Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature. This one comes from wcfoodies, and the recipe looks familiar—until you get to the baking powder. After testing, MrsWheelbarrow exclaimed: “What an addition! I think these latkes are better than my grandmother's. I am now waiting for lightning to strike.”
Latkes are more of a phenomenon than a dish for me: Once a year, I gorge on latkes, going way past the uncomfortably full stage, and then abstain completely for the other 364 days. I associate more happy memories with latkes than probably any other food in the world and they’d be the centerpiece of my last meal on earth, but they're a one-night-a-year treat. It’s not that having a plate of latkes in, say, June would be sacrilegious or even just wrong; but the thought of doing so would never even cross my mind. Latkes are sacred. Latkes, for me, are Hanukkah.
And, yes, when I say ‘latkes,’ I mean ‘my mom’s latkes.’ There’s no exception. No substitutes. You may swear that your zadie or bubby or great-aunt Ethel makes the world’s best latkes, and I’ll politely abstain. All latkes are not created equal.
To be perfectly honest, your great-aunt Ethel’s latkes may be just as good as my mom’s; they may even be better (not a chance). But when I bite into one of my mom’s latkes, the best moments of every Hanukkah past sweep over me: dinner with my cousins; the waffle blocks that were all I wanted in 1988; beating my dad at dreidel; the reflection of the menorah’s candles against the snow outside the window on the last night of Hanukkah. It’s not nostalgia, it’s being there, the sights, sounds, smells of holidays gone by as real and tangible as they ever were. That’s something your bubby’s latkes can’t do for me.
This recipe originated with my grandfather, Carl Mayle, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 98. I have foggy memories of watching him peel potatoes over the kitchen sink, but much stronger are memories of making these, from a very young age, with my mother. Making latkes with my mom is one of my earliest memories, in or out of the kitchen: as a toddler, it was my proud duty to sprinkle in the matzoh meal and salt; as I grew older, she let me share more of the process. Now, if I'm home for Hanukkah, we make latkes together, side by side. Perhaps frying potato cakes is a strange way to form a mother-daughter bond, but it's worked for us. The tasty results don't hurt.
- 5 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold or Russet, peeled
- 1 1/2 pounds white or yellow onions
- 2/3 cup matzoh meal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, for frying