Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Food52's Managing Editor Brette Warshaw shows us how to make perfect potato pancakes -- without a recipe.
Thanksgiving has its turkey; Christmas has its roast. Fourth of July calls for pie, for crumble; Valentine's Day screams for chocolate mousse. These holidays, while fun and festive and (obviously) delicious, can be fussy. They can be stressful. They can be wonderfully -- or scarily -- high maintenance.
Hanukkah doesn't ask much of you. It wants you to grate some potatoes and onions, mix them with egg and flour, and fry them in oil. And then it wants you eat a lot of them. (Hanukkah is eight nights. You could really eat a lot of these.)
Of course, you can fancy these up; you can use sweet potatoes or parsnips or even mashed potatoes. You can add spices and cheese. You can make a Thanksgivukkah double-down. And, most importantly, you can make these any time of the year: for those high-maintenance holidays, for weeknight dinners, for passed hors d'oeuvres, for snack.
Here's where to start.
How to Make Latkes Without a Recipe
1. Coarsely grate your potatoes and onions by hand (or use the grater blade of a food processor). I use one onion for every two pounds of potatoes, but you can really go with your gut here.
2. Gather your shreds in cheese cloth or a tea towel and squeeze the water out. Let it all rest, and then squeeze again. You want to get as much water out as possible (you'll be shocked how much comes out!).
3. Lightly beat 1 egg in a bowl (I use roughly one egg for every two pounds of potato.). Add your shredded potato and onion, and mix well. I usually use 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour for every egg, but if you'd prefer these more cake-y and less shred-y, add up to 1/4 cup flour. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper. If you want to add spices, now's your moment!
4. Heat 1/8-inch oil in a a saute pan. Drop heaping spoonfuls of your batter into the oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. (Feel free to make these whatever size you'd like.) Fry until golden brown, then flip and finish cooking on the other side. Repeat until all of your batter is gone, keeping the finished ones in a 200°F oven so that they stay nice and warm.
5. Dollop with sour cream, applesauce, and/or caviar (it's a holiday!). Eat with a fork -- or your hands. Get ready to make another batch.
How do you make your latkes? Let us know in the comments!
We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.
Photos by James Ransom