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Nov 29, 2004 08:14 AM

Rite of Passage - My Turn to Make The Latkes

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Every year, for as long as I can remember, my aunt has made the latkes for our family's Channukah party. Unfortunately, after 87 very good years, she passed away earlier this year. I have volunteered to step into her very large shoes for this year's festivities which we are also hosting. I plan to make about 70 latkes and I'm hoping the 'hounds can help.

I've read the earlier thread that Jim Leff started in July. The consensus seemed to be that I need to grate the potatoes (and my fingers to the bone, apparently) using the small holes on the grater. Then what - squeeze the water out? add onion? flour (what kind/how much)? salt and pepper? Should I use an oil with a higher smoking point (peanut?)?

Also, much as we like to eat them hot out of the pan (okay, maybe drain them first...), I can't do that since we're hosting as well. How will they fare if I make them in the morning and reheat them at a high heat in the oven? I assume that would be better than freezing them.

Last question - I thought I'd throw in a few sweet potato pancakes as well, just for something different. The recipe from Gourmet '01 (off of Epicurious) looks good. Anyone tried it?


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  1. Hopefully you will get more definitive answers, but here's a start: I like my latkes very dense, so it is important for me to soak up as much of the water as possible (lots of paper towels on hand). Maybe that would be less needed if you want light/fluffy latkes?

    1. It's all about the thin crispy latkes, so draining helps- you can put the potato bits in a colander. My mother uses a food processor with the grater with the smallest holes and it works just fine. Also, don't make pattys with your hands before putting them in the pan- this will result in the denser type. Just drop a spoon in from the bowl.

      And my mother freezes and reheats without any bad effects. If there's enough oil on the latkes they crisp up just fine in the oven.

      1. It's not easy losing a loved one. God's graces to you.

        Barefoot Contessa made potato pancakes on air the other day. She used a large kitchen towel to extrude the water from the grated potatoes (quite a bit, too!) Instead of just waiting for it to drain from a colander or be soaked up by paper towels, place them on a cotton kitchen towel and actually wring them out in the sink. Maybe the show will air again soon so you can see how much water Ina wrung out.

        And, she used clarified butter, but clarifiying just makes the butter adaptable to higher heat by taking out the milk protein (adds butter flavor though). A peanut oil would be fantastic. No risk of high heat bane and also a good flavor.

        She calls them potatoe pancakes, so maybe the recipe isn't just right. But, the link below may lead to air times on Food TV in your area.

        As for preparing ahead . . . what did you grandmother do? IMO, it's one of those dishes that maybe a stove mate might help with during the party. At any rate, be sure they are single level and separate on a cookie sheet if reheating. Let go room temperature before reheating.

        Also, there is a new product avaiable in the egg section (or meat section) of many grocery stores that is fantastic ready-to-fry grated potatoes. Little water. They are for hash browns, actually, but just mix in the egg, and whatever else. Great flavor. They're in a forest green plastic resealable bag. (I'd have to look at the label for the name and they are at the grocery store) Might save you some time and they are already drained very well.


        1. When I make them I put the grated potatos,grated in the food processor into a bowl of water, then when I am ready to mix, I put them into a potato ricer to squeeze them dry. I think I saw Emeril do that once, and it works very well.

          1. Here's my recipe for latkes. I've been in charge of making them buy the boatload for various community functions, so believe me I've made a few. This version makes a crispy, shreddy-looking latke that is held together by the barest minimum of egg and flour. It's our favourite - but then, this is another one of those areas where no one agrees. So anyway. As for quantities, I honestly can't remember how much this recipe makes. I believe this amount would feed my family of 4, so you'll have to maybe quadruple it. Go easy on the eggs, though. If you're quadrupling, just add, maybe, 6 eggs. More, only if you really think you need them.

            Happy Chanukah!

            Perfect Latkes
            6 medium potatoes
            1/2 onion
            2 eggs, beaten
            2 tbsp. flour
            1/2 tsp. salt

            Peel and grate the potatoes using the coarse side of a hand grater or, if you have one, the shredder attachment on the food processor. Dump the shredded potatoes into a large bowl filled with cold water. When all the potatoes are shredded, drain them in a colander, run more cold water over them and, by hand, squeeze as much of the liquid out of the shredded potatoes as possible. Transfer to a large bowl. The reason for all this rinsing etc. is to remove the excess surface starch and whatever else it is that causes the potatoes to turn black.

            Grate the onion and add it to the potatoes. Add the eggs, flour, and salt, and stir the mixture until it is well combined. If it seems very dry, you can add another egg. But don’t be so quick to do this because as the mixture sits it will become more watery.

            Heat about 1/4-inch of oil in a skillet. (Don’t be skimpy with the oil – a good latke needs to be cooked in plenty of it.) When the oil is hot, add the potato mixture by large spoonfuls. Flatten them gently into a roundish pancake shape. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then flip and cook the other side. When crisp and brown on both sides, remove from the pan and let drain on paper towels for a couple of minutes before serving.

            If you’re doing this ahead of time, make all the latkes and arrange them – and here’s the trick – vertically in a foil (or other) roasting pan. They should be standing up on their edges like books on a bookshelf. Pack them into the pan until the pan is full – but don’t allow them to compress. This makes for a heavy latke. The standing-up-latke trick is one that I use whenever I’m making a quantity of latkes to reheat. Layering them in the usual way causes them to become soggy. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate. When you’re ready to sever, reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes – or until hot.

            Serve latkes hot with applesauce or sour cream.