As soon as I start frying up these classic Hanukkah potato pancakes called latkes, I’m transported back to my mother's kitchen. And when I take that first bite, I'm in heaven.
For Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, traditional foods involve frying in olive oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil that burned in the Temple of Jerusalem for eight days instead of just one. Latkes help illustrate the miracle of the oil. While it’s true that you can make baked latkes, I don’t think they’re worth the calories. Hanukkah comes once a year and I have no problems frying them up nice and crispy — but just for one night — not all eight.
3 tips for perfect latkes
1. You have to grate the potatoes by hand with a box grater. Shredding them in the food processor will lead to heavy, hockey puck latkes.
2. The key to getting a crispy latke that holds together is to wring the heck out of the potato and onion mixture. Some people do add flour to the mixture to absorb any excess moisture, but my mother taught me that that’s “cheating” so I avoid it.
3. Make sure the oil is shimmering — but not smoking — before you drop your latkes into the hot pan. If the oil isn’t hot enough, it will absorb into the potato mixture and you’ll get heavy and greasy latkes — yuck! You can test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a piece of the grated potato into the pan. If you hear a sizzle and the potato starts to become golden, it’s ready.
And make sure to wear clothes that you don’t care too much about — you will most certainly get potato juice on yourself and will end up smelling like a fried potato. Tradition!
I like to serve latkes with a side of Greek yogurt and applesauce, but you can serve them with whatever you like, including ketchup and Sriracha. They are best served hot, but if you do have leftover latkes, you can reheat them in the oven or toasted oven at 200 F for about 10 minutes. Enjoy and happy Hanukkah!
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a nutrition expert, writer and best-selling author. Her books include "Feed the Belly," "The CarbLovers Diet" and "Eating in Color."
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Place the onion in the freezer. Coarsely grate the potatoes using the largest setting on a box grater. Transfer the shredded potatoes to a large bowl of cold water as you grate them to prevent them from discoloring.2.
Place a medium mixing bowl under a fine mesh sieve and place the grated potatoes in the sieve. Use a large wooden spoon or spatula to press out as much of the moisture as possible. Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl.3.
Remove the onion from the freezer and grate it. Squeeze out the excess water, and add the onion to the potatoes. Combine the beaten egg with the salt and pepper and add to the potato mixture. Mix well.4.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Working in batches, spoon 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the skillet, squeezing out any additional liquid before adding to the pan. Flatten the tops of the latkes slightly with a spatula. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until the bottoms are browned, about 5 minutes. Flip latkes and cook an additional 4 minutes. Transfer latkes to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until all of the mixture is gone.5.
Serve latkes while hot with applesauce and Greek yogurt or sour cream.