Crispy, Lacy Potato Latkes

Autumn, Savory Recipes • 13 Dec 2012

The smell of hot grease and searing onions fills the room, every inch of air awash with aromatic molecules clinging mercilessly to the atmosphere. Crackling hot oil splatters my skin like diminutive, prickly needles. The pain is worth it. Latkes are worth the grease, the burns, and the inexpugnable odor.

Latkes are hearty fare, delicately fried in aromatic oil until rendered perfectly addictive. Ideally the golden orbs are richly browned on the outside whilst soft and creamy on the inside. Such auspicious little cakes they are, crackly and crispy and flaked with snowy flecks of salt.

Potato pancakes are the bastion of Hanukkah viands, lacy layers of shredded potato glimmering with fragrant peanut oil, and woven together simply with onion, egg and flour.

Sometimes my latkes don’t make it far. We eat them as we cook, barely cooled enough for safe consumption. Traditionally, latkes are served smothered in apple sauce or sour cream but I also love the lavish combination of jeweled salmon roe, silken smoked salmon and tangy crème fraiche.

Our stomachs know no limits, savory pancakes sliding down our throats in boundless quantities. We savor each bite while watching our Hanukkah candles burn down to stubs. But we beat the blaze. Crispy, salty, savory latkes are no match for expeditiously burning flames.

*Latke-making tips

Use starchy potatoes that are low in moisture, such as Russets. They will crisp more effectively.  Yukon Golds are a bit more moist and less starchy but also a good choice.

Shred potatoes uniformly, squeezing as much moisture as possible.

It isn’t necessary to beat egg whites, but I find it does yield a slightly creamier center.

I find frying in cast iron is best since the surface distributes and retains heat really well.

After you remove a batch of pancakes from the pan, wait about a minute before adding more batter to return the oil to a higher temperature.

Keep latkes hot on a baking sheet in 250 degree oven while you finish frying the remaining pancakes. Or eat immediately.

If you make latkes in advance, reheat at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Crispy, Lacy Potato Latkes

4 large potatoes, preferably Russet
1 large white onion
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons flour or matzo meal
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Peanut oil for frying, or a mixture of half peanut oil and half vegetable oil

1. Set aside a large baking sheet lined with paper towels.

2. Peel potatoes and grate lengthwise, using the large holes of a hand-held box grater, into a bowl of ice water.  Grate the onions into a separate bowl using a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grating disc.

3. Wrap potatoes and onions in two layers of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel, squeezing out as much liquid as possible into a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, allowing the starch to settle to the bottom of the bowl.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together eggs yolks, flour or matzo meal, salt and pepper. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

5. Pour off the liquid from the potato water and add the starch residue to the potatoes and onions. Gently fold in the egg yolk mixture and the egg whites.

6. In a cast iron skillet, heat about 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Drop 1/8 cups of batter into the sizzling oil, making sure not to crowd the pan.  Flatten pancakes with the back of a spatula to get 3-inch wide silver dollars, and flip when the first side is crispy and golden.  Fry bottoms until the edges are crispy and browned. Remove pancakes and set onto paper towel lined baking sheet.

7. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan as needed, making sure to let the temperature rise before adding more pancakes.

8. Keep cooked latkes on baking sheet covered in foil. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and serve immediately with accompaniments of choice.

Yield:  Serves 4-6.

2 Responses

  1. Mom

    Oh so yummy looking Kate. Mine never ever looked as pretty. I must try this recipe and yes they will be eaten as I stand there. What is on the sour cream? Is  it caviar?

  2. It is crème fraiche. And the topping is salmon roe. Amazing!

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