Hanukkah is here! It’s time to cook and eat potato latkes, one of my favorite things at this time of the year. This is the type of recipe where the classic, bubbie-style latke holds true, meaning, don’t mess with tradition. The best potatoes to use here are russet, since they fry really well. Most recipes call for matzoh meal, but I just use regular flour which works just as well; you only really need it to hold everything together. If you have a food processor with a grater attachment, use it. Doing it by hand on a box grater is very labor intensive and produces the same result. You’ll see that the recipe doesn’t call for any special ingredients. It does require time, and the process needs careful attention if you want them to look and taste right. Also, apple sauce traditionally goes really well with it, so feel free to use my recipe as well: Possibly the Best Apple Sauce…Ever.
Classic Potato Latkes (makes 20-25 latkes, depending on how big you make them)
Box grater, or food processor with grater attachment
1 large Spanish onion (about the size of a grapefruit)
5 large russet potatoes
3/4 cup of flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
Canola or vegetable oil
1. Scrub and wash the potatoes, then grate them in a food processor or box grater.
2. When all the potatoes have been grated, add them to a large bowl. Place the bowl in a sink, and gently run cold water on it. The water should be cloudy and maybe a little brown at the beginning. The cloudiness is caused by the starch of the potatoes, and the brownish color is caused by the potatoes oxidizing with the air. Keep the water running on them until it becomes clear. The potatoes should return to their white color at this point. Once that’s done, drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside.
3. Add a few handfuls of the potatoes in the middle of a large dish towel. Pick up the towel from the corners, and twist to squeeze out the remaining water from the potatoes. Put a little muscle into it and really squeeze it as hard as you can until no water runs from the towel. The idea is the get the potatoes as dry as possible. When the potatoes are dry, add them to another large bowl.
4. Finely chop the onion and add to the potatoes. I wouldn’t use the grater to chop the onion since it will yield more water, which is exactly what you just got rid of from the potatoes. Keep the onions in small pieces; they fry just as well.
5. Add the flour, eggs, salt, and pepper to the potatoes and onions. Mix by hand until everything is incorporated. The mixture should be a little sticky, but still somewhat loose. If you need to, add another egg or a sprinkle of flour.
6. Meanwhile, in a large deep frying pan, add about an inch of oil and heat to medium-medium high. Test the heat of the oil by dropping a strand of potato in it. If the strand bubbles immediately, the oil is ready. If it just sits there and no bubbles appear, it means the oil is not hot enough. Let it go and test a few minutes later.
7. Once the oil is hot, form the potatoes into patties to about the size of the palm of you hand, then place it on a large spoon or spatula. Use the spatula/spoon to place the potatoes in the oil to avoid burning yourself. It may look like the patty is a little loose and could fall apart when it hits the oil. Just let it cook, and it will stick together.
8. Let the latkes fry on one side for about 4-5 minutes until they are golden brown. Flip only once to brown the other side for about 2-3 minutes. When it’s ready, drain them on a pan lined with paper towels.
9. Enjoy with a dollop of home made apple sauce, and/or sour cream if that’s your thing.