Yesterday we spoke about Hanukkah and a bit about the Jewish community in Norway. Today, I’d like to share with you another Hanukkah recipe, this one popular all over the world, but especially in my home country of the U.S. Potato latkes are potato pancakes pan-fried in shallow oil keeping with the theme of Hanukkah.
The secret to a “crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside” potato pancake is getting as much water out of the potatoes as possible before you fry them while retaining as much starch in the potatoes as possible. The tricky part isn’t just getting the water out of the grated potatoes; you need the starchy bits to help keep the latkes from falling apart when you cook them. Potatoes are full of water and starch, and as water and oil don’t mix, having overly watery potatoes in your mix means the temperature of the oil drops once you place the mix in the pan to fry. This leads to greasy, soggy latkes – and nobody likes that.
A well-known tip for getting water out of the potato mix, but keeping in just enough starch is to squeeze your potatoes out over a separate bowl, using a kitchen towel. Allow the starchy water to settle, pour off the excess water, then dump the starch back into the potato mix. This ensures that your latkes will come out crispy around the edges and wonderfully silky in the middle.
- 1 kilo (about 2 lbs.) starchy potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, then grated
- I medium onion, grated
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Mix potatoes, onion, and 1 tablespoon salt in bowl. Place half of potato mixture in center of a kitchen towel. Draw up the ends of the kitchen towel and squeeze the starchy liquid out over a separate glass bowl. Do this two or three times, or until the potatoes won’t yield any more liquid. Place the squeezed potatoes into the mixing bowl you plan to use for the recipe, and continue this draining process with the second half of the potatoes.
- Allow the starchy liquid to settle for 30 minutes, noticing the clay like sediment at the bottom. This clay like substance is potato starch, and you’ll want to pour off as much of the water sitting on top of it as possible before you add it back to the potato mix.
- Add the eggs, flour and black pepper, then stir until evenly mixed.
- Heat oil in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Place a medium sized mound of potato mixture into oil and press lightly with a metal spatula. Add another latke to the skillet and cook, adjusting heat so bubbles form around the latke’s edges, approx. 3 -4 minutes. Turn latke over and continue cooking until golden brown on second side, another 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then season slightly with more with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately topped with sour cream and applesauce.