The beauty of a festival, at least for me, rests in its food. Few things can satisfy and fit the bill for simple perfect comfort food the way a latke does. There is something about that gorgeous crisp wispy potato goodness that will assure that everything is right even on a crazy day.
So how does one get to that beautiful crisp and golden piece of deliciousness, that is all about potatoes in a happy marriage with onions and maybe garlic if you want to push the envelope.
Well, we start with the kind of potatoes, and that makes a difference. We start with the potato, and the potato of choice really is the homey starchy russet. The high starch content in these potatoes allow them to bind well, ensuring good tight latkes.
The other area we get into is the frying medium, while a lot of people swear by schmaltz which is rendered poultry fat, please note this is not universal. It is the preference of Ashkenazi Jews (mostly of European origin), and apparently traditionally Sephardic Jews preferred olive oil. I offer an in between compromise of grape seed oil with 2 tablespoons of clarified butter or alternately I would stick to the schmaltz mostly because of its ability to handle high heat.
If you are looking for a vegan version with sweet potatoes, here is one for you that can be enjoyed along with the classic and if you are getting more creative here is a version with assorted harvest vegetables.
When it comes to toppings, certainly there is lovely simple sour cream, and I have topped this with a radish crème fraiche today and in my time with a pomegranate raita. So, this week whether or not you are celebrating the festival take the time to shred some potatoes and enjoy the simplicity of a beautiful crisp and golden latke.
A classic recipe for latkes or crisp golden potato pancakes.
- 3 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced onions
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 or 2 tablespoons matzo meal (optional)
- 2 cups of grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter
- 1. Peel the potatoes grate the potatoes using the large side of a box grater and place in a colander.
- 2. Add in the kosher salt and let the potatoes rest for 30 minutes to an hour allowing the water to drain from the potatoes, squeeze out any excess water.
- 3. Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl and add in the onion and garlic and mix well.
- 4. Beat the egg and add in the matzo meal if using.
- 5. Place the oil and the butter in an eight inch cast iron skillet and heat on medium heat until well heated, test with a tiny bit of batter it should sizzle and rise to the top.
- 6. Lower the heat a little (mark 3 or medium low) and add the potato pancakes in small tablespoons about 3 inches in diameter, about 3 to 4 at a time. Note, you can always use a larger skillet and do more at a time.
- 7. Fry them on medium low heat undisturbed for about 3 minutes and turn, you want an even golden color, not too dark.
- 8. Cook the other side and drain on paper towels before serving. These latkes like other deep fried things need patience, so I would actually do other things such as mix the toppings while they are frying to resist the urge to keep turning them.