds loosely together. Scoop the mixture, about a quarter cup at a time, and form a pancake in the skillet. Fry on each side until golden brown, about three minutes. Do not crowd the skillet. Remove the latkes to paper towels or brown paper to drain and keep warm in the oven.

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