You say Latkes and I say… Well, latkes, Latkas, or Levitot, if you prefer the Hebrew. Any way you say it, a latke is a delicious little joy associated most often with Hanukkah, (Not the little dude from Taxi…) Fried foods are traditional during this celebration, commemorating the miracle of the oil that burned for 8 days when the Maccabees purified and rededicated the holy temple in Jerusalem. Not to be flippant, but any celebration featuring wonderful stuff like this is my kinda deal!
These little gems are a breeze to make, and fit right in to the days after Thanksgiving for us Americans, as there is often a plethora of potatoes available. The best variety for latkes as far as I’m concerned is also the best fritte spud, the Russet. You can use a less starchy version like a Yukon Gold if you prefer, but stay away from the waxy reds and whites. While you can certainly make latkes with leftover mashed potatoes, there will a difference in the way they cook and the mouth feel that just isn’t quite right; best save those for turkey shepherds pie instead.
Now, the traditional accompaniment to latkes is applesauce. And since this is a special occasion, whip up a batch of housemade and let that marry flavors and cool while you’re building the latkes.
Use whatever apple you like best for eating, but please, please; no delicious, OK?
4 Apples of your choice
1/2 to 3/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar or Honey
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
Dash of Sea Salt
Peel, core and rough chop apples.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and mix well.
When the mixture starts to simmer, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until apples are very soft.
Remove from heat and hand mash with a fork or potato masher.
Pour into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Onto the latkes! First a few points of order…
For the flour, unbleached all purpose is fine, but try whole wheat pastry as well, it’s very nice indeed.
For the oil, stick to Sunflower, Canola, or Corn; they won’t add any heavy flavor notes to the latkes. And speaking of oil, oil temperature is critical to good results when frying; oil maintained at 350° F will ensure nice light, crispy results that don’t taste and feel soggy. Use a candy thermometer to track oil temperature, and always add foods to be fried sparingly to allow the temperature to stay where it needs to be.
5 medium Russet Potatoes
2 medium Sweet Onions
3 medium Eggs
1/4 to 3/4 Cup Flour
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground Black Pepper
1/2 to 3/4 Cup Oil
Peel your spuds and toss them into a large mixing bowl filled with enough ice water to completely submerge them.
Skin and trim ends from onions. Toss them into the ice water with the spuds.
Add oil to a frying pan over medium high heat; you’ll want about 1/4″ of oil or so. Have your thermometer handy for gauging oil temp.
Drain your spuds and onions and pat dry with a clean paper towel.
Grate the potatoes and onions with the finer side of a hand grater, or use a food processor or blender if you prefer. The hand method gives the best results for my mind. You want a nice, consistent size and blend of spuds and onions.
Check your oil and adjust heat so you’re sitting right at 350° F.
Place a platter lined with paper towels in your oven and preheat to Warm.
Toss the spud and onion blend into a colander lined with paper towels and gently squash the mix to remove excess water.
Dry off that large mixing bowl and toss your spud/onion blend in.
Lightly beat the eggs by hand and add them to the spuds and onions, then add the salt and pepper.
Add flour 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture holds together on its own, like a chunky pancake batter.
Fill a large soup spoon with a heaping hunk ‘o batter. Slip that puppy into the hot oil and gently squash it down into a cake. Fry one side for approximately 3-5 minutes, until golden brown, then and fry the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes. Look for that nice golden brown on both sides.
Now slide those little golden beauties onto the paper towel covered platter in the oven and keep fryin’. Add a little more oil if needed and watch that oil temp.
Serve nice and hot with the applesauce and a little dish of sour cream, crèma or crème fraîche.