Hanukkah begins after sunset Wednesday December 1 this year (2010) and though I’m not Jewish far be it for me to let a festive occasion involving food pass by without getting into the mix. Like birthday cake, those foods which mark a holiday shape of the joy of the season, often feeling out of context when eaten at other times of the year for me.
What is a Latke?
A latke, should you not have had the delight of eating one, is a close cousin to an American shredded potato hash brown. There are variations to the potato mixture but they are all simple, perhaps involving onion as mine does, and fried in oil. This last part is the main symbolism for Hanukkah. The frying in oil reminds us of the one day of oil that burned for 8 days in the holy temple’s menorah.
Traditionally latkes are served with applesauce and sour cream. I personally love a more rustic, roasted homemade applesauce for the flavor and texture which is fantastic on latkes.
The flavor combination of the fried, slightly salty potato-onion, with the chunky sweet applesauce and the sour cream is nothing less than sublime.
Latke Recipe Ingredients + Notes
Russet Potatoes. The potatoes are peeled and grated to form the potato pancakes.
Yellow Onion. Also peeled and grated to be mixed in with the potatoes.
Eggs. Helps bind the grated potatoes and onions together to form patties for pan frying.
Flour. Regular or gluten-free measure-for-measure flour can be used. This also helps with binding the latke mixture together.
Kosher Salt. For flavor. We recommend this type of salt because it’s a less salty tasting salt and dissolves well.
Oil. Used for pan frying. Sunflower oil or safflower oil are favorites because they can cook at high temperatures without smoking and have mild flavor.
Sour cream. Optional topping.
How to Make it – Step-by-Step
STEP 1. Prepare the Potatoes.
Place the grated potatoes in a large bowl. Fill with cold water and allow to sit for a few minutes, swish them around. This helps remove the starch.
Drain in a colander.
STEP 2. Remove moisture from potatoes and onions.
Return the drained potatoes to the mixing bowl. Combine with the onions.
Place the mixture in cheesecloth or a thin clean kitchen towel. Squeeze the mixture to remove any excess water.
Return the mixture to the dry mixing bowl.
STEP 3. Make the Latkes.
Sprinkle the flour and salt over the potato pancake mixture. Add the eggs.
Mix to fully combine.
STEP 4. Cook the Latkes.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover to the bottom of the pan.
Heat the oil until ripples can be seen on the oil’s surface.
Form patties with the potato mixture about 2 1/2-3 inches in diameter.
Gently lower them into the oil using a spatula. Be careful of splattering!
Allow to sit undisturbed until the bottom has turned golden brown. Gently flip over and cook until the underside is golden brown.
NOTE: a spoon can be used to stabilize the latke along with the spatula when turning.
Remove them and place on a paper towel on a plate to absorb any excess oil. Serve warm.
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Potato Latkes with Roasted Spiced Applesauce and Sour Cream
Ingredients for the Roasted Spiced Applesauce:
- 3 pounds flavorful Apples; peeled , cored and cut into 8 pieces per apple
- 2 teaspoons Granulated Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground Cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Ingredients for the Potato Latkes:
- 4 medium-large Russet Potatoes , peeled and grated (with a food processor grating plate or by hand)
- ½ large Yellow Onion , peeled and grated (with a food processor grating plate or by hand)
- 2 Eggs , lightly beaten
- 1 ½ tablespoon Flour (All Purpose or favorite Gluten-Free blend if making them gluten-free)
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Oil for frying (I use Sunflower Oil due to its ability to cook at high heat without smoking and mild flavor)
- Garnish: Sour Cream
- Cheesecloth or thin kitchen towel
Instructions for Roasted Spiced Applesauce:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the apples, sugar, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl. Toss apples to evenly coat.
- Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray to prevent sticking and place the apples in a single layer in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.
- Bake until the apples begin to soften; approximately 20-25 minutes (will depend on the size and variety of the apples used; check them around 20 minutes and continue to bake if needed).
- Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Cook to allow the apples to dry out slightly and turn golden; approximately 10 minutes. Their external texture appears slightly spongy.
- Turn apples out from the baking dish into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the apple cider vinegar and mash coarsely leaving a rustic texture to the applesauce.
Instructions for the Potato Latkes:
- Place the grated potatoes in a large mixing bowl and fill with cold water. Allow potatoes to stand in the water for a few minutes, swishing them occasionally with a mixing spoon or by hand to release the starch.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander.
- Return the potatoes to the mixing bowl and add the onions. Mix together.
- Place the potato-onion mixture in a large piece of cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel. Wrap the mixture so it’s covered fully and squeeze to extract any remaining water which makes it difficult to form patties and fry. Wipe any remaining water from the inside of the mixing bowl and return the potato-onion mixture to the bowl.
- Sprinkle the flour and salt over the potato-onion mixture; add the eggs. With a large mixing spoon mix all ingredients together well.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and pour a enough oil in the skillet to fully cover the bottom. Allow it to heat until ripples can be observed on the top of the oil.
- Form patties of the potato mixture about 2-3 inches in diameter. Gently lower then on a heatproof spatula into the hot oil (be careful of splattering). Allow the latkes to sit undisturbed until the bottom has turned a light golden brown. This will stabilize the latke making it easier to flip over and stay together.
- Using the heatproof spatula again, gently flip the latkes over careful to keep it intact. If needed use a mixing spoon or your hand (again careful of oil splattering) to stabilize the uncooked top has it is flipped over.
- Allow the second side to turn golden brown. Remove and set on a plate with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve hot.
To Serve Latkes:
- Serve warm with a dollop of applesauce and sour cream.