Home Cook: It’s Latke Time!

Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights, and the word Hanukkah means “rededication.” The holiday commemorates a miracle that occurred in the second century B.C.E. when the Jews restored their destroyed temple in Jerusalem. They found a small jug of oil to light their eternal light, and the oil naturally should have lasted only one night but it lasted eight—hence the eight candles lit over the eight nights of Hanukkah. This is also the reason that a lot of oil is used in foods associated with this holiday—such as potato latkes.

My childhood memories of Hanukkah are about playing dreidel games, eating chocolate gelt, lighting the menorah, and of course, eating latkes, the classic Hanukkah treat. They can be served as an appetizer, a side, or a main course, and they’re best when paired with applesauce or sour cream! I remember making all types of latke treats with my grandmother, who pronounced them LOT-keys.

It’s not easy to make perfect latkes. There’s always a chance they’ll be soggy and oily and the inside won’t cook properly. I like to make them fresh so they’re crisp and hot. Hands down, the very best latkes I’ve had are those from Lydie Marshall’s book A Passion for Potatoes. They’re delicious—the perfect classic latkes!

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1/2 cup peanut oil, light olive oil, or rendered chicken fat

1) Peel and grate the potatoes using the largest holes on a 4-sided grater. If you prefer to use a food processor, fit it with the grater with the largest holes and shred.

2) Grate the onion in the same manner.

3) Transfer the grated potatoes and onion to a kitchen strainer placed over a large bowl. Press out the excess moisture with a wooden spoon and transfer the vegetables to another bowl. Discard the liquid and starch that have been squeezed from the vegetables.

4) Set a platter in the oven and preheat the oven to 200˚F to keep the fried latkes warm.

5) Spread several layers of paper towels flat on the counter. Heat 1/3 cup of the oil or rendered chicken fat in a large nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, quickly drop in about 3 tablespoons of potato-onion mixture and flatten it out to a 3 1/2-inch disk; repeat twice. (You should be able to make 3 latkes at a time.) Peek after 1 minute, and when the underside is golden brown, turn the latkes over and fry the other side until golden brown.

7) Remove the latkes with a skimmer, letting the fat drain back into the skillet, and place them on the paper towels. Transfer them to the preheated platter while you fry the rest.

** Note, when I am making these for kosher friends, I use light olive oil instead of rendered chicken fat.

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