You don’t have to celebrate Chanukah to appreciate the crispy circle of joy that is a latke (aka superb potato pancake).
Every family has a strong opinion on how latkes should be made. Some swear by flat, stringy and crispy, while others prefer them thick with a substantial middle chew. Some people squeeze out the water, while others keep all the starches in. The beauty of this delicious, addictive, round family favorite is its near inability to fail. After all, we are talking about potatoes fried in oil. My advice, serve them right out of the frying pan and always make more than you think you need.
It’s like Houdini.
They just disappear.
And you don’t even know how.
This recipe is for a classic no frills latke, the kind my Babi used to make, but she obviously didn’t have a recipe. My ideal version of the perfect latke is crispy and lacey on the outside, savory and gooey on the inside. While I’m on the topic of Babi’s tradition, sour cream and applesauce are the traditional latke accompaniments.
You might think you could serve them with duck fat avocado cream, lychee blood orange chutney, truffle hot sauce, or even ketchup. While that’s all nice and hipster, it’s tradition for a reason.
It really does work. But, if you must, you can add chives or sugar to the sour cream.
No Fail Latke
8-9 Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and soaked in cold water with a splash of lemon juice until ready to use
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons neutral oil, plus more for frying
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, very fine breadcrumbs, matzah meal, or potato starch to keep gluten free
1 teaspoon baking powder
- Combine all the ingredients together.
- Grate the potatoes using the kugel blade in a food processor fitted with the grating insert or grate with a box grater.
- In a deep skillet, heat a neutral oil (NOT olive oil) over medium heat until shimmering and very hot but not splattering. Add a chunk of carrot to the oil for frying. It will prevent the oil from burning.
- Scoop in mounds of potato mixture, making sure not to crowd the skillet. Flatten them slightly with a spatula and fry until golden brown on one side, about 3 – 4 minutes. Flip and repeat.
- Transfer to a paper-towel lined tray. Remove any leftover loose potato bits from the pan, so that they don’t burn. Repeat the process until all the latkes are fried. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low (200ºF) oven until ready to serve.
- Idaho russet potatoes are what comes to mind when you think “potato”– russet-skinned, white flesh. They have a neutral potato flavor with a fluffy, creamy, and soft texture. They’re best for baking, mashing, and making French fries.
- Soaking the peeled potatoes in cold water with lemon juice prevents them from browning.
- Add a chunk of carrot to the oil for frying. It will prevent the oil from burning.
- Cover the batter with plastic wrap while you fry, so that less air hits it and it doesn’t brown as quickly.
- Do not refrigerate latkes for later. They will not taste nearly as good.
- You can freeze the latkes immediately after frying and draining off the oil. When ready to serve, transfer them directly from the freezer into a 400ºF oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until hot and crisp. Flip halfway through.
- Oven-fried latkes: Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Pour a thin layer of oil on in a rimmed baking sheet, scoop on the latke batter, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Flip over the latkes then bake for 10 more minutes, until golden brown.