Every year, I spend months brainstorming a new kind of latke only to end up making classic potato latkes for Hanukkah. Made well, they are always a clear winner for me over potato alternatives like beet, parsnip, zucchini, sweet potato, etc.
Maybe it was my trip to Japan, but I’ve been thinking a lot about mochi recently (Japanese glutinous rice cakes) and a light bulb went off: Savory, chewy, mochi latkes! The addition of mochi flour makes the latkes lighter in consistency, yet the chewiness it adds makes it incredibly satisfying, even addicting...
Continuing with the Japanese theme, I decided to top them with an Asian pear and persimmon relish instead of the classic apple sauce and sour cream. They are stewed in browned butter, making this the best latke I have ever made. This latke is a delicious blend of my Japanese and Jewish cultures and a metaphor for how blending two cultures can inspire an improvement to the original tradition- in this case: Latkes! After all, isn’t this what “Jewish food” is anyway? —Kristin Eriko Posner
20 small latkes
russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
medium yellow onion, peeled and shredded
eggs, lightly beaten
vegetable oil for frying
medium-sized Asian pears, peeled and chopped into 1/4” cubes
medium-sized fuyu persimmon, peeled and chopped into 1/4” cubes
Flakey sea salt to finish
In This Recipe
Prepare the relish. In a small pot, brown the butter. It will take about 10 minutes, but you need to watch it the ENTIRE time. The butter will melt, then simmer, then brown bits will start to appear. After the bottom of the pot seems to have a fair amount of browned bits, remove it from the heat. Browned butter goes from browned to burned (blackened bits instead of browned bits) in an instant, so be very careful. It should have a nutty, toasty aroma.
Place the fruit in the pot with the butter and put it back on low heat. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes. The fruit should cook slightly but still maintain a bite/crunch. Strain the butter and liquids from the fruit and let the relish cool completely.
Now for the latkes: Since we’re only grating 2 potatoes here, I like to just use a box grater (the side with the large holes) for both the potatoes and onion. If more than doubling this recipe, I would use a food processor.
If you’re serving the latkes today, turn on your oven’s warming drawer or your oven to 250°F to keep them warm after they are done cooking. I prefer to make mine in advance and freeze them.
Place 1/3 of the grated potato in a cheese cloth or a clean, thin dish towel and squeeze very tightly to remove all liquid from the potatoes. Do this three times until liquid from all the potatoes is removed. Place potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add the grated onion with liquids. Now add in the mochi flour, eggs and salt. Stir well to combine. You’ll want to work quickly here so the potatoes don’t oxidize and discolor too much.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (I use a large stainless steel pan) with vegetable oil to about a 1/2” depth over medium heat. Test to see if the oil is ready by putting a little potato grating into the pan. If it immediately bubbles, its ready. It should take about 10 minutes for your oil to heat. Keep a careful eye on it while it’s heating up because you don’t want it to be too hot or your latkes will burn. Conversely, if you start cooking your latkes before the oil is hot enough, they will end up greasy on the inside and give you a stomach ache!
Line a cookie sheet with a wire rack and a couple of layers of paper towels over it. Place it near your frying pan. This is where your latkes will cool.
Add the latkes one at a time in the hot oil. Be careful not to overcrowd them. I cooked five at a time, max.
The latkes are ready to eat when they are cool to the touch but still warm inside. Top with crème fraîche, then fruit relish, then a light sprinkling of cinnamon.
If you are freezing your latkes, preheat your oven to 425°F an hour before you plan to serve them. Bake them for 10-15 minutes. If possible, bake them on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. This will help air circulate all around, ensuring they will be crispy on both sides. Cool on paper towels for about 5-10 minutes and garnish as indicated above.