a recipe for delicious living
Oh-So-Good Latkes...Otherwise Known as Potato Pancakes
(November 29, 2007)
...submit your question to Lauren!
Rob asked 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
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!
Oh-So-Good Latkes...Otherwise Known as Potato Pancakes
Yield: about 12 pancakes; serves 6
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.
- 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)
- 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.
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:
- 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.
Questions for Lauren Groveman's Kitchen:
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
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
Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and
blessed with three wonderful children.