pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
As a non-Jew I love kibbitzing on this stuff (in part because I love Jewish food). For the latkes figure one egg to one pound of russet potato. You can use a box grater but a food processor is really fast. For latkes deploy a smaller grating hole. Use really, really hot oil with a high smoke point like either canola or grapeseed. I suspect this is where your friend is making a mistake. Dare to make it hot. And don't forget to turn off the pan (I've witnessed that before and it wasn't pretty).
Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.
As a Jew who is famous in some circles for her latkes, I'll say that pierino is right. (I'm a big fan of the food processor for latkes. And very hot oil.) Also, use the shredded potatoes right away and keep them draining in a colander till you mix them together. A tablespoon of flour or matzo meal will help hold everything together. Lots of salt and pepper. And onions! Don't forget to shred some onions with the potatoes.
Another non-Jew vote (and yes, I do love me a plate of latkes with apple butter and sour cream!) My only deviation from pierino and drbabs is that I, on the advice of a good Jewish cook and friend, toss my shredded potatos with a teaspoon of lemon juice -- keeps them from discoloring -- before I turn them over into the colander. I also use the FoPro, shredding the onion first and then the potatos so there's still plenty of texture to the potatos but the onion is very fine. Salt and black pepper, the egg, and a tablespoon or two of flour to "glue" it all together -- that's where I differ from my good Jewish cook friend, who declared that her bubbe would be horrified at the use of flour instead of matzo meal.
I too have had success with grating a starchy potato, like Russet, and adding them to a bowl of lightly acidulated water. Then I will grate some onion and squeeze dry the potato, mix the onion with the potato and add a tablespoon of flour. Then I'll salt and pepper heavily, and mix everything together. I usually cast iron and heat it on medium high heat with a few good glugs of grapeseed oil. When the oil begins to smoke I add the potato cakes using two tablespoons in little piles. I'll fry them until they turn a gold brown, when they are out of the oil another good pinch of salt and serve them with sour cream and apple sauce.
I agree with the above-- definitely include onions! I also think that smaller and flatter latkes are better-- I think they provide the optimal proportions for achieving coveted crispiness! And I like to serve them with some sour cream with chives or scallions, as well as applesauce. Mmm. looking forward to Chanukah!
My one suggestion which I got from an expert -wring the potatoes in a tea towel so that they are really dry. Drain off the water but some folks put the white straches "glue" at the bottom of the bowl back in. I'm not sure why and I have not tried to see what difference it makes but thought I'd throw that in the mix. Yes to onions!
Agree that grated onion is essential and that thinner is better (optimal proportion of crispy to melting potato texture); also that latkes are one of the many reasons God invented the Cuisinart. I too use a tea towel to wring out as much water from the grated potato as possible, let the starch settle to the bottom of the bowl and add it back into the mixture. Why? Because that's how my Jewish grandma always did it and her latkes were the gold standard (not that I'm biased.) Also, I think the starch helps bind them a bit, like adding flour or (during Passover) matzoh meal. One more suggestion: prepare the potato mixture as soon before you start frying as possible...no matter how much you drain/wring, those spuds contain an uncanny amount of water and will continue to release it into the batter even in the time it takes you to fry up a batch.
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