Although I don’t consider myself Jewish, I did grow up in a household that observed the major Jewish holidays like Passover, Yom Kippur, and of course, Hanukkah. One of my favorite memories of celebrating Hanukkah is the tradition of eating latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. For the gentiles out there, latkes are potato pancakes, made from shredded potato and onion. In fact, latkes are pretty simple to make, which is why I wanted to take on the challenge of making them better. To me, a latke should have an awesomely crunchy outside and a creamy inside. So, I started experimenting with ways to get the ultimate potato crunch.
My instinct was that the key to crunchier latkes was adding starch to the potato. I cooked three variations: a control (no added starch, top), a latke sprinkled with potato starch (right), and a latke coated with butter-flavored instant mashed potato flakes (bottom). To keep the experiment rigorous, I packed the same quantity of potato mixture into a ring mold and fried the latkes for the same time at the same temperature. The instant potato flake latke was the clear winner – the dried starch added extra surface area for frying and made the potato wonderfully crunchy. Unfortunately, much of the potato flake broke off during frying, which clouded the oil. With some good advice from Maxime Bilet, I altered my method to avoid this problem. I ended up with fantastically crispy latkes, which I wouldn’t mind eating for eight consecutive nights this year.
Makes: 12 crispy latkes
Total kitchen time: 1 hour
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 4 russet potatos
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1 waxy potato
- 1 egg
- freshly ground pepper
- 100g (about 5 tbsp.) instant masked potato flakes, butter flavor
- peanut oil, for frying
- sour cream & apple sauce for garnish.
- I recommend using the grater attachment on a food processor to make quick work of this task. If using a food processor, add lemon juice to the bowl. If grating by hand, add lemon juice to the bowl that will contain your grated potatoes.
- Peel and grate the potato, tossing occasionally to coat with the lemon juice. Reserve 2/3 of the grated potato mixture in a separate bowl to become the exterior coating.
- Grate the onion. Combine the remaining 1/3 grated potato and grated onion in a medium pot. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and strain to remove most of the water. Season with .05% salt and .005% pepper.
- Peel and microplane the waxy potato into the bowl with the reserved 2/3s grated potato mixture. Pour the mixture into a large cheesecloth and ring as tightly as possible to remove as much water as you can. Return the mixture to a bowl.
- Add 1 egg, .05% salt, .005% pepper and instant mashed potato flakes to the bowl and toss well to combine.
- Heat 1” of peanut oil in a deep skillet to 400F.
- While the oil is heating, assemble the latkes on a nonstick baking sheet. Grab a small handful of the uncooked potato mixture and press into a disk, one layer thick. Top with a tablespoon of the cooked potato and onion mixture, spread evenly. Finish with another later of the uncooked potato mixture.
- Fry the latkes a few at a time, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Flip once if necessary to ensure even browning on all sides. The latkes should cook for 2-3 minutes, or until dark and golden. It’s critical that you keep the temperature of the oil at 400F before and during frying to ensure maximum browning – if necessary, momentarily remove the latkes to allow the oil temperature to come back to 400F.
- Drain on paper towels, and serve alongside sour cream and applesauce.