It’s Hanukkah, it’s Christmas, it’s New Year’s. That means it’s time to indulge in tasty delights with family and friends. In other words, time for latkes, the crispy potato and onion patties fried to perfection. More than other foods, latkes are part of the core Jewish tradition, at least in the USA. Most commonly, they are made with an egg or two to bind the grated potatoes and onions together though there are variations. These tasty bites use flour and an optional egg-replacer to duplicate the same fatty crispness, no animal products needed.
For us, they are a once-a-year treat, given how addicting the fried potato flavor can be and the waistline worries they may create. It’s understandable if you’re tempted to make them more often especially when eating them hot and fresh out of the pan.
Here’s a secret. You can enjoy make-ahead latkes that taste as good as just-fried (sorry, they are not baked). The technique was developed back when we held giant holiday parties, involving hundreds of latkes cooked the day before the party. This tried-and-true method for making the latkes in advance means the cook doesn’t have to be a slave to the hot oil. The trick is to fry only to a light golden brown, drain fully on brown paper and heat in a hot oven on a baking sheet just before serving.
I remember one party when trays and trays of crispy latkes were emerging hot from the oven and we were all laughing, eating and drinking. My friend had already eaten a dozen when she discovered to her horror that they were fried, not baked, and definitely not low calorie friendly.
This recipe makes two dozen small latkes, which we think is the right amount for a one-time holiday meal splurge.
2 Large Russet Potatoes, grated (large shred)
1/2 Sweet Yellow or White Onion, grated
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
1/4 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Egg Replacer (optional – can use powder or liquid but would not recommend anything gritty like flax or chia)
Peanut Oil for frying
1. Mix the Batter: Peel potatoes and let them sit in water until ready to use as they oxidize (turn brown) quickly). Grate the potatoes using the larger size holes. Grate the onion and add to potatoes. This can be done is a food processor or by hand. If you use a food processor, use the large grating blade not the regular chopping blade. Add flour, salt, pepper and egg replacer if using and mix well. If you omit the egg replacer, you may want to add a little more flour as a binder. We never bother with the egg replacer but some people like it. Adjust flour so mixture is batter-like, not too runny or stiff.
2. Fry the Latkes: In a large frying pan, heat about 1/4″ peanut oil until very hot. Test with a dollop of batter to be sure the mixture sizzles as hot oil is the key to a crispy texture without too much fat clinging to the pancakes. Drop by the spoonful so pancakes are about 2 inches in diameter. When the edges start to brown slightly, turn and fry a few minutes more until light brown.
3. Drain the Latkes: When the latkes are done, drain on brown paper (we use grocery bags several layers thick). If you plan to re-heat, be sure the latkes are only light brown as they will brown further in the reheating.
4. Reheat the Latkes (Optional): If you want to reheat, you can store the latkes in a single layer on a paper towel covered baking sheet when they are cool. To reheat, remove the paper towels, spread the latkes out and place in a hot oven, 375-400 degrees for 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they do not over brown.
5. Serve and Enjoy: Serve with a dollop of applesauce, cranberry sauce, non-dairy sour cream or simply enjoy just the way they are.
Give thanks for this miraculous yearly treat. Amen.