"What is the difference between latkes and hashbrowns?" my brother asked as we left our grandmothers house last night. I replied that "Latkes are topped with applesauce." Another difference might be that latkes are perfectly acceptable as the main course for dinner, during Chanukah of course. In any event, Latkes — the potato pancake traditionally eaten by Jews during Chanukah — are delicious, and looked forward to all year by those of the tribe. There are many variations which include different kinds of flours, potatoes and seasonings, but these are tried and true, and a good place to start!
The Most Basic Latkes
aka "Crispy Traditional Potato Pancakes"
from Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America
There are many ways to make Latkes, in this rendition we use the most simple recipe, which calls for no filler, just basic ingredients and a lot of frying. This recipe makes about 2 dozen latkes, so in order to cut the cook time down we prepare 2 fry pans. I also recommend frying in different clothes than you plan to serve in as woman-ing the frying pan will tend to get you all greased up.
2 pounds russet or yukon gold potatoes
1 medium onion, peeled
1/2 cup chopped scallions (great, but we omitted this time)
1 large egg, beaten
Veggie, canola, or peanut oil for frying
1. Wash your potatoes and grate them with a food processor grating blade, or elbow grease the old fashioned way. Press grated potatoes through colander or strainer over a bowl to release water and catch starch.
2. Grate Onion. Set up 2 pans, or griddle on stove with a thin layer of oil on medium high heat.
3. In the few minutes that it took to grate the onion, the starch and water beneath the potatoes should have separated, starch resting on the bottom of bowl. Gently pour off water, and add potatoes and onions to bowl, stirring up to coat in starch. Add Salt and Pepper.
4. Add beaten egg, incorporating it in all of the potato mixture with wooden spoon.
5. Once your pans are nice and hot, add small handfuls of latke mix, about 4 per pan. Try not to crowd them too much, and gently flatten with back of spatula.
6. Meanwhile, set up a baking pan with a few paper towels, ready to hold your finished latkes.
7. Cook latkes until golden brown on first side and then flip for about 4 more minutes before transferring to baking sheet. We like to put our finished latkes in the oven to keep them warm, either turned to very low, or off.
Serve Latkes with Apple Sauce and Sour cream! Hopefully, your Jewish grandmother is present to enjoy your latkes, and also remind you how well your sister made them years ago ;)