i like you a latke!

I grew up in a mixed faith household. Which makes this time of year extra amazing, especially where food is concerned. Two years ago I made it a mission of mine to learn how to make a good traditional latke. 

I turned to my future mother in law first to get all of her tips, tricks, and secrets. It turns out her method is much easier than I anticipated. Abbey's secret to a good latke is vegsal (a salt like spice that includes dried herbs) and seltzer (to make them fluffy). 

After my lesson with Abbey, I stumbled upon a second lesson from my amazing Aunt Aynnie. I don't know why it never occurred to me to ask my Dad's sister to share their Jewish cooking tips and tricks. Her method was a little different from Abbeys and were equally delicious.

My recipe involves a combination of things from both women with some of my own tricks sprinkled in. I find potatoes to be pretty bland. I think it's really important to add as much flavor as possible into the mixture before cooking. Vegsal is nice but I prefer good ole sea salt, garlic powder and onion powder. No need to buy obscure seasoning. Just use the staples! 

I also learned that you don't need a vat of oil to fry these babies up. ½ -1 inch in the bottom of a pan is all that's necessary. I think they're best hot off the fryer but if you want to eat them together, a 250º F oven is your best friend. Finish with a dollop of roasted applesauce and sour cream (greek yogurt if you're being healthy like my Aunt Aynnie) and you've got yourself the perfect traditional latke. If you're a shiksha like me, you might even dare to use ketchup with your latkes. A sin I know, but really they're glorified hashbrown patties and ketchup was made for fried potatoes. Too far? 

I hope you have an amazing holiday, whatever you celebrate. 

yields about 12 latkes

4 russet potatoes
1 large onion
1 egg
½ TBSP salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ c. matzoh meal
¼ c. seltzer
1 - 2 cups of canola oil

Preheat oven to 250º F. Peel potatoes and cut in half hot dog style (vertically). Peel and cut the onion into quarters. With the small shred attachment on your food processor, alternate shredding 7 of the potato halves with the 4 onion chunks (about 5 cups). Pull out any of the large potato or onion chunks and put to the side. Dump the shredded mixture into a large bowl. Place the last half of the potato and any of the larger chunks into the food processor fitted with the standard blade this time. Pulse it a few times until you get small coarse chunks. Dump into the bowl and add in the egg, salt, onion + garlic powder. Give it a good mix, breaking the yolk of the egg and incorporating everything. Then add in your matzoh meal and seltzer water. Top the mixture with saran wrap directly on the mixture. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 30 - 40 minutes. It's ok if the potatoes turn a little brown. The plastic will help prevent it from oxidizing too much and you're going to be frying it anyway so it's not noticable. Letting the mixture rest lets some of the juices pull out of the potato and you can skip the annoying towel wringing process.

In a large skillet (use a non-stick pan if you don't have a high quality stainless steel pan or  cast iron skillet), put enough oil to make about a half inch in the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat until the oil is hot and ready. You can test the oil by putting a little pinch of salt into the oil. When it sizzles, it's ready for latke making! In a slotted spoon, place about a ¼ c. of the potato mixture, let as much of the liquid drain away and gently plop it into the oil and then lightly pat the top to flatten it out. Cook 4 latkes at a time, you want to make sure you don't over crowd the pan. If you do, it will drop the temperature of the oil too low and they'll stick and not cook through or brown properly. Flip when the bottoms are golden brown about 5 minutes each side. I find using a pair of tongs with the spatula helps prevent splattering when you flip them. 

You may need to adjust the temperature if the latkes are browning too fast or too slow. You want them to cook long enough that the potato in the middle cooks through and the outside doesn't overcook. When the latkes are done, place them on a few layers of paper towels (about 2-3) and give them a tiny dusting of salt. You can keep them in a warm oven while the rest of the latkes cook. 

Serve with sour cream, roasted applesauce and a small sprinkling of chives or chopped parsley for a pop of color. 

improv style:
there are so many amazing variation ideas for these. you can chop up fresh herbs and add it to your batter. green onions or rosemary would be fantastic. i think russet potatoes make the best latkes because of their starch content but really you could use any potato. sweet potatoes would be such a fun twist with a pinch of cinnamon or star anise instead of garlic and onion powder!

if you don't have matzoh meal, you could use bread crumbs or even a sprinkle of flour instead. this just helps bind them together a little better and come on, what's more jewish than matzoh?! 

if you don't have a food processor, just use a regular cheese grater. everyone has a different preference on how they like their latkes. i like the small grate but if you like larger or smaller potato chunks, adjust accordingly. it will still turn out the same.

if you're feeling really sinful, consider frying them in a combo of bacon fat and canola oil. i know it's not kosher and i know it's technically a sin but if you're less traditional, this would add a TON of amazing flavor. if i haven't lost you yet but you're still appalled by my bacon suggestion, schmaltz (chicken fat) would be another great way to add flavor to your frying oil. 


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