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How-To

How to Make the Crispest Potato Latkes

Mom’s secrets: one onion for every two potatoes and a horizontal position in the food processor

Fine Cooking Issue 30
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Every year, we look forward to December, which brings with it some wonderful and delicious traditions. We dust off the menorah, fetch the dreidl from the closet, and recall the story of Hanukkah. The Jews, returning to their desecrated temple after a long battle, found that there was only enough oil for one day of light. Amazingly, the oil lasted eight days. To celebrate the miracle, Jews today light candles, play games, and eat foods fried in oil: fritters, doughnuts, and— our favorite— potato pancakes, called latkes. Although you may not believe in miracles, you will become a believer in the miraculous formula that our mother, Sondra, uses to make her award-winning potato latkes: one onion for every two potatoes. The result is so good that when we made latkes from her recipe, we took top honors at the first annual James Beard Foundation Latke Cookoff in 1995. (You didn’t know there was a latke cookoff, did you?) But the onion-to-potato ratio is only one secret to making terrific latkes (pronounced LAHT-kuhs). Many people swear that grating the potatoes by hand produces the best pancakes. We find, however, that using the shredding disk of a food processor and positioning the potatoes horizontally in the feed tube to produce long, thin strands (similar to a fine julienne) gives the latkes a better texture—crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. We also prefer frying the latkes in peanut oil, rather than canola or corn oil, because it gives the finished latke a lighter, cleaner flavor. Be sure to use very fresh oil. Because grated potatoes turn brown quickly, and because latkes are best eaten right away, plan to begin this recipe just before you intend to serve the latkes. If you like, you can get a head start by peeling (but not grating) the potatoes and onions a few hours in advance. Submerge the potatoes in cold water and keep them in the refrigerator until ready to use. At our mother’s house, potato latkes are always served hot out of the pan with sour cream and homemade applesauce. They’re substantial enough to eat on their own, or you can serve them as an accompaniment to pot roast or other braised meats. Miniature latkes make great hors d’oeuvres.

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