Lovely, Luscious Latkes
Of course, no one makes latkes like Momma. The grating, the making, the smells and the mess are what memories are made of: oil splattering, potatoes turning black, shredded skin in the batter, kitchen smoky, Momma frying a new batch of latkes while everyone in the other room eats them as fast as she can make them. Sodden, heavy, crispy, delicious, smothered with sour cream, sometimes smelling of shmaltz. Ah, those were the days! It’s not clear that Momma’s memories are quite as pleasant, but it is always good to have the family around, and so grate and fry she must, and does. Eat, eat, my children.
In consideration of those Mommas (and Poppas) who’d like to be out there eating crispy latkes with the rest of the family, the following recipe suggests how this can happen.
(Makes about 28 potato pancakes, 2-3 inches each)
2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and placed in a bowl of cold water
⅓ cup grated onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten (1 egg per pound of potatoes)*
1 cup all-purpose flour (best) or ½ cup matzah meal**
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peanut or canola oil for frying
- Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. If not serving the latkes immediately—out of the frying pan into the dining room—preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Have a large bowl of cold water ready.
- Grate the potatoes, using a hand grater or food processor fitted with the medium shredding disc. As potatoes are grated, transfer them to the bowl of water. When all of the potatoes are grated, set aside for 5 minutes. Drain the shredded potatoes in a large colander, rinsing with cold water. Transfer to a clean bowl.
- Add the onion, the eggs, flour, salt, and pepper. Thoroughly combine the mixture.
- In a large, preferably straight-sided pan, add oil to a depth of ¼ to ⅓ inch. Heat oil until a shred of potato dropped in the oil sizzles immediately.
- Form pancakes, using 2 tablespoons from a regular silverware set. Scoop up a generous spoonful of the potato mixture with one spoon, flatten the mixture with the other spoon. Slide the latke into the oil. Repeat until the pan is full, but not crowded. Cook the latkes until browned at the edges. Turn the latkes over and cook until fully browned. Transfer the finished latkes to the lined baking sheet to drain excess oil. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
- If not serving the latkes immediately, transfer the sheet to the preheated oven to keep warm. If serving even later, set the latkes aside to cool to room temperature, then freeze until ready to serve. Reheat the latkes in a 350-degree oven, and drain again on paper towels because reheating will release more oil.
Serve with sour cream or applesauce. Add salt to taste.
* Too many eggs will overwhelm the taste of potato.
** Too much starch will make the latkes heavy. Use only about ½ cup flour or ¼ cup matzah meal per pound of potatoes—just enough to bind the mixture. If doubling the recipe, add flour slowly; the full amount may not be needed. Toward the end, the mixture gets very loose. It is better to release the extra liquid by squeezing it on a spoon rather than by adding more flour.