Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” a wonderful holiday of the winter season. Although in Jewish tradition it remains a somewhat minor holiday, it continues to be a time of family, friends, fun dreidel games, presents for eight days and, of course, delicious food. Perhaps the best of the traditional fare are potato pancakes, aka latkes.
Here are two versions of this Jewish comfort food. If you don’t own a food processor, you may grate the potatoes and onion by hand, but this will take you a good 20 minutes. You may be surprised that I do not peel the potatoes, only scrub them. This not only cuts down on the preparation time, but the bits of peel look pretty and offers more dietary fiber. Of course the latkes taste best right out of the skillet, but I have included a tip for keeping them warm in a low oven as each batch is made.
Makes 16 to 18 latkes
- 2 large eggs
- 2 medium russet (baking) potatoes, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds
- 1/2 small sweet or yellow onion
- 1/4 cup matzo meal (or all-purpose flour)
- 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil
- Sour cream
1. Beat eggs in a very large bowl and set aside. Scrub potatoes well under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into pieces to fit the feed tube of a food processor fitted with the shredding attachment. Using the shredding attachment, shred the potatoes. If they seem wet, press them between paper towels or wrap in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out excess moisture. Add them to the bowl and mix with the eggs to prevent browning.
2. Peel the onion and cut into chunks. Still using the shredding attachment, shred the onion and stir into the potato mixture. Add matzo meal, salt and pepper, mixing well.
3. Heat oven to 200 degrees.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, drop potato mixture by level measuring 1/4-cupfuls into the oil. Flatten each latke with a large spatula to about 1/4-inch thick. Cook 4 minutes or until golden brown on the bottoms. Turn and continue cooking 3 minutes or until latkes are cooked through. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel lined rimmed baking sheet and keep them in the oven until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding oil to skillet and adjusting heat to medium low if latkes are browning too quickly. Serve warm with sour cream and applesauce.
5. For Sweet Potato Latkes, substitute sweet potatoes for the russet potatoes and add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the recipe above. Preparation and cooking directions will be the same.
Karen Levin is a freelance recipe developer living in Highland Park with her husband of 36 years.