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latkes

  • p

Can anyone recommend a restaurant in the Bay Area that makes decent latkes?

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  1. The best latkes in the Bay Area come out of my kitchen (she says modestly!) -- I can't say I've had a good one in a restaurant.

    They aren't hard to make yourself, though, providing you have either a foodprocessor or someone to help grate potatoes (put those guests/kids to work!).

    A couple of tips:

    1. Be patient. The oil should be hot, but not so hot that the edges burn before the insides cook. I put the burner no higher than medium high. I also use a mixture of oils -- use a good frying oil (I like corn oil), with some olive oil for more flavor.

    2. Do not, do not! drain them on paper towels. Put them in a single layer on cookie cooling racks on a paper-towel covered cookie sheet in a warm oven -- this will keep them warm and crisp until you are finished with the whole batch (provided you and your hungry hordes can wait that long!).

    Happy Hannukah!

    8 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I like to use peanut oil, because it has a higher burning temperature, but will use corn oil in deference to anyone with a peanut allergy. Sometimes I grate a little apple into my latkes. It makes them a bit sweet, but can be a good accent, depending on what the flavor of the main course is. Happy Chanukah all!

      1. re: LBQT

        what a great thread!

        I now want to try both the "separating the eggs" trick and the "little bit of grated apple" trick.

        One thing that I do sometimes is grate in a small (unpeeled) zucchini along with the potatoes and onions.

        And I second the necessity of squeezing the water out of the potatoes and onions post-grating.

        yours

        patrick

        1. re: patrick

          As long as we're fussing with our latkes, may I recommend beets? Half potato, half beet makes really wonderful latkes, since the beets are naturally sweet. I imagine that since beets are another Eastern European winter staple, using them is even within the realm of authentic.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            v
            Vital Information

            Corky's, a little coffee shop that was in North Miami Beach, and which may still be in Broward County, did (does) a vegetable latke. Both of Corky's latkes, regular and vegetable, were of the crunchy, bite sized, white-castle eat 'em by the sack-full model. I, of course, expectd something boca-burgerish the first time I was offered a veggie model. Much, much better than they sounded and not in the least healthful.

            Rob

            1. re: Vital Information

              When I was growing up, Chanukah latkes were never potato latkes. Potato latkes were a lunch thing all year round - and very delicious.
              Chanukah latkes were made with yeast and buckwheat flour. They were fried with bits of very finely chopped onions on them. Not a lot of onions. Perhaps they were fried first and onions added afterward.
              I have tried to duplicate my grandmother's recipe, and have had a certain amount of success. However, my children always preferred the potato latkes and so, alas, the 'official' Chanukah latke is no longer made in our family.
              We never made a meal of them -- they were a part of a typical festive meal -- and the latkes, a large roaster full of them, would be ready for our consumption.
              My family was originally from eastern Europe - Poland, Russia, and many families where I grew up ate these, but since moving to another part of the country, I have never seen them served since.

              1. re: Sharna

                These sound like blini--the typical Russian pancake made from a yeasted buckwheat batter.

          2. re: patrick

            Zucchini latkes are delicious, but at Chanukah I revert to purism and only want 'em "straight". My spouse and my brother-in-law, however, must have their sweet potato latkes alongside the white potato ones, and I admit they're on to something -- yet another brand of deliciousness.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          mmmm....latkes, dee-lish....
          anyway, i am purist when it comes to latkes and don't like to fool around with perfection, however, in this month's Bon Appetit, there are 4 latke recipes that seem weird yet interesting. i would only call one of them actually a latke, but they are worth checking out if you are a serious latke lover.
          one is with spinach, one is with chikpeas, one is with porcini's and i can't remember the last....
          Happy Hannukah!
          and don't forget the apple suace!

        3. Saul's in Berkeley has great latkes most of the time - sometimes they are, to my taste, perfect, while other times they are merely good. They seem to come out when they're ready, not with the rest of your order, so I think they arrive fresh from the pan. Meals don't get more comforting than an order of latkes and a bowl of matzoh ball soup.

          Making them myself, I found that an essential step is to wring out the potatoes and onions after grating. Wrap 'em up in a dishtowel and sqeeze out as much liquid as possible. This totally transforms the texture. And frying in fat - chicken fat or shortening, makes 'em crispier than oil.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Brian

            Using something other than oil may make them crisper, but if you are making them for Hannukah, the oil is essential.

            The whole point of traditional Hannukah foods is that they celebrate the miracle of the oil (I inderstand that in the Sephardic traditions, donut-like pastries (the name escapes me) are traditional for Hannukah, for the same reason).

            Of course I make them year round (I got my housemate's son hooked, and now he requests them for breakfast on special Sundays), but I still like to keep in mind the symbolic significance of the dish.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I agree! Another great latke trick is to separate the eggs before adding. Grate your potatoes and onions, squeeze or wring them out. Mix in matzoh meal, salt, pepper, and the egg yolks. Whip egg whites until stiff, and fold into potato mixture. Fry in hot oil until brown and crispy--drain well and serve with sour cream and applesauce. And no, you can't put salsa on your latkes, or ketchup, unless you want to be branded a goy forever. (Then again, I used to date a girl who put gravy on matzoh balls...she was from Oklahoma.)Also those Israeli doughnuts are called soufganyiot.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                j
                Judith Hurley

                The donut-like things are souvganiot. Around here people use jelly donuts as a substitute. I never encountered them growing up, but then I'm your basic Ashkenazi kind of Yid.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  mine! one reason i won't eat them in restaurants is that i require them to be RIGHT OUT OF THE PAN (max 5 secs drain on paper towel) - anyway, a few years back - -

                  i wanted to make a special treat for a friend so i seared & roasted a duck, deglazed the pan with prunes & red wine & cooked up latkes in the duck grease - ohgodohbabyohgod!!!!!!!!! grated on the next to finest of your average 4-sided grated (Idahoes), drained, potato starch returned to the shredded taters, onion, eggs, a little flour, salt pepper, baking powder. hot homemade applesauce & the prunes on top (no sour cream as i keep kosher).

                  it was a meal to remember.

                  happy chanukah everyone !

                  xxxooo - g

                  1. re: giugiu
                    r
                    randy salenfriend

                    Ummmm, I'll have what she's having!

                2. re: Brian

                  I found myself parked a few doors from Saul's at lunch time yesterday, so I couldn't resist checking out the latkes (actually, I had a latke and a blinz).

                  It was piping hot and obviously freshly made. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, but I thought the texture on the inside was a little too fine. Also, I thought it was a little bland. But quite acceptable. The blinz was pretty good, but also a little bland -- I wanted more of a hint of salty browned butter on the outside to contrast with the sweetened cheese. Pickle was okay -- nothing to write home about (I'd never eaten there before).

                  The sandwiches looked good, but I've been having dental work all week and wasn't up to that level of biting and chewing -- I have to get through the holidays with a temporary filling :-(

                3. I have never seen such sacrilege as on this thread...you do NOT fool with the latke recipe. I have seen some call for flour in the latkes...but apples?? A latke is a precious thing when made right...preferably fried in schmaltz...with just sour cream (not low fat!) and applesauce. Let's not tamper with tradition. Next thing will be non-fat blintzes.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Jim H.

                    I'm with you on this one, Jim. Latke in their pure form are such a thing of beauty. However, I will admit that my favorite topping is sour cream and caviar. (g)

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Melanie...you are indeed the bonne vivant!

                      1. re: Jim H.
                        m
                        Melanie Wong

                        I defer to you, Sir.

                        Took all my will power to not sample the caviar on every menu in Las Vegas last weekend...

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Why are there no reports of the LOS chowhound gatherings yet? Is it taking everyone that long to recover?

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Not recovering (well maybe Dave is - he ate I can't remember how many meals there last week!) just getting back to work and such.

                            It was a great time - a small (but fun) group and the food is as good as they say. I'll post tomorrow on the Southwest board - what I can remember and/or decipher from my notes. It's up to Melanie to share about the Friday lunch and Saturday dinner meals.

                    2. re: Jim H.

                      OTOH, a tradition which involves both schmaltz and sour cream in/on the same latke can't be TOO old.

                    3. Wow...what a great response to my original question. I guess I'll have to try and make my own, but I've never had good luck. Perhaps I don't have a decent recipe. In the past, I've gone to Suppenkuche on Hayes Street for "potato pancakes" and they're pretty darn good. Can someone post a tried and true recipe for me?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: phern

                        Tres simplement...grate 3 medium potatoes (most say russets are best). Let rest a few minutes (they will start turning brown). Squeeze liquid out of potatoes. Let liquid stay in bowl (starch settles). Grate 1 medium onion, add to squeezed potatoes. Add two eggs and 3 tablespoons matzo meal. In a pinch, you can cheat and use cracker meal or flour. Add a handful of chopped parsley and starch from bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let rest. It may get muddy looking...don't worry. Put about 1/4 inch oil (or schmaltz, if you are a purist) in a frying pan, and let oil get medium hot...not REAL hot. You want to brown them gently. Spoon patties about 3 inches in diameter. Cook till edges brown...DO NOT TURN. Peek at bottoms. When bottoms brown, THEN turn. Remove when done. Eat. Enjoy. Do not glop them up with anything except real sour cream and applesauce (unless like Melanie you can afford caviar). If you have a big KitchenAid mixer with attachments, use the fine grater.

                        1. re: Jim H.

                          I find a better gauge of when to turn them is when the top is mostly set (the edges are dry and the bubbles in the center are set, a lot like regular pancakes). Mostly, you want to be sure that the center is completely cooked -- the problem most people have with latkes is that they use too high a heat, the edges burn and the centers are still raw.

                          If you cook them properly, you really can't go wrong, since the ingredients themselves are pretty straightforward.

                        2. re: phern

                          Jim,

                          You're a mensch....I'll give it a try. Happy Hannukah.

                          1. re: phern

                            Ingredients:

                            6 Medium (new) potatoes--I use Russet (baking)
                            1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                            2 small onions
                            2 eggs
                            Dash of ginger or nutmeg
                            1/2 cup flour
                            salt & pepper to taste
                            Fat for deep frying--Wesson Oil, Crisco Oil, etc.

                            Procedure:

                            1) Grate potatoes finely (by hand but may use food processor*). Sprinkle with soda and squeeze out the excess liquid. (I put the mixture into a wire strainer--three to four spoonsful at a time, using a large spoon to squeeze out the excess liquid; squeezing and then turning the mixure over a few times to make sure as much as possible of the liquid is removed. (This is a bit time consuming and takes a lot of strength/energy, especially if you are a little old bubbie, but I'm convinced that it's important).
                            2) Mix with all the other ingredients except the fat/oil. Heat fat/oil in a skillet. Drop batter in by (table)spoonsful and brown pancakes well on both sides.
                            3) Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot with applesauce. Yield: about 12, 3 inch pancakes.

                            * The consistency should be similar to that created by using a six-sided hand grater, using next to the smallest grating side.

                            1. re: Lois

                              I've never made or eaten latkes (except in a restaurant I worked in, and you don't want to know about those), not being a latke person. I have, however, found, when making shredded-style hash browns, that tossing the salt with the grated potatoes and leaving them for about 1/2 hour will draw an amazing amount of water from them and improve the end product greatly.

                              Someone might want to experiment with this on latkes sometime.

                          2. East Coast West on Polk b/t Clay and Washington is hands down the best deli we have had in the bay area in a long time. Their latkes are thin and crispy and delicous either with homeade applesauce or, used instead of bread, for an open-faced pastrami sandwich.