Latkes are traditionally served during Hanukkah to remind Jews of the miracle of the oil associated with the holiday. They are different from hash browns in that they include grated onions and other binders that allow them to easily form into pancakes.
Latkes are customarily eaten topped with applesauce or sour cream. As a child, I used to sprinkle them with granulated sugar in place of the other options.
One of the most important steps in making the latkes is to squeeze as much of the water out as you can after you have shredded the potatoes and onions. You can use several layers of cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Use some elbow grease to squeeze. squeeze, squeeze.
When frying the latkes, do not add them to the pan too quickly. You do not want the temperature of the oil dropping because you added them too quickly.
When you remove them from the oil, allow them to drain on a paper towel-lined plate for a minute or two. If you would like to serve a bunch at the same time, you can transfer them to a 200-250°F oven to stay warm while you fry up the rest of the latkes.
If you are wanting to make these for guests and do not want your kitchen to be a mess when they arrive, these can be made ahead and frozen. They freeze and reheat really well. Just freeze them in a single layer and transfer them to a freezer bag when frozen. To reheat, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and reheat in a 400°F oven until warmed through and nice and crispy 5-8 minutes.
Latkes - Potato Pancakes
- 2 ½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled and kept in cold water until needed
- 1 medium onion, peeled
- 2 large eggs
- 2-3 tablespoons potato flour, matzo meal, or flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
- corn or canola oil for frying
- A food processor makes easy work of grating the potatoes and onion. If you do not have one, a box grater and some elbow grease work well. Grate potatoes and onion and place in a strainer. You can leave the mixture as is and move on to step two, or you can puree 1/3 of the onion potato mixture. Pureeing a portion of the mixture creates a great texture for the latkes. If using, add the pureed portion back to the shredded portion and continue with step two.
- Place the potato-onion mixture in the center of a clean kitchen towel or large piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze the mixture and press out as much liquid as possible.
- Place potato/onion mixture into a dry bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients.
- Heat ¼ inch of oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Use your hands to shape ¼ cup of batter into a pancake shape and place gently into the hot oil. If you opted to puree some and are having trouble shaping the pancakes, you can gently drop ¼ cup of the batter directly into the hot oil. Remember to leave enough space to be able to flip them over.
- Cook until golden brown on the bottom (approx 3 minutes), then flip over and press down with the back of the spatula.
- Cook for another 3 minutes until golden on the second side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. See note below on keeping warm while you make more and on how to freeze for later.
- Serve with sour cream or applesauce, or even sprinkled with sugar.