Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Latkes Are ALWAYS Good: Potato Pancakes For Hanukkah or Any Other Day

I had a frantic few post-Thanksgiving weeks, battling bronchitis, dealing with family crises, doing my "Nutcracker" programs and dealing with the holidays.  That included cooking for 2 parties at work, though unfortunately, not a home party. Circumstances just didn't allow for it this year.

We were in NYC for Christmas and since Hanukkah coincided with it, my mother made latkes. And as often happens these days, the contrast between her cooking and mine was apparent.  As I've come to realize, my mother LIKES to cook, but I LOVE to cook. And oddly enough, considering that I am the younger generation, I am more likely to cook the old fashioned way--by feel. I don't measure the flour for these latkes, I stir it in as needed. I don't use a time to flip them, I watch for signs of browning, of how they move in the pan.

More importantly, though my mother INSISTS she cooks them the way her mother-in-law did, I know durned well that Grandma Esther's latkes were hand grated and coarse, while my mother used the food processor to the point of pureeing the potatoes and onions to the point where you could scarcely recognize the onions. It was so liquidy she had to add a lot of flour!

We got home too late last night to latkes on the last night of Hanukkah, but the truth is that latkes are potato pancakes, and potato pancakes are good any night that you make them. So I made them tonight and we ate them and loved them.

One of the secrets of my latke success, BTW, is that I make them in an electric skillet. My library has no stove so I was forced into doing them this way years ago and now I wouldn't do them any other way. It keeps the oil at a constant temperature and is easy for moving the latkes in the pan.

My other trick is to use 2 large spoons, one slotted or with holes, one solid. The batter is scooped into the solid spoon, I press down with the slotted spoon to drain more of the liquids, then slide the latke into the pan. SC noticed the latkes were egg shaped and that was why!

These are great with my Grandma Esther's Pink Applesauce or (shh, don't tell my mom) with sour cream.  You can freeze leftovers and reheat them later in the oven.

Grandma Esther's Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

6 large baking potatoes
2 yellow onions
2 eggs
flour/matzo meal as needed
canola or corn oil

Put enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy frying pan or electric skillet and heat it. If using a skillet, set the temperature to 350 F. In a frying pan, you will want to heat it so that a drop of water will sizzle rapidly. If you have a spatter screen, use it for this!

Peel the potatoes and cut them in small pieces and quarter the onions. Process them in your food processor to roughly grate them (shredded,NOT pureed!). You will probably have to do this in 1-2 batches.

Transfer the potato/onion mix into a large strainer set over a big mixing bowl. Let it drain for 5 minutes or more.

Pour off the drained liquid and put the potato/onion mix in the bowl.
Mix in the eggs. Sprinkle lightly with salt and mix again.
Add flour/matzoh meal as needed. You want the mixture to be thick but not stiff.

Scoop up a large scoop of batter with a large spoon and press the mixture down with a slotted spoon.
Carefully slide the batter into the pan.

After a minute or so, gently nudge the latke with a spatula, just enough to see that it moves easily and holds together. If it doesn't, DON'T panic! You can always add extra flour and stiffen the batter a little before adding more latkes to the pan. I can get 4-6 latkes in an electric skillet--probably 4 max in a regular frying pan.

When the edges start to look brown, gently flip the latkes. Slide a spatula under one, place the spoon on top and it will be easy to turn them.

When brown on the second side, drain on paper towels on a plate before serving!

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