Updated: Dec 13, 2020
December 6 2020
There can be nothing that symbolizes Chanukah (Hannukah? Channukah? Hanukkah?) more than potato latkes. I have never experienced this celebration without them, nor do I ever plan to! So, what's the deal? Why is it such a tradition?
There are varying thoughts on this, but most prevalent is that latkes are consumed on Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the oil that lights the lamp over the holy Ark lasting eight days in the Chanukah victory.
Chanukah celebrates the rededication to the Jewish identity after it was compromised by oppressors in 168 B.C.E. The burning of the oil (the eternal light) for eight days by those who were escaping the oppressors is considered a miracle, because it seemed there was only enough oil that could burn for a single day in the Temple.
To celebrate the life of that ancient oil in modern celebrations of the holiday, we devour oil-soaked dishes (yes, it's true). During the Jewish holiday, eating crispy, fried, slightly oniony potato pancakes represents perseverance and miracles! They are also delicious, so why wouldn't you!
Now, there are a few different types of potato latkes: fine shredded potatoes, medium shredded potatoes and mashed potato latkes. You can also call them lat-kahs or lat-kees. You can eat them with apple sauce or sour cream. So many options, but since there are 8 nights of Chanukah, you can definitely mix it up!
My family prefers fine shredded lat-kahs topped with apple sauce. I use a food processor to do the shredding and it works beautifully. Try my Chunky 15-Minute Apple Sauce recipe. It's the one pictured in these shots.
One tip that I think is hugely valuable: if you can fry these outdoors, you will save your house from smelling of fried oil for days! I use an old-school electric fry pan and plug it into an outlet by my barbecue. It works brilliantly!
Makes: 45 latkes
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
6 large russet potatoes (approximately 5 pounds), peeled and cut crosswise in half
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
In a food processor fitted with a fine shredding disk, shred the potatoes. Move the shredded potatoes to a colander set over a plate or bowl, and change the shredding disk to a medium shred and shred the onions (see Chef's Note). Transfer to the colander with the potatoes. Over a sink, squeeze a handful at a time of the onions and potatoes to get as much liquid out of them. Place squeezed onions and potatoes in a bowl.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the lemon juice and the squeezed onions and potatoes (see Chef's Notes). Gradually stir in the flour. Season with the salt & pepper. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 30 minutes ahead. Refrigerate the batter with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on top.)
Pour enough vegetable oil into a large heavy skillet or electric frying pan to reach 1/4-inch up the sides of the pan. Heat over moderately high heat until the oil begins to shimmer and a small spoonful of batter sizzles when added.
Stir the batter. To form each latke, drop a heaping tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil and flatten it slightly with the back of a spoon or fork (see Chef's Notes). Form several more latkes in the pan without overcrowding. fry until golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes.
Flip the latkes and fry on the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Stir the remaining batter well before making the next batch.
Serve the latkes hot from the pan or, if serving them all at once, keep warm in a 200°F oven on a rack set in a baking sheet.
To save time, you can use the same size shredding disk but if you use the fine disk, the onions will be more liquidy. If you use the medium disk, the potatoes will be a little more like hash browns.
I tend to use my hands to mix the batter. It is easier to coat the potato-onion mixture in the eggs and flour, but feel free to use a spoon, if desired.
If you prefer a more uniform latke, use a 2-inch scoop to make your latkes. Once the batter is in the scoop, try to move any stay potato shreds into the scoop. That will help with uniformity.
Potato latkes freeze beautifully. Once they are drained and cooled, freeze them on baking sheets for about one hour. Once frozen, move them to a plastic ziplock bag. When ready to use, spread them on a baking sheet and heat for 15 minutes at 400°F if reheating directly from the freezer. If you bring them to room temperature first, 5 minutes at 450°F is perfect!