By Cat, Dec 2008; updated Dec 2009 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
My Dad used to make potato pancakes, especially for late night suppers. I loved these, but didn’t learn about latkes until I was in my 20s and on my own in Portland OR. They are so easy to make, I’m surprised I don’t make them more often.
This recipe is adapted from one on Fine Cooking, originally by Layla Schlack (1). This version seems to be more authentic than the following version (with leeks) in the way the potatoes are prepared before cooking. See How to Make Latkes (2) for photo essay on the method. Using the starch from the uncooked potatoes binds the latkes better than using flour, bread crumbs or matzoh, according to the author.
However, it also calls for ‘vegetable oil’ which is not good for high-heat frying; instead, I would use lard, but a person following Jewish dietary laws might use suet or olive oil instead (although olive oil is not the best choice for medium-high heat). Another option would be to use ghee (clarified butter). See Good Fats for Cooking, for more.
Makes 8 latkes.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 1 lb russets, peeled
- yellow onion, to yield ½ cup when finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ – ¾ cup lard or other heat-tolerant fat
- small, medium & large bowls
- box grater
- colander & cheesecloth
- 12” cast iron skillet
- ¼ cup measuring cup with flat bottom
- slotted stainless steel spatula
- baking sheet
- Preheat oven to 200°F; line a baking sheet with paper towel and place it on the oven rack. This will keep the cooked latkes warm while you cook another batch.
- Chop onion finely and place in medium bowl.
- Prep potatoes: Peel potatoes. Fill the large bowl halfway with cold water. Hold box grater over the bowl and grate potatoes into the water (or onto a cutting board and then immediately put them in the water before grating the next potato).
- When all the potatoes are grated, line the colander with cheesecloth and set it in the sink. Transfer potatoes to colander with slotted spoon. Reserve potato water in bowl.
- Gather up the cheesecloth around the grated potatoes and squeeze firmly until no more liquid drips into sink. Transfer potatoes to medium bowl with onion.
- You will note a white gluey starch has accumulated in the bottom of the large bowl; carefully pour off the water and reserve the starch. Add that, along with egg, 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper to the potatoes and onions. Mix all together using your hands.
- Add enough fat to skillet to measure ⅛” deep, then heat over medium-high heat until a potato strand dropped in it sizzles vigorously.
- Cook latkes: Using the quarter-cup measure, scoop out ¼ cup of the potato mixture onto a slotted spatula, then use the bottom of the measuring cup to flatten the potato mix to about ¼” thick, letting excess liquid fall into a small bowl (not back into the potato mix). The latke does not need to be perfectly round. Slide it onto the oil. Make 1 or 2 more latkes and slide into oil. Fry, flipping once, until golden-brown, 4 – 6 minutes total. Transfer to baking sheet in oven to keep warm.
- Repeat with remaining potato mixture, stirring between batches.
- Serve immediately, or cool and freeze for up to 1 week. Reheat in a single layer, uncovered, in a 300°F oven. Serve with a dollop of applesauce and/or sour cream on the side, or Raw Beet Salad.
Potato-Leek Latkes (with Beet Salad)
I’ve adapted this recipe from the December 23, 2009 issue of the Daily InterLake (originally by Bonnie S Benwick in the Washington Post (3)). The original recipe includes ground beef in the latke, which I have eliminated as I think the flavor of the beef would overwhelm the delicate flavor of leeks and potatoes.
In the original recipe, you need a food processor to process the potatoes and leeks. I don’t have one, so I’ve modified accordingly.
The oil used for frying the latkes must be quite hot; olive oil cannot withstand that amount of heat. Lard or palm oil are both good for this high-heat, as is coconut oil. Clarified butter (ghee) is another option. See Good Fats for Cooking, for more.
The original recipe makes 30 latkes to serve 4 – 5 people. I’ve modified to serve 2.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- leaves from 3 stems flat-leaf parsley
- 4 medium leeks
- 6 oz potato
- 2 small-medium eggs (or 1 large)
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ tsp fine-grind unrefined sea salt, or more to taste
- ¼tsp black pepper, or more to taste
- lard or other fat suitable for frying (see Good Fats for Cooking)
- ½ lemon, for serving
- Raw beet salad
- 3-quart saucepan
- box grater
- large bowl
- cast iron skillet
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Bring 1 ½ quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan.
- Meanwhile, prep the veggies: Chop parsley leaves finely; set aside.
- Trim the root ends of the leeks, discard the tough green leaves and outer layers. Cut remaining white and light green part lengthwise, then slice thinly, crosswise. Place into a large container of cool tap water and let rest while dirt & grit sinks to bottom, and leeks float. Remove leeks using slotted spoon.
- Peel potatoes and cut into 2 – 3 pieces.
- Pre-cook potatoes: Add potatoes and leeks to saucepan of boiling water. After water returns to a boil, cover and cook for about 8 – 10 minutes, until potatoes are just done. Do not overcook. Remove to a bowl too cool enough to handle; add a few ice cubes to hasten the cooling.
- When cooled enough to handle, grate the potatoes against the large-holed side of a box grater, into a large bowl. Add leek slices, chopped parsley, eggs, panko, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- While potatoes are cooking and cooling, prepare the raw beet salad.
- Fry latkes: Heat lard or palm oil in cast iron skillet until quite hot. Drop about 5 large spoonfuls into the skillet, using the back of the spoon or spatula to flatten them slightly. Cook for a few minutes, until browned on the edges, then turn over and cook for a few minutes, watching them closely, just until golden.
- Transfer carefully to the lined baking sheet to drain slightly.
- Repeat until all the mixture is used up, adding more oil as needed.
- Serve: Cut lemon half into wedges to accompany the latkes and the beet salad. Squeeze juice over and enjoy!
- Find Cooking recipe for Potato Latkes, originally by Layla Schlack: finecooking.com/recipes/latkes.aspx
- Find Cooking: How to Make Latkes finecooking.com/articles/how-to-make-latkes.aspx
- Washington Post recipe, by Bonnie S Benwick, Dec 9, 2009 washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/leek-and-beef-latkes-with-beet-salad/11110