Monday, November 29, 2010

Potato Latkes

Latkes are the traditional food for Hanukkah. The trick to making perfect latkes is the temperature of the frying pan or griddle. Hanukkah is called the “Festival of Lights” because of the Hanukkah story, which tells that a small amount of oil miraculously burned for eight days and nights until more oil could be made for the ever-burning light in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Temple had been desecrated by Greco-Syrian invaders and when the Hebrews conquered the Greeks and restored the temple, there was no oil for the ever-burning light. Because oil is a key piece to the story, it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil on Hanukkah.


6 medium-sized potatoes (not huge baking potatoes)
½ average-sized onion
2 eggs (beaten)
1 tbsp. flour (wheat, rice, or teff)
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Olive oil (for frying)


Grate the potatoes and onion either in a food processor or using a hand grater. You can rinse the potatoes and drain the water off to remove some of the starch if you prefer, but I usually don’t bother with this step (as the grated potatoes sit, starchy water will seep out of them and can be discarded). Combine the grated potatoes and onions with the other ingredients (except the oil, which is for frying), stirring everything together well. Heat a film of oil on a griddle or in a frying pan. Heat the oil to medium temperature or a little hotter than medium. Drop the latke batter into the oil. A latke cooks much like hash browns, and similarly has a very high potato content. If water accumulates in the latke batter as it stands, drain that off before frying.

Now this is the tricky part. The latkes should be cooked until just brown and crispy on both sides. Not gummy. Flatten the latkes with a spatula to keep them thin so they cook all the way through to the middle before browning on the outside. Don’t make them too big around, only about three or four inches across. Latkes take patience. Keep adding oil to the pan/griddle each time you put more latkes on to cook. You can keep the cooked latkes warm by placing them in a glass dish, covering them with foil, and placing them in the oven at 200˚ while you finish cooking all the latkes. Latkes also warm up well in the microwave. Depending on how many latkes you are cooking, it can take a long time to make enough for everyone! This recipe for latkes serves about four people. Just multiply for more.

Traditionally, latkes are served with sour cream and/or applesauce. (Tofutti sour cream is a great substitute for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant.)

Eat well, be well, live deliciously!

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