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Oh-So-Good Latkes

Oh-So-Good Latkes

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Yield: about 12 pancakes; serves 6

Crisp on the outside and wonderfully seasoned on the inside, these oil-fried potato pancakes are traditionally served during Chanukah and, like most other traditional Jewish foods, represent much more than just something wonderful to eat. Latkes are a perfect example of how the act of cooking paired with the practice of shared family meals can be used to keep Jewish heritage alive. Having said that, although the annual use of oil to fry foods during Chanukah are meant to commemorate the struggle, perseverance and ultimate survival of the Jewish people, these latkes taste so great that (if you're like me) you'll enjoy serving them all throughout the year! Serve these potato pancakes hot, accompanied by Homemade Applesauce.

Special Equipment

  • Food processor or hand-held grater
  • Triple-mesh strainer
  • 10- to 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably seasoned cast iron
  • Deep-fry thermometer (optional)
  • Small gravy ladle or 1/4 cup dry measuring cup
  • Spatter shield (optional)

Ingredients

  • 4 large Idaho baking potatoes
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 4 tablespoons matzo meal
  • 2 generous tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley and/or fresh chives
  • Kosher or sea salt, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Flavorless vegetable oil or mild peanut oil, as needed for frying
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

1) To prepare and puree or grate the potatoes: Scrub and peel the potatoes and place them in a bowl of ice water to prevent discoloration and to remove some of the excess surface starch. When ready to fry, remove the potatoes from the water, rub dry and, if using a food processor, cut into chunks. Place the potatoes with the onion wedges into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until fairly smooth. Pour mixture into a triple-mesh strainer that sits over another bowl and place a doubled sheet of paper toweling directly on top of the potato mixture to keep it from turning brown. Allow to drain for 3 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, for a more textural mixture, rub the potatoes and onion against a hand-held grater over a bowl. Drain as directed above.

2) To heat the oil: Cover a few wire cooling racks with a double-thickness of paper toweling. Pour vegetable oil into a 10-to 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) to measure 1/2 inch. Heat until the top looks shimmering but not smoking (365o F).

3) To assemble the batter: Pour the drained potato mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, matzo meal, chopped parsley and/or chives and mix well with potato mixture. Season the mixture generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4) To fry pancakes: Using 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, scoop portions of potato mixture and ease it into the hot oil. Use the bottom of the dry measure or a flat turning spatula (not a spoon) to flatten slightly. Fry until golden brown on both sides (turning once) and, using 2 spatulas to help press out excess oil, carefully remove each cooked pancake from the hot oil to drain on the prepared wire racks. Continue frying until you've finished the batter.

5) To serve: Serve hot on a warmed serving tray accompanied by fresh applesauce and, if desired, just before serving, sprinkle the tops of the latkes lightly with chives and salt. (Don't salt the latkes until just before serving since applying salt to the exterior in advance will cause the potatoes to lose some of their crispness.)

Time Management Tips

• The potatoes can be peeled early in the day and kept totally submerged in water. Leave them at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerate for longer storage.

• The latkes can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance and left at a comfortable room temperature. To reheat, place them on a wire rack that sits within a large shallow baking sheet in a preheated 350o F oven until hot and crisp, about 15 minutes.

• Cooked latkes also can be frozen in a heavy freezer container separated by sheets of waxed paper. (If planning to freeze them, remove from hot oil when lightly golden but not a deep brown.) To reheat, don't thaw but heat on a wire rack within a shallow baking sheet in a preheated 400o F oven until hot throughout, brown and very crisp, about 20 minutes. Cover the pancakes loosely with aluminum foil (shiny side up to deflect heat), if the latkes start to become overly brown.

Lauren is an internationally known cooking and baking instructor to men, women and teenagers. She’s a Certified Culinary Professional, author, columnist, motivational speaker, parenting advisor and award-winning television and radio host who uses/teaches the art of cooking as a catalyst for positive change in the lives of individuals and their families. To learn more about Lauren, please visit her website.
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