How to Make Perfect Golden Brown Latkes for Hanukkah

December 15, 2014

Latkes, also known as potato pancakes, are a traditional Jewish food served on Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the menorah oil in the temple.  These delectable fried potato cakes are made from a combination of shredded potato, onion, eggs, and matzo meal.  Some people prefer to use flour or breadcrumbs but personally, matzo meal has more significance in this recipe.  After the latkes have been fried until golden brown, they are served up with applesauce and sour cream.  Since latkes are a must-have dish during Hanukkah, you will want to make sure that yours turn out absolutely perfect.  Each bite should be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing latkes at home.

1. These days there seems to be as many varieties of potatoes as there are countries in the world.  While the heirloom purple potato might be calling your name, stick with the plain old russet for this recipe.  Their high starch content helps crisp the latkes when frying.

2. Jewish grandmothers might disagree but it is perfectly acceptable to shred the potatoes in the food processor instead of by hand with a grater.  If you decide to use a food processor, make sure to pulse the shredded potatoes a few times to get the correct consistency.

3. Grated potatoes oxidize quickly so cover them with water that has been spiked with citric acid or lemon juice soon after they have been shredded.  This will prevent them from turning brown.

4. The fat used to fry your latkes largely depends on your Jewish heritage.  Sephardic Jews traditionally fry their latkes in olive oil because Hanukkah occurs at the end of the olive-pressing season while Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe typically fried their latkes in schmaltz, or rendered poultry fat.  You can certainly use any of these fats but plain vegetable with a high smoking point will do just fine.  Be generous with the oil, the pan should be filled at least to a 1/4 inch.  

5. Do not over crowd the pan.  When there are too many latkes frying at once, they will steam instead of fry.  This means that the end result will be oil logged and soggy.

6. Drain the fried latkes on a rack instead of paper towels.  This will keep your latkes crispy.

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