Potato Latkes

April 21, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: 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 it’s 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 fried equally.

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 dreidle; 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 February 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.
wcfoodies

Food52 Review: This recipe looks very familiar, until you get to the baking powder. What an addition! The potatoes are suspended in batter, light, chewy and crispy, really wonderful, almost fritter-like. I think these latkes are better than my grandmother's. I am now waiting for lightening to strike. - MrsWheelbarrowThe Editors

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 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
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Grate the potatoes and onions and drain well (you can do this by hand, or in a food processor with the grater attachment).
  2. Combine potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Combine flour, matzoh meal, baking powder, salt, and pepper in another bowl; stir dry ingredients into potatoes and onions. Stir in the beaten eggs.
  3. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil to moderately high heat in a skillet or electric fry pan. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop up some of the latke batter and press it firmly into the spoon to drain off any excess liquid. Pat the latke into a roughly even thickness and roundness, and gently slide into the oil.
  4. Repeat another 2 to 3 times, being careful that the latkes do not overcrowd the pan or touch each other. Fry, about 5 minutes or until golden-brown on the underside; flip and fry, about 5 minutes, on the 2nd side. Remove to a cooling rack set over a thick mat of newspaper or towels, to catch any dripping oil.
  5. Repeat the process, occasionally stirring the latke batter to keep it from separating. Serve latkes right away with applesauce and/or sour cream and sugar, or keep warm in a 200° F oven on a baking sheet.

More Great Recipes:
American|Potato|Fry|Serves a Crowd|Make Ahead|Hanukkah|Vegetarian|Snack|Appetizer

Reviews (12) Questions (0)

12 Reviews

recordsintheden November 29, 2018
question...has anyone ever tried latke-ing in the oven? heat a baking pan with shallow oil and fry n flip in the oven. sacrilege i know, but also, thoughts? trying to be efficient, prevent the inevitable mess and lingering fry smell. thanks!
 
Kevin K. December 17, 2017
Um, no. These end up too cakey and too heavy. Better: find a recipe that uses russets, the squeezed-out starch from them, onion, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Cooks Illustrated has one; I add a bit of baking powder to it. Crispy but light and delicious.
 
witloof December 7, 2017
For the gluten free among us: my sister from another mother has celiac and I have been frying latkes for her, her husband, her five children, and now their spouses and their children for over 20 years. I have learned that it is entirely possible to make transcendent latkes with no flour or matzo meal whatsoever, just eggs, potatoes, onions, and salt. I grate the potatoes into cold water and let them sit while we light the menorahs, the drain them carefully and save the starch that collects at the bottom of the bowl. I wring the potatoes out in a cloth, then add the starch, the onions {which are diced up fine} eggs, salt and pepper. They hold together perfectly.
 
GsR December 10, 2017
Exactly! My bubbie (z”l) made them that way as did her bubbie. That’s REAL latkes.
 
btglenn December 17, 2017
My mom made them the way your bubbie did. Flour makes latkes heavy, and lots of flour as in this recipe really needs baking powder... but it lowers the flavor of the potatoes.
 
monkeymom December 7, 2010
this was my first time making latkes and everyone loved them! Your video and the ones on food52 were very helpful. Thanks for this delicious recipe!
 
nratt May 9, 2010
Question: Am I right to read this as "2 to 3 cups" of matzoh, rather than "two-thirds of a cup"? I'm not Jewish, and I've never made latkes. But, potatoes, onions, fried ... what's not to like? Sounds great. Gotta try 'em!
 
Author Comment
wcfoodies January 30, 2011
2/3 of a cup! They really are delicious and you only need to add enough matzoh meal to hold the latkes together.
 
rmlwrites April 23, 2010
The tastes, smells and sounds of sizzling potato latkes in the frying pan are almost visceral to me. Add to the ritual the lighting of the Chanukah candles, making the kids sing corny songs ("Come See the Lights; Eight Days and Nights..." as we hold hands and dance around the kitchen table. The whole experience resonates with everything good about holidays and the food that brings us closer to each other. Note on the recipe: the amount of matzo meal and flour is flexible. The important thing is for the potato/onion mixture to be squeezed out as dry as possible when you start the frying. And more onions are always good! Fry until the edges are very crisp and crunchy. The "fringes" were always grandpa's favorite part!
 
drbabs April 21, 2010
I also have nice memories associated with latkes--and my grandmothers, my great-grandmother, my mother and my daughter.
 
mrslarkin April 21, 2010
Yummy! In my opinion, frying latkes is a perfectly wonderful mother-daughter bonding experience. Thanks for your lovely story and recipe!
 
Author Comment
wcfoodies April 21, 2010
Thank you!