Fear of latkes
In a moment of bravado I agreed to host a Hanukah party for my family and now the prospect of making potato pancakes terrifies me. the last (and only) time I attempted this feat I burned both hands and nearly burnt down my kitchen. all for a relatively meager output of latkes.
I am thinking of ordering pre-made latkes and them heating them for company in duck fat. is this a good idea? how far in advance can I cook (or I guess recook) the pancakes? advice welcome. also, supereasy latkes recipes welcome in case I decide to reattempt making them from scratch.
Nothing tastes better than fresh warm latkes w, sour cream or apple sauce or both (or anything else you want to put on them). That said, there is just about nothing messier (splattered oil everywhere to cook. That, said, one time a year, it's worth it. I've tried making them ahead and then heating them up but it never tastes quite the same. I've also tried buying the frozen latkes, they're o.k. but again it's worth the effort and small burns for the "real thing". Good luck.
My family recipe -- ours are the grated sort (rather than a more hashbrowny/pancake type)! I promise these are the most delicious ever.
2 large russet (baking) potatoes
1 T flour
Cayenne pepper or chopped jalapeno
Grate potato and onion on large hole of grater – wrap in cloth and squeeze out moisture
Place in a mixing bowl
Crack egg into potato And mix well
Add balance ingredients
If too wet add more flour
Take enough mix in your fingers (about 1 ½ T) per latke – and place in pan – you can pat them flat with a spatula.
Fry in hot oil in pan (medium high) – not too much oil but enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
Makes about 8 – place on paper towel to drain.
If you want to make double amount – do it 2x rather than doubling ingredients.
Brokentelephone's recipe is a great basic one, similar to what I've been using for years, without the jalapeno, though. I saw Ina Garten making them a while back and she used baking powder in her recipe. I tried it on a whim and it makes a nice difference, they're fluffier and rise a bit. Not necessarily an improvement, just a bit different.
I never re-heat them, they're just not the same and besides, they never last that long in my house.;-)
I think that one secret to good latkes is in the pan. You need a deep sautee pan, with straight sides, not a skillet with skimpy sloped sides, so the oil stays in the pan and does not splatter all over your cook surface and counters. Ever since I acquired a Calphalon large sautee pan several years ago, making latkes has become much easier.
Also ,use 2 spatulas for flipping them -- one to slide under the latke, and one to hold at an angle, onto which you flip the uncooked side, and then gently lower it onto the pan surface. That way you are reducing the splattering of oil as you turn over the latkes.
I know that purist say you have to grate the potatoes by hand. I use the food processor, but using the chopping blade, and pulsing. (If you use the grating blade you end up with hash browns, not latkes). The food processor saves a lot of time & knuckles.
Really, really good tips, masha. I only have one more to add: Squeeze the heck out of the potatoes and drain as much as is humanly possible. That makes the difference between good latkes and mediocre ones. My wonderful former neighbor also taught me to add a little bit of potato starch to my latkes, which helps them crisp up.
When you squeeze the heck out of the, squeeze them into a bowl. Then let the liquid settle. The white powdery stuff at the bottom of the bowl is potato starch. Gently pour off the liquid, then scape up the starch and add it back into your potatoes. No need to buy a box of potato starch.
Good tip! I happen to have a big box of potato starch that I bought on sale for about 99 cents that I'm itching to be rid of, though, so it goes into almost everything these days. They're way better in latkes than they are in those gluten free muffins I tried to make a few weekends ago! =)
I vote against reheating pre-made latkes. The best you'll achieve in that route is passable mediocrity. And that will reqire finesse. So just go for the real thing. The recipe is not hard. The hard part is volume production.
One secret that is not so secret: get as much moisture out of the potatoes as you can. My weapon of choice is cheesecloth. Grate and salt the potatoes ahead of time. When its time to mix a batch of batter (and you might need to mix multiple batches if you are producing in volume; do not have batter sitting ready too long) put the shredded salted, rested spuds in a good size piece of cheesecloth and wrap it around and squeeze the liquids out like crazy. Make it into a tourniquet using a wooden spoon to really get some leverage. The more moisture you get out now, the less greasy your latkes will be. If you do a dry-run ahead of time, train an assistant to do this so you can be frying one batch while the next batter is mixed.
You can keep the latkes warm in the oven if you really want a formal sit down meal, but the latkes are never as good as when they leave the pan, so we usually eat buffet style and eat them as soon as they leave the pan (and after drying them with some paper towels to remove any cooking oil).
Why not recruit helpers to do the frying? :) (Even if you're not averse to doing it or daunted by it, frying latkes can easily be made into a collective sort of activity)
Anyway, it's also completely possible to have great and crispy re-heated latkes if you freeze them. It might not be *quite* as perfect as right out of the pan, but honestly, if they're nice and crispy in the first place, they'll refresh pretty damn well-- and it can certainly be worth the trade-off if you actually want to have burners free for other things for a party. Note that this is mainly relevant for the ultra-crispy type made with coarse grated potatoes and their starch, and practically nothing else (minimal egg, no flour or matzo meal).
Here's how I do it:
- Fry up a big batch in advance, until they're golden but not dark golden. The key to making it easy is using deep enough pans, heavy enough to hold heat and a modest layer of oil, so that they cook at a steady rate and you don't have to keep adjusting the heat, checking them, refilling the oil, flipping them daintily, and all those other maneuvers that are likely to get hot oil spattering around :) My weapon of choice is a large skillet with straight tall sides (I think it's called a "chicken fryer" or something?) I have no experience with duck fat, but I do like to fry them in a mix of oil and chicken shmalts, so duck would probably be even better!
- Drain briefly on paper, then freeze them practically immediately on a sheet in layers between waxed paper.
- Reheat in a hot oven (e.g., 400) in a single layer. If you're heating a lot at once, leave the oven door slightly ajar so steam will escape, and they'll be crispier. They don't take long to reheat, and they'll "re-fry" and be impressively crunchy.
I agree completely with the comment above about removing moisture. A couple years ago I also had a bit of a revelation about how to keep big batches of grated potatoes in prime shape through the frying process, which completely changed how I make them and avoids the need to continue to grate and squeeze as you go. A previous thread with some discussion was here:
Shoot, I guess I'm lazy but to me latkes have always been quick, easy food I make for myself when I have a craving, or for someone else if I really like them!
All I do is grate (yes, by hand) two large russet potatoes which I do not bother to peel, spoon out a bit of extraneous liquid, mix in some salt, an egg, and a small handful of flour, and fry 'em up in a decent fry pan. The only secret I know is to make sure the oil is hot enough before putting in the batter, but otherwise they're pretty fool-proof. It doesn't make too much of a mess, and they taste pretty great without all the draining of the potato liquid. Maybe I use more flour, I don't know, but no one has ever said anything other than "MORE." Well, maybe "MORE, please."
Right. What it really does is use up the oil. And yield greasier latkes.
I've never read, only observed, that boiling off the water really takes it out of the frying oil. The oil looses it and has to be replaced, and the splattering depletes the oil. Lots of oil in = bad. Less boiling, more frying = good.
I prefer the no-grated knuckles latke which we believe is quite good, and amazingly easy; it has been our choice for years.
1 package Simply Potatoes (found in the refrigerater section by the eggs. They say hash brown potatoes, but they are uncooked, shredded and very dry.)
1 1/2 tsp salt (baking powder, optional)
1 onion, grated (I use the food processor)
6-7 Tbsp flour
Peanut oil for frying
Each bag makes about 95 cocktail size or about 18 regular size.
I always make them ahead, freeze and reheat in a hot oven; although this recipe is easy and fast enough to do the frying right at the party, if you don't mind the mess,
I just made 200 cocktail size and more regular size last night, and well, unfortunately my whole house smells like a latke...hopefully will dissapate by the weekend. Happy Chanukah!
the today show had a segment on this 12/09 at around 10a. i can't find the link but i did find another latke guide by mark bittman: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28350489/...
Potato 'nik' and latkes
4 to 6 servings, Time: About 40 minutes
• About 2 pounds starchy potatoes, like Idaho or russet, peeled
• 1 medium onion, peeled
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 2 tablespoons bread crumbs or matzo meal
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, as needed
1. Grate the potatoes and onion by hand or with the grating disk of a food processor; drain well in a colander or strainer. Combine the potatoes and onion in a large bowl with the eggs and bread crumbs; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Put about 1/8 inch of oil in a large, deep skillet, preferably nonstick or cast-iron, over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (it will shimmer), put the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom is nicely browned, at least 15 minutes, adjusting the heat so the mixture sizzles but doesn’t burn.
3. To turn, slide the cake out onto a large plate, cover with another large plate, and invert the 2 plates together. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and slide the pancake back in, cooked side up. Cook for another 15 minutes or so, until nicely browned, then serve hot or warm.
Latkes (Potato Pancakes
)The original: Prepare the potato batter in Step 1 and heat the pan as described in Step 2. When the oil is hot, put large spoonfuls of batter into the pan to form individual pancakes. Cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total per pancake. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven until all of the latkes are finished.
Other vegetables you can use: sweet potatoes (cooked over slightly lower heat for about 5 minutes less per side); a combination of potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, or turnips is also good.
Chef's note: If you don’t use a nonstick pan, coat the bottom of your skillet with about 1/8 inch of oil. And turn the thing carefully.
The best latkes I ever had were my ex's granny's and her secret was that she put both raw and fried grated onions in the batter. OMG, they were heavenly. I remember going to her place and she would stand over her electric frying pan for an hour making them until everyone was full. Talk about a grandma's love.
In regards to making latkes ahead of time, you definitely can. This would probably be a lot less stressful for you.
Here are Joan Nathan's tips (from the NY Times site) on the subject:
"What I do is make the latkes way ahead, place them on a paper to drain, then stick them on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When frozen I put them in a plastic bag. Then when I am ready to serve I stick them on a cookie sheet and pop them in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until they are crisp. If I am making them that day, I will fry them in the morning and let them drain on a paper towel on the counter all day. Then I'll crisp them up in the oven at night. Don't refrigerate them, they'll get gummy. Nothing worse than a gummy-tasting pancake."
HI everyone - I just want to let you know that I did end up making fresh latkes and I only burned myself once! To be honest, it's not the kind of thing I want to do on a regular basis but my guests really appreciated them (and they tasted good!) I did use the Simply Potatoes which was a BIG help.