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Latkes for a Crowd

Hanukkah will be here before you know it, and I'm curious -- how do CHers prepare latkes for a large crowd? Do you make them ahead and reheat them? If so, how do you keep them until serving time? Frozen...? Refrigerated...? And how do you reheat them? A quick fry in (more) oil? In the oven? I'm asking because in my house, the latkes get eaten as soon as they leave the frying pan -- they rarely even make it to the table. I'd love to be able to make them in advance without sacrificing taste or texture, and without having them get dark and grease-laden. Any suggestions?

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  1. I am very leery of folks who say you can make them in advance, refrigerate or freeze them, and reheat them in some way; I very much doubt that they can ever come out anything like recently fried. I have, however, been successful in making them in advance --by which I mean, say, half an hour in advance -- and putting them in a single layer on a flat pan (e.g., a baking sheet) lined with paper towels and keeping them warm in a 250-degree oven. They do not emerge from the oven QUITE as good as straight out of the pan, but if you cook them pretty crispy to start with they end up staying quite good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ozhead

      I know this is an old entry...but it's still a question that pops up. I like the idea of freezing the latkes right from the frying pan...but no one has said what/how to freeze them. I do know it's single layer. HELP!

    2. You might want to do a search -- every conceivable aspect of preparing and serving latkes has been discussed in depth (you know the saying: "two Jews, three opinions!" to which I add: and not afraid to share them!) over the years.

      Here's a post from last week: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/45824...

      Personally, I always find it the most fun when the host(ess) puts some of the guests to work: peeling potatoes, grating them and frying up the latkes -- not to mention arguing about the proper methodology and ratio of ingredients, and sharing how your grandmother did it -- is very convivial.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Since you've worked the griddle at my latke parties, I say thanks, Ruth!

        Yeah, I'd never consider not making people at least bear witness to the frying... what, they should go home without their clothes smelling of grease?

      2. I start frying them about 30 min to an hour before guests arrive too. I've also done multiple pans at once to increase the quantity coming out of the pans at once; it makes for some concentration and coordination, but I can do it. I'm frying while guests are here, at least at the early stages, but at some point I stop frying and we have plates full, and I can spend time with my guests.

        There really isn't a good way to reheat latkes, but the oven is better than other options.

        By the way, does anyone have a good potato-to-guests ratio? I don't usually use recipes for latkes, and last year I committed the ultimate Jewish sin: I ran out of food (I think there was a special line at Yom Kippur to admit that one). Okay, technically I didn't run out of food; technically the last person to come got one latke. And, technically, my friends are flakes who are terrible about RSVPing on the Evite. But if I have a general idea of how many people may possibly come, anyone know how many potatoes per person I should estimate to ensure that I don't repeat my sins of the past?

        1. the jfoods have made and frozen latkes in the past. They fry them and then place them in single layers on a rimmed cookie sheet with layers separated by wax paper. Then the latke condominium is placed in the freezer. The night before they are relocated to t he fridge to defrost.

          To reheat they go into a 350 oven. The oild taht remained on them duringthe freezing process is still present and they crisp up nicely.

          10 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Do you do anything special to prevent them from turning dark?

            1. re: CindyJ

              they do discolor slightly but some applesauce and you're good to go.

            2. re: jfood

              Jfood, I knew we are soulmates! Have been doing this for many, many years. Only difference is I reheat them in 400 oven, to crisp them up. Only cook latkes about 75-80% done initally, that way they don't overcook upon reheating, and heat them from frozen state about 15-20 min.

              Usually make brisket with latkes and this is pain as brisket reheats in 300 oven. Usually have brisket reheated and waiting in 2nd oven.

              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                and please tell jfood that apple sauce is the piece de resistence for both the brisket and lat-kees

                1. re: jfood

                  Absolutely! I grew up in a kosher home, so sour cream doesn't seem right to me.

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    kosher or not, it's KISS in jfood's mind.

                    apple sauce = lat-kees
                    sour cream = blintzes

                    BTW jfood is trying to get out of a biz dinner tonight so he and mrs jfood can make the blintzes. wish him luck.

                    1. re: jfood

                      JFood, on another thread for farmer's cheese, someone was looking for a good blintz recipe. Pls post yours. I can't find my grandmother's and I am looking for one as well. Thanks!

                      1. re: Diane in Bexley


                        Pretty simple

                        1/2lb cream cheese
                        1/2lb farmers cheese
                        1 egg
                        3T sugar
                        pinch of salt

                        Need to triple of quadruple the recipe for a crowd.

                        Blinis are:

                        2 eggs beaten til foamy
                        add 1/2t salt; 1t sugar; 1C water; 1T melted butter; 1C flour; 1/4 t baking powder; plus a little milk to thin batter to proper consistence.

                        Jfood pours a little in a NS pan, swirl and pur excess back into bowl. When one side is dry and other slightly browned, rap onto towel. fill cooked side and roll

                        Hope you enjoy

                        1. re: jfood

                          Thanks! Another example of regional differences, my granma put in raisins in her blintzes and some vanilla. More like dessert, but very tasty. Haven't made these in a while (too much patchkerei for me ) but DD will be home next week from Bandeis, she is keeping kosher now, and plan to serve for Wed night dinner with homemade cream of mushroom soup (veg broth - not chicken this time!), salad and fresh fruit topping. I can make these Sunday and freeze - love to do that kind of stuff so we can enjoy homemade mid week without much fuss.

                  2. re: jfood

                    yes, it is THE requesite item. I usually serve my latkes with brisket, goose or chicken, but this year- its vegetarian- Dutch pea soup, latkes with homemade applesauce, sour cream and a persian cucumber salad. Cookies and jelly filled douhnuts for dessert.

              2. They're really best served fresh. When I'm making a huge batch, I fry them up then drain them on paper towels and stick them in a 300 degree oven while the rest of them get fried.

                3 Replies
                1. re: gini

                  One tip I came across a few years ago that really works (and makes sense) is *not* to drain latkes (or any fried foods) on paper towels: when you put them on the paper towel, the heat trapped under the food creates steam, which makes your fried food soggy -- you need to let the air circulate around them, so the steam doesn't build up. Like Nyleve, I put a single layer (stacking causes the same steam-sogginess problems) on rack on a baking sheet in a warm oven -- if you want to be neat, you can put a paper towel under the rack. I like the idea of stacking them on their sides -- I'll have to try that this year!

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Great tip. Now I need to go buy a baking rack!

                    1. re: gini

                      I just use wire cooling racks -- they're oven-safe enough for this purpose.

                2. I used to be in charge of the big Hannukah party at my kids Hebrew school. We would make the latkes in advance and either freeze them or just refrigerate and reheat. Here are a few tricks to minimize sogginess:

                  Instead of laying them out in flat layers separated by waxed paper, try stacking them up on their sides - vertically - in rows in a large pan. This keeps them from weighing each other down and compressing the cooked latkes.

                  To reheat, place the latkes in a single layer on a rack over a baking sheet. This allows them to heat on both sides and remain crisp rather than get soggy on the bottom. This method is, admittedly, not so do-able for a really big group, but works well for a home-type party.

                  For a large crowd, just take the vertically arranged latke pans and reheat the way it is. They don't have such a nice crisp exterior, but at least the excess oil drains away and the latkes are a bit less heavy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Stacking them on their sides makes so much sense, as does reheating them on a rack set over a baking sheet. I think I'll try a "sample" batch pre-Hanukkah, just to try out the method. Thanks!

                  2. In my opinion, you've got to back up a step before you talk about making in advance and reheating them. You've got to talk about making latkes. You must drain as the moisture out of the latke mixture before cooking. You must use the right amout of latke mixture so the latkes are thin, cooked until the outside is a crisp shell and the inside is a soft pillow of potato.

                    If you've made thick, soggy latkes to start with, no technique is going to rescue them for later eating.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Indy 67

                      Actually, I've been pretty successful at making them. It's making them for a crowd that's my challenge.

                    2. How about a potato-nik or two?
                      See here for Bittman's take:

                      But nothing says holiday like sneaking into the kitchen and stealing the fresh latkes out of the pan. You could also get a bigger griddle.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: nomdeplume

                        That sounds like a fried potato kugel to me. Only problem with that is not enough crispy crust -- the BEST part!

                        1. re: nomdeplume

                          i realize this is a very old post - but as I was reading it - looking for hints for new recipes for 2010 Chanukah latkes - I must interject and say to nomdeplume - I hate to disagree - but that is NOT a potato-nik recipe as I knew it. - potatoes, onions, YEAST, many eggs, Lots of Flour, pepper salt and much oil. - yields a very dense, heavy nik - not Kugel!

                        2. Our method is as follows:

                          We have a big Hanukah party every year, and as men to the front door they are handed an apron and ushered into the kitchen. The men spend most of the evening in the kitchen (or walking from the kitchen to where the bar is set up) and they make all the latkes.

                          Ladies bring a dish for the buffet table andthen take the night off, sitting in the living room and kibbitzing. Children run around the whole house (except for the kitchen) and tend to konk out in the family room in front of a Disney movie eventually.

                          There are fresh, hot latkes all night, and everyone has a great time!

                          Why make the latkes in advance when they can be part of the party? :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tzurriz

                            I spend the month of December making Latkes. Between the classroom of two children and multiple friends i probably prepare about 500. They must be made fresh. That is the fun part however, everyone must come and spend time with you the host/cook while you are preparing them. This way you get to great each guest and talk with them whilew the latkes are cooking.

                          2. I usually make about 200 latkes at Chanukah every year (I give them out like people give out Christmas cookies!), so you BET I make them in advance. They come out the same as they do right from the frying pan. When I first make them, I drain them well on paper towels, and layer them on a cookie sheet using wax paper between each layer. Then I freeze them, until they are ready for the oven. It makes for a lot more enjoyable Chanukah dinner for me. The key is for them to go into the oven frozen on a cookie sheet at a high temperature of 450 degrees. If one side is crispier than the other, put the crispier side face up. When they really sizzle, and I mean sizzle, remove and drain on paper towels again. I made them all last night. Now I have to figure out how to not have my house reek from oil for a week!!

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: rondelah

                              I do not like other people in my kitchen. I just cannot relax and enjoy the real fun of the day which is giving out gifts and enjoying family. So, if the latkes are not as crispy as they can be, so be it. I am frying and freezing this week.

                              1. re: rondelah

                                open the windows - and hopefully you won't freeze! - and clothes must go in the laundry - even under garments! lol

                                1. re: rondelah

                                  I've got my brand new, still-in-the-box electric skillet out in the garage, awaiting its first use as an out-of-the-house latke maker. I've got HIGH hopes for this solution to an oil-reeking house.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    Oh, so you bought it? Have you decided on other uses?

                                    BTW, your rationale only works if it is not 35 degrees outside, as it generally is here. Or, if it is not storming with tornado warnings, as it is here today. Sigh.

                                    1. re: E_M

                                      I don't have to worry about tornadoes here in southeastern PA, but cold temps could present a challenge. However, it's always a little warmer in the garage than right outside, so I'm hopeful the latke-making will be successful.

                                      I've seen lots of ideas for additional uses for the skillet on other posts here on CH. I think its most likely secondary use might be to keep things warm, kind of like a chafing dish. I'm making stuffed mushrooms to bring to a potluck in a few weeks, and I think the electric skillet might be good for keeping them warm.

                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        Whoa. How come you in SE PA don't have to worry about tornados, while we in NE MD do?

                                        What kind of venting will you use in the garage...or will you keep the door open?

                                  2. re: rondelah

                                    do you take them out of the wax paper and reheat them in single layer, or do you just put them in with the was paper? seems like the wax paper would burn at 400.

                                    1. re: meemsterama

                                      Paper will not burn at 400, but the wax on the wax paper will melt. I don't think you'd want the wax all over the latkes.

                                  3. Oil:
                                    Rendered duck fat (for slightly more flavor)

                                    Oil soak-up:
                                    One layer of latkes, not stacked, on clean, plain brown paper bag, lined flat on cookie sheet in 400-degree oven

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: j.w.w.

                                      no concerns with the paper bag lighting up? I once started my own stupid fire with a pizza box in the oven to warm up - perhaps here it might have been too close to the top heating element but I really don't believe that was the cause - burnt out the element!

                                      1. re: smilingal

                                        As Ray Bradbury would tell you, paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, so a 400 degree oven shouldn't set anything ablaze. (As an aside, but not really much of one . . . I just cooked my Thanksgiving turkey in a 375 degree oven in a brown paper shopping bag with no scorching, no flaming, no problems whatsoever.) I hate to disagree with you, but I'll bet it was, in fact, the proximity to the element that did it.

                                        1. re: queenscook

                                          probably was - but so afraid of ever doing it again!
                                          And REALLY! I have never heard of that method for cooking a Thanksgiving turkey!!! Had you done this before? How did it turn out?

                                          1. re: smilingal

                                            I actually heard about it here on Chowhound just this year, when I posted a question about using a Reynold's "plastic" turkey bag. I decided to do it this way because I had a paper bag but would have had to go out and purchase a Reynold's bag! It wasn't the overwhelming success I'd hoped it would be, but it certainly was easy to do. I think I just overcooked it (though I was following the guidelines in the articles I read), so there wasn't the "juice" I'd expected; others reported multiple cups!

                                            See the following two threads for the details (my play-by-play is chiefly in the first one):

                                    2. I've done finger-food-size latkes for parties of 50-70 many times. The latkes get fried (not too dark) the week before, are frozen in single layers separated by paper towels and then put in freezer bags. Then at the party, I reheat on cookie sheets at 400, and circulate them as they come out of the oven with small bowls of sour cream and apple sauce for a quick dip. No defrosting - just pull 'em out of the freezer as you go. Keep in mind I'm not too much of an absolutist about this or that kind of latke being the Only Legitimate Latke. These are small and crisp. Always a big hit.