Recipe: Potato Latkes


Potato Latkes, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Potato Latkes, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

When I saw in my Culinary Arts I class lab manual that one of the potato items we could prepare was potato latkes, I got excited because I had never made them.  In fact, I only ever had eaten latkes at a few local festivals., including a Ukrainian festival which I try attend each year in late summer. 

A latke is a fried potato pancake, often served during the Jewish Hanukkah holiday celebration. However, they are also associated with Russian and Ukrainian cultures.  Latkes are often served with a side of applesauce, sour cream or chopped green onions. One secret to making great latkes is to use a very starchy potato; the starch works as a binding agent and helps make the potato pancake crispy. 

My first batch of latkes stuck to the frying pan. The chef professor told me that was because either the pan was not hot enough and/or I did not use enough oil in the pan. He said to get a new pan and new oil and start again. This time, I heated that pan until it was screamin’ hot and I heated a generous amount of vegetable oil in the pan.  I loved hearing that tell-tale sizzle when I dropped that first latke into the pan. However, even though I let them drain on paper towel after frying, my latkes were still a bit greasy.  I think it’s an acquired skill to find that sweet spot of just the right amount of oil so that they don’t stick, yet they aren’t greasy.

Remember – let the latkes fry without disturbing them and turn them only one time. These pancakes are delicate, so turning them more than once may cause them to fall apart. One of the other students in the class used a cast iron skillet to fry his latkes.  We all noticed that his latkes were more seared and more crispy than mine. Next time, I would use a cast iron skilled to get that same result.

Ingredients:
1 pound all-purpose potatoes
1 egg, beaten
3 oz. onion, grated
1 oz. flour, all-purpose
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, grated
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Peel and grate the potatoes into a bowl of cold water – mix to release the starch.
  2. Remove the grated potatoes from the water and squeeze out the liquid into the bowl of water. Reserve the liquid in the bowl and let stand to settle out the starch.
  3. Combine all the remaining ingredients (except the oil) with the grated potatoes and mix well.
  4. Carefully drain off the water from the bowl of liquid – the potato starch will have settled into the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Add the starch which settled into the bottom of the bowl to the potato mixture and mix well.
  6. Heat a heavy-bottom skillet over medium-high heat and coat with a generous amount of vegetable oil.
  7. Once the pan and oil are heated, drop portions of the potato mixture into the hot oil and press flat.
  8. Fry until crispy and golden brown on one side.
  9. Flip the latkes one time and fry them until the other side is also crispy and golden brown.
  10. Remove them from them oil and let drain on absorbent paper towels.
  11. Serve warm, with applesauce or sour cream.

Food Mingle Blog Alternatives and Substitutions:

  • I added the following ingredients to my potato mixture, for more color, flavor and taste:
    • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
    • 1 oz. sweet potato, grated
    • 1 green onion (scallion), finely chopped
  • To portion the potato mixture into the pan, I used a small ice cream scoop.
  • Next time, I would rough chop the grated potato mixture to help the latkes keep their shape while cooking.
  • Serve these immediately – they do not hold well and will get very oily if let sit.
  • If you must serve later on, then put them under the broiler for a few minutes and then let them drain on paper towel again before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Sources:

Culinary Arts 1: Fundamentals of Food Preparation – Lab Manual,” Monroe Community College, Department of Hospitality Management, Chef Gerald Brinkman, M.S.Ed., Assistant Professor and Michelle M. Bartell, M.A., R.D., CDN, Professor

On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (5th edition)”, Labenski, Sarah et al, Pearson Publishing. 2015

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