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The Best – Really! – Potato Pancakes

Even my mother, God rest her soul, would have to agree that these latkes are even better than hers. Joan Nathan’s Pure Potato Latkes are a wonder. They’re made quite differently from most latkes, as you’ll see, which makes them not only fool-proof and absolutely delicious, but the preparation also has a couple of other unusual attributes that Ms. Nathan points out:

  • Because you bake the potatoes first, the flesh stays white
  • If you use a grater, then you don’t have to peel the baked potatoes. The peel then magically stays mostly intact as it falls away. Then, after you’ve cooked the latkes, you can cook these peels in the same oil. The resultant delicious, decadent fried delights are for the cook. He or she is under no obligation to share.

You can’t go wrong with her recipe exactly as she writes it. I’ve made just a few minor changes: I think the patties should be smaller and flatter than she recommends; I think there needs to be more salt, and a little grated onion never hurts.

I wish you a Happy and safe Chanukah, filled with light and love.

 

The Best Ever Latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 large Idaho or russet potatoes, washed and dried
  • ½-1 small onion (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying

Preparation

  1. Adjust the rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 degrees.
  2. Bake the potatoes directly on the rack for 30 minutes; then flip and bake for another 15 minutes.
  3. Remove and let cool for about 30 minutes.
  4. Slice the potatoes in half widthwise.
  5. Holding the curved peel side with one hand, grate the flat, flesh side of each piece using the large holes of a box grater. The grating process should open them up like a jacket, leaving you with potato skins perfect for frying later (you could also use a food processor with a grating blade instead; just peel your potatoes beforehand.)
  6. Sprinkle the grated potatoes with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  7. Take about 1/3 cup grated potato in your hands and gently squeeze between your palms to form a patty. Press the patty until less than 1/2-inch thick, and carefully set the latke on a plate. Repeat with the remaining grated potatoes to make about 8-10 latkes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
  8. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.
  9. Ideally, remove the plate of uncooked latkes an hour or so before you want to cook them so they’re not so cold. Ms. Nathan says nothing about this, so don’t worry if you forget this step.
  10. Just before you’re ready to serve, heat a large, heavy skillet with about 1/4 inch of canola oil over medium-high heat.
  11. When it is hot, a shred of potato dropped into the oil should immediately sizzle. Don’t rush this step!
  12. Working in batches so that the latkes aren’t touching in the pan, fry them for about 3 minutes, and then carefully check to see if the underside is crisp and deep golden. If not, check every minute or so until they look right. Flip and repeat. Transfer your spectacular specimens to paper towels to drain, and repeat with remaining latkes.
  13. Serve hot, if you like, with my easy, delicious applesauce.

Note: it’s easy to freeze latkes after you cook them:

  • Place the latkes in a single layer in a freezer-safe container. Place wax paper or foil between layers.
  • When you’re ready to eat them, put them directly from the freezer into a preheated 350-degree oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until they’re crisp again and hot inside.