Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Oh-So-Good Latkes...Otherwise Known as Potato Pancakes

(November 29, 2007)
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Rob asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

Chanukah starts soon and I would really like to make potato pancakes on the first night. I've made them before and they're "good" but they always have a lighter (not crisp) portion on the center of each side. I've tried keeping the pancakes in the skillet longer but the rest of the surface of each pancake just get overly dark and burnt tasting. What am I doing wrong??

Lauren says...

Well, since I'm not with you when you're making your potato pancakes (also called "latkes") I can only assume that the problem is that you're using the curved underside of a spoon to flatten the pancakes, when pan-frying. Often, if using a spoon to ration the batter into the hot oil, the cook will instinctively use the same spoon to press down on the batter, trying to make it level. What the spoon does is create an area in the top center that's concave, causing the pancakes to not brown evenly. I suggest using a ¼-cup dry measure (which has a flat, squared-off bottom) that will allow you to tamp down lightly on the potato mixture, while also leveling the top, which will prevent any inadvertent indentation. The other alternative is using the same flat turning spatula used to turn the pancakes while frying. I hope this helps! Email me and let me know…Oh, and just in case you'd like to try the potato pancakes that makes my family really happy, here's my recipe for my Oh-So-Good Latkes. Enjoy!

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Oh-So-Good Latkes...Otherwise Known as Potato Pancakes

Yield: about 12 pancakes; serves 6

Latke - Potato Pancakes

Crisp on the outside and wonderfully seasoned on the inside, these oil-fried potato pancakes are served during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Latkes, like most other traditional Jewish foods, represent much more than just something wonderful to eat. Hanukkah commemorates the Jews' defeat of the Syrians some two thousand years ago and the relighting of the eternal oil in the temple of Jerusalem. Thus during the eight nights of celebration, Jewish people all over the world light their menorahs (usually using candles instead of oil) and deliberately use oil to fry various foods. In this way, the Jewish heritage is kept alive through this annual re-enactment of events that symbolize the struggle, perseverance and ultimate survival of the Jewish people. However, this is one of those traditional recipes that tastes so great that anyone of any heritage will adore and enjoy serving it throughout the year. Serve these potato pancakes hot, accompanied with Homemade Applesauce. Any time I've suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that's unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

    Special Equipment:

  • Food processor or hand-held grater
  • Triple-mesh strainer
  • 10- to 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably seasoned cast iron
  • Deep-fry thermometer (optional)
  • Small gravy ladle or ¼ cup dry measuring cup
  • Spatter shield (optional)
    Ingredients:

  • 4 large Idaho baking potatoes
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 4 tablespoons matzo meal
  • 2 generous tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley and/or fresh chives
  • Kosher or sea salt, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Flavorless vegetable oil or mild peanut oil, as needed for frying
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

1) To prepare and puree or grate the potatoes: Scrub and peel the potatoes and place them in a bowl of ice water to prevent discoloration and to remove some of the excess surface starch. When ready to fry, remove the potatoes from the water, rub dry and, if using a food processor, cut into chunks. Place the potatoes with the onion wedges into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until fairly smooth. Pour mixture into a triple-mesh strainer that sits over another bowl and place a doubled sheet of paper toweling directly on top of the potato mixture to keep it from turning brown. Allow to drain for 3 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, for a more textural mixture, rub the potatoes and onion against a hand-held grater over a bowl. Drain as directed above.

2) To heat the oil: Cover a few wire cooling racks with a double-thickness of paper toweling. Pour vegetable oil into a 10-to 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) to measure 1/2 inch. Heat until the top looks shimmering but not smoking (365o F).

3) To assemble the batter: Pour the drained potato mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, matzo meal, chopped parsley and/or chives and mix well with potato mixture. Season the mixture generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

ginger 4) To fry pancakes: Using 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, scoop portions of potato mixture and ease it into the hot oil. Use the bottom of the dry measure or a flat turning spatula (not a spoon) to flatten slightly. Fry until golden brown on both sides (turning once) and, using 2 spatulas to help press out excess oil, carefully remove each cooked pancake from the hot oil to drain on the prepared wire racks. Continue frying until you've finished the batter.

5) To serve: Serve hot on a warmed serving tray accompanied by fresh applesauce and, if desired, just before serving, sprinkle the tops of the latkes lightly with chives and salt. (Don't salt the latkes until just before serving since applying salt to the exterior in advance will cause the potatoes to lose some of their crispness.)

Time Management Tips:

  • Lauren Logo The potatoes can be peeled early in the day and kept totally submerged in water. Leave them at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerate for longer storage.


  • The latkes can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance and left at a comfortable room temperature. To reheat, place them on a wire rack that sits within a large shallow baking sheet in a preheated 350° F oven until hot and crisp, about 15 minutes.


  • Cooked latkes also can be frozen in a heavy freezer container separated by sheets of waxed paper. (If planning to freeze them, remove from hot oil when lightly golden but not a deep brown.) To reheat, don't thaw but heat on a wire rack within a shallow baking sheet in a preheated 400° F oven until hot throughout, brown and very crisp, about 20 minutes. Cover pancakes loosely with aluminum foil (shiny side up to deflect heat), if the latkes start to become overly brown.

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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through Amazon.com.

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at www.laurengroveman.com

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.