The perfect potato pancake, or Hanukkah latke, is crispy, crunchy and delicious on its own, but also just happens to make the ideal vehicle for sweet toppings like apple sauce and savory toppings like smoked salmon. The combination of crispy crust on the latke and the creamy potato center makes these latkes irresistible.
I use a little food science in my latke recipe. First of all, I use egg whites instead of whole eggs. Egg whites make doughs and batters crispy, while egg yolks make doughs and batters “cakey.” I also add potato starch to my latkes. Potatoes are made up of a lot of water and applied heat makes the water evaporate. The starch helps trap some of the water so the final end result is still crunchy but also moist.
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, grated and placed in a large bowl of ice water (this keeps them from turning brown)
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated
- 2-3 egg whites
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons potato starch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus up to 2 tablespoons
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying
Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out all of the moisture. Make sure the potatoes are completely dry; transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl. In the same towel, squeeze the grated onion; transfer the onion to the bowl with the potatoes. Discard all liquids.
In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, salt, pepper, potato starch and flour. Add the potatoes and onion and mix thoroughly. Add more flour, as necessary, to form a batter that is loose, but still holds together well.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat about 1/2 inch of oil until a shred of potato dropped into it sizzles immediately.
Working in batches, drop latke batter (2 tablespoons per latke) into the oil. Flatten the latkes slightly with the back of a spoon. Fry the latkes, turning once, until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Use a slotted spatula to transfer to a platter lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately with applesauce or your favorite toppings.