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best recipe for latkes

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  • noya Dec 7, 2008 02:28 PM
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I'm going to make them from scratch this year--would love your best recipe. TIA!

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  1. What style of latkes do you like? Some people like really fine textured ones and some people like them almost like hash browns. My best tip: no matter what recipe you use DO NOT DRAIN THEM ON PAPER TOWELS! That just makes them steam and get soggy. Put them in a single layer on a rack over paper towels (I use a cookie cooling rack) and if you need to hold them for a while, put the rack on a baking sheet and put them in a warm oven.

    If you do a search, there are extensive discussions about latkes every year around this time. Of course, there's no definitive answer: you know the saying "two Jews, three opinions." However I can definitively say that the "best" recipe is your grandmother's.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      However I can definitively say that the "best" recipe is your grandmother's.

      Agreed.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Whatever Ruth says, although my grandmother didn't leave me a recipe.

        2# yukon gold
        2 medium onions
        cuisinart, grater disc or old knuckle buster.
        wring dry
        add
        2 beaten egg
        2 tbs flour/or matzo meal
        salt
        pepper
        mix, shape into patties (or cheat like I did last year and do one big one in a cast iron pan with a longer cooking time).
        cook shallow pan 1/4 inch vegetable oil
        5 minutes/3minutes medium high

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          This one is basic and great. Never fails. Soaking the potatoes in water and then drying in the dishtowel is key. And if you can cook them in duckfat, you will die happy.
          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        2. I don't use a recipe for this simple dish - technique is more important. Start with room temperature potatoes. IMO, Yukon Golds are one of the best potatoes for latkes. I recently made some with Idahos and found them bland and watery-tasting. The Borner (Boerner) grater, a flat plastic rectangular thing that costs a couple of bucks and looks like a piece of junk, is perfect for the job. One side grates to a mush, the other the perfect shreds. Half of each makes the ideal blend for latkes. I salt the potato and let it sit for 5 minutes in the bowl, then wick out the accumulated water with paper toweling before stirring in the onion, egg, and flour. Give your pan plenty of time to preheat on medium, add the oil, and wait till that is starting to shimmer before spooning in the mixture. Don't rush them or the insides will be raw-tasting.

          6 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            greygarious is right, the perfect Latke is all about technique -- mind you there are many varying opinions on what the perfect Latke is too. But speaking as a Catholic German-American who learned how to make "potato pancakes" from dear departed Grandma years ago, I can tell you our family's version included the use of an authentic "potato grater" -- googling came up with this entry (never visited the website before...) that gives you an idea of what it is:

            http://www.parkers-pantry.com/product...

            You need to grate your potatoes using this and use starchy potatoes -- I've used Yukon Golds but it just wasn't the same as Grandma's. BUT the reason greygarious had watery results with good old fashioned Idahos was possibly due to a failure to drain the excess moisture from your bowl of grated potatoes. You gotta get your grated potatoes as dry as possible.

            To your dried grated potatoes (grate about 4-5 large russet type potatoes), you need to add about 1/2 cup grated onion, an egg and enough flour to get the mixture to hold together to pan fry.

            You then pan fry them either on the stove top or an electric fry pan in about 1/2 inch oil (canola works good....) about 4 minutes a side or until they are golden-brown on each side.

            Kinda a loosey-goosey recipe but the potatoes don't exactly grow in standard sizes and Grandma never was big on actually measuring out how much of stuff while cooking. For sure I don't like the recipes that use shredded potatoes and matzo meal as much, but I respect that each family has their own potato traditions.

            Been lurking here awhile but I felt honor bound to speak up about the latkes -- Grandma would have been happy to share....

            1. re: HokieAnnie

              If you use a slotted spoon to from the latkes, you can squeeze out even more liquid.

              1. re: HokieAnnie

                HokieAnnie's Grandma's recipe/formula/method is the same as my Russian-Jewish father's mother's mother's, etc. My father made the best latkes. He said it was his mother's recipe and her mother's and so on. The key to his potatoes is the "authentic 'potato grater'" that Parkers sells. My father called it a "ribeisen." Absolutely essential for latkes. No matzo meal used in these pancakes, either. Served with a little sugar and a lot of sour cream, azoy geschmact!

                1. re: HokieAnnie

                  Thanks for the link - I've had mine for about 40 years. They used to be as common as potato peelers in supermarket kitchen tool aisles. HokieAnnie, my parents were Protestant German immigrants so mom used just the potato grater. It wasn't till several years ago that I started doing a mix of shredded and mush, courtesy of Cooks Illustrated, and much prefer it. And the Borner(Boerner) grater is far superior to my trusty wire-mesh potato grater. It makes the same mush but faster and for a fraction of the cost. I'd throw my wire-mesh grater out except that I push hard-boiled eggs through it to make egg salad. I'll certainly never use it for latkes again.

                  My recent Idaho latkes WERE well-drained. They are very large spuds and possibly just not as flavorful as usual. CI recommended the Yukons and I do think they taste better. It wasn't that my Idaho latkes were wet - I guess I didn't make myself clear - they TASTED watered-down.

                  1. re: HokieAnnie

                    My grandmother used the same grater...Mine is called a "safety grater" No skinned knuckles.....

                    1. re: HokieAnnie

                      Yep HokieAnnie is right. Proper potato, proper grater and proper draining. Someone on another thread posted about frying latkes in duck fat. Since I woke in the middle of the night thinking of that and PROMISING myself to get a duck today I thought I should mention that. Roasted duck and latkes fried in duck fat. Stand by with the crash cart.

                  2. My Uncle Phil (whose recipe is immortalized in the Bette's Diner Pancake Handbook, written by his son, Steve Siegelman) has a great "secret" ingredient; Swiss Cheese!! 2 Tbsps. of finely grated cheese does amazing thigs to Latkes. Makes 'em extra crispy and gives a certain je ne sais quoi...you really can't taste it, but it's there. Probably works w/ any latke recipe, not just his. Adam

                    1. Cooks Illustrated had a great recipe for Roesti Potatoes about 6-9 months ago that could be quickly adapted. Their key was soaking to remove the starch, drying completely, but then adding back some cornstarch to make them stick. I've done it numerous times an it is excellent

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                        CI has its own potato pancake/latke recipe as well.

                      2. Non Jew here too, but still make latkes at least a couple times a year. Last year had good luck with the Cooks Illustrated trick: grate the potatoes and put them in a colander over a bowl. Let them drain for a while. The liquid will separate with the potato starch solids on the bottom. Pour or wick out the water and leave the starch in the bottom. Add the egg, grated onion, grated potatoes (patted dry if possible), and a little flour. It gives a good potato flavor and helps them thicken. I agree that I never follow a recipe either -- just a technique and adjust by eye.

                        1. I use my grandma's grinder, with the large-hole attachment inserted, to get even chunks. And because it's what Grandma did.

                          Nobody has mentioned the nemesis of latke-making: OXIDATION, leading to purple-grey latkes. I peel and cut up the poatoes and plop them right into a bowl of cold water til I can grate them. Another trick is to grate or grind the onions along with the potatoes because the onion juice retards oxidation while you're grinding that way.

                          I put the ground onions and potatoes into a fine screen colander and drain it into a bowl to retrieve the potato starch, which someone else mentioned.

                          Also, I don't know if it's possible to use too many onions. I haven't experienced it yet.

                          Usually when i try alternative vegetable recipes, like carrot or mushroom or zucchini, they're very good, though if it doesn't go with applesauce, is it a latke? Did you want recipes for those?

                          1. Here's a lengthy discussion from last year:
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/349291

                            I myself have had consistently good luck with the following combination of tricks for getting super-crispy golden brown latkes without a lot of last-minute dashing around/panic:

                            -- Peel and grate potatoes and put into a big bowl/pot of cold water with a healthy dose of cream of tartar added. (I know this is counter-intuitive because water will be the bane of crispiness, but it helps the potatoes stand later without discoloring) I put the onions along with the potatoes (mainly because I grate the onion first, a hold-over of my mother's strategy for making the potatoes keep their color

                            )

                            -- After 5-10 mins (or more) in the cream of tartar, take the potatoes out into a cheesecloth/kitchen towel in a strainer over a big bowl. Squeeze and wring them out as much as humanly possible, and then some--letting the water run into the bowl. Leave the potatoes in the towel in the strainer, while the water sits in the bowl for ~5 mins so the starch can collect. I do this step when I'm close to getting ready to fry.

                            -- Now pour out the water, keeping the thick white starch. Mix one egg with the starch, along with salt and pepper. Add in the potatoes and stir around (add another egg if need be, but basically I go for a loose collection of shredded potatoes.

                            -- Fry in moderate oil, keeping warm on paper towers in the oven while remaining batches cook. If a lot of liquid collects while you're waiting to fry, don't mix it back in with the batter. You could add extra potato starch to thicken, but I've never needed to.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: another_adam

                              YES! The dishtowel is the way. I've been making good latkes for years but last year I used this technique and the recipe from http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... and they were hands down the best latkes I've ever made. However, I don't coarsely grate, I fine-grate.

                            2. Wow, what great ideas you ALL for sharing! I have been experimenting, but still can't get the method perfected to my satisfaction. Has anyone ever tried the Salad Spinner to dry the shredded potatoes? Hadn't thought of saving the starch that comes off with the water.....but maybe spinning over a bowl or pot (bottom of spinner has to be able to sit on top) would work??

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: Lisbet

                                I think vigorous squeezing and wringing of the potatoes are key, so I doubt that the spinner would get out enough of the water. I *really* wring them out as much as possible and then let them continue to sit in the (lint-free) tea towel while the starch settles out. I suspect that if you wanted a simpler method, it would be more successful to put them in a colander and put a weight on top to squeeze for a few mins-- tossing them probably just gets off the surface moisture.

                                1. re: another_adam

                                  I just thought I'd add my dissenting voice: I never squeeze the liquid out of my potatoes. I personally think the squeezing makes the potato shreds break down and makes for gummy latkes. To make up for the extra liquid, my latke recipe has slightly more eggs and more flour than most, and I end up with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. But people rave about my latkes.

                                  I've made them both ways, and I honestly don't think it's worth the trouble and the mess to squeeze the potatoes, save the starch, etc. What is worth the effort is using good oil/fat. Schmaltz is great but if you don't have any, olive oil (or part EVOO, part other neutral oil) is the next best. I'm guessing bacon fat would be fabulous, but I've never tried it -- maybe this is the year I'll be that sacrilegious!

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Then again, if you DO want to squeeze your raw shredded potatoes (I always do), you can try squeezing them in a potato ricer. Haven't tried, but friend swears by it.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Ruth - I am so glad to find someone else who does not squeeze out the liquid. I thought that I was the only one, and just lazy. But mine taste fine too. I do stir up the batter each time, before I form each cake so that the liquid is distributed into the cakes. My recipe is mainly by look and feel but the proportions are, approximately, 4 cups finely shredded potatoes (using the chopping blade on the food processor), 1 small onion (also using chopping blade), 2 eggs, 3 tbs flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, salt & pepper.

                                      1. re: masha

                                        Me too, my family never squeezes the potatoes and the latkes are the best. I made them last year and squeezed them out and they were just not as good at all and it was way more work and mess!

                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Interesting-- do you drain the potatoes at all, i.e., by gravity instead of squeezing? I used to not bother with the squeezing and found that they get crisper with squeezing, so kind of the opposite effect. (??) I wonder if the type of potato matters? (I'm a yukon gold devotee) I do sort of "fluff up" the potatoes post-squeezing to separate them (though I don't find that they've broken at all-- maybe I'm not really wringing them as much as I make it sound like)

                                        My theory, which might be totally wrong, had been that the brief soak in acidulated water and then the pressure was working because it actually sort of makes a "quick potato pickle", which keeps its color and is ready for the starch to bind to it to make a nice crispy golden pancake. Also, I add barely any egg-- maybe when you recoup a lot of starch, more egg would make a somewhat tough pancake (like okonomiyaki!)
                                        I guess I'll have to do some experimenting :)

                                        I should add that my family recipe doesn't really involve squeezing-- my mother claims that if you grate an onion first (and periodically between potatoes), and then salt them a little and let them drain over a bowl, they'll stay light in color and lose enough water. I just found that I had much more consistent results with the squeezing, possibly due to variability in the moisture content of supermarket potatoes...

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Bacon fat! Aside from avoiding getting struck by lighting, there's another reason for your olive oil scenario. Chanukah marks the time of pressing olive oil--- it's got an agricultural festival component.

                                          1. re: wearybashful

                                            True. However, I'm guessing there wasn't much olive oil around my Ashkenazi forebearers' shtetl. And since potatoes are a new world food, they weren't traditional for Hannukah until relatively recently anyway, nor are latkes traditional in non-Ashkenazi Jewish populations.

                                            In other words, people who had olive oil didn't make potato pancakes, and people who made potato pancakes didn't have olive oil.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Apparently the preferred fat was goose. It could be koshered and it was fatter ergo more schmaltz.
                                              My Dear Shtetl Mihaileni
                                              Translated by Artur Hecht
                                              Often he used to come to our house, always with some bundle under his armpit, with one thing or another for our house. My grandfather loved potato dumplings with fried onions and chicken or preferably goose fat. He could “finish” two dozen of those easily.

                                              Hanukkah's a-Coming: Geese Are Getting Fat

                                              By FLORENCE FABRICANT
                                              Published: November 23, 1994
                                              NYT Reprint 12/08

                                              In the days before commercial vegetable shortenings were sold, goose fat was important in Jewish cooking, especially in kosher homes where butter could not be used with meat. Oils were very expensive, and lard, of course, was forbidden.

                                              1. re: wolfe

                                                Mmmmmm ... goose fat! I want some! I wonder if you can buy it at one of those Chinese bbq places that does goose?

                                      3. re: Lisbet

                                        I make latka's at least a few times a year. I always use a salad spinner; works great. Also, the key to not having the mix turn into a soggy swamp is DON'T ADD SALT TO THE MIX. I just keep my dish of kosher salt next to the stove and sprinkle a little on each batch as I cook them

                                        1. re: hlehmann

                                          How so you spin dry finely grated potatoes and onions without them oozing through the side slits?

                                          1. re: wolfe

                                            Shredded potatoes, NOT finely grated! I don't include the onion until your potatoes have been spun in the spinner. And, I think that different salad spinner baskets have different openings. Even if a few shreds do escape, it doesn't make that much difference. For frying, I prefer bacon drippings. (Even though I am not of the Jewish Faith......Love latkes and also Hash Browns.)

                                            1. re: Lisbet

                                              Yes, but for an authentic latke, the potatoes must be finely grated, not shredded.

                                      4. Any recommended recipes for sweet potato latkes?

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          http://www.sassyradish.com/archives/2...

                                          Following this recipe (love blogs with step by step photos) sub'ing sweet potatoe and they came out crispy and DE-licious.

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            ...no! My Grandma says large shreds not tightly packed, (not finely grated) is the "authentic" latke! The "Battle of the Bubbie's"!......and she ALWAYS fried in 'schmaltz" (chicken fat)!

                                            1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                              Lol, CFD!
                                              Bubbie battles continue. My Grandma kept her share of schmaltz but wanted her grandchildren to be healthier...schmaltz was not provided year round and latke was prepared a variety of ways. Having said that, chicken fat provides that certain something...not to mention great memories.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                If grandma makes it, then it's good for you. That's another rule of grandma cooking!

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  What could be healthier than chicken fat? Crisco? When did we get this plethora of "healthy" oils?

                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                    So true! My Bubbie gave up butter for margerine in the '70s because of the anti-butter cholesterol propaganda. Now we know that supposedly healthier margerine is loaded with dreaded transfats! I'm guessing in a few years we're going to find out all this stuff about healthy oils is a crock (or at least, overstated), too.

                                                    Oil is a relatively recent addition to the human diet -- animal fats have been around forever. When I started cutting added fats from my diet I realized that most of the fats that are naturally occuring in significant amounts in foods are saturated fats. Surely my body is better adapted to fats that are natually occurring and have been part of the human diet since the birth of the human race than it is to an artificial product like Canola oil. I'm very skeptical of the notion that science can improve nature!

                                                    1. re: wolfe

                                                      Didn't mean to spark a healthy oils debate.
                                                      Grandma was a love, bakery owner, good woman
                                                      Enjoy your latke anyway you like

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        Sounds like a lovely person! I just meant that a lot of grandmas got convinced to give up their traditional ways because the new ways were supposedly healthier, and then that turned out not to be the case. Grandma was right in the first place!

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          Let's all cheer for ....SCHMALTZ!!! (....and griebines too!!)

                                                      2. re: wolfe

                                                        Words of wisdom from Sleeper (1973) by W Allen.
                                                        Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
                                                        Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
                                                        Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
                                                        Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
                                                        Dr. Melik: Incredible.

                                                2. Has anyone used their ricer to squeeze all the liquid out of the potatoes? I got a new fancy-schmancy ricer from W-S this year and it works great on mashed potatoes (duh) and squeezing the water from frozen spinach, so I am wondering about using it for my latkes. Anyone?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: mdepsmom

                                                    Someone suggested it in one of the earlier responses.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      thanks! not sure how i missed that my first pass through.

                                                  2. OMG they posted a latke video with no onions. NO ONIONS! Don't look, it's too horrible to think about.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: wearybashful

                                                      Okay, onions were in the link, never mind. Gee, you can't edit these posts, can you?

                                                      1. re: wearybashful

                                                        Sure you can. Report it as a silly error and implore the moderators to remove it. I, as you can imagine, have to do it frequently, mouth over grey matter.

                                                    2. For the last few years, I've been making "kinder, gentler latkes"--a recipe I found on-line. You par-boil the potatoes, which takes away the issue of them turning colors or releasing water. Then shred/grate as you wish, mix and fry like any other recipe. It also prevents the issue of the potatoes tasting a bit undercooked in the fried latkes.

                                                      As the latke maker for both sides of the family (which sometimes comes to 50 people), I much appreciate the fail-safe nature of this recipe.

                                                      http://www.recipezaar.com/Kinder-Gent...

                                                      1. Having a party for 40, so freezing andmake-ahead is necessary. Am making three kinds (this may be pathological indecisiveness) including grandma's, sweet potato and zuchhini. Is there any consensus on process for reheating frozen latkes?
                                                        And any suggestions for alternatives to the usual apple or apple-pear sauce, and sour cream? thanks
                                                        zoeym

                                                        BTW, last year I added parmesan to the basic and got raves. I saw another recipe (maybe in this thread?) that buried a few tablespoons of shredded cheddar.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: zmichaels

                                                          Alternative suggestions, greek yogurt, pumpkin butter, apple butter, maple syrup, softened goat cheese, plum puree, cheese sauce.

                                                          I would bake in the oven frozen premade latke.

                                                          Love the parm idea!

                                                          1. re: zmichaels

                                                            Combine a T. chopped chives, 1 T. horseradish, and 1 T. chopped parsley with an 8 ounce container of creme fraiche, beaten slightly. Top with a few caviar eggs (salmon roe is fine....)

                                                          2. There's actually a great roundup of latke recipes at http://www.oneforthetable.com/oftt/ha...; I'm going to vary slightly from my grandmother's method and try the Zabar's recipe (http://www.oneforthetable.com/oftt/st...). The worst that can happen is that my Yiddeshe Mama will discern the extra egginess. I also highly, highly recommend homemade applesauce if you have time.