Make Ahead

Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes with Feta and Leeks

November 22, 2010
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

I was recently working on an article extolling the virtues of the classic potato latke, and wanted to contrast its perfect simplicity with some ridiculously nouveau-whatever variation. So I wrote that stripped-down basic recipes, with care paid to technique, can hold their own against the frou-frou trimmings of a latke with say... caramelized leeks, hashed parsnips, feta and sweet potatoes. And then I looked at what I wrote. Challenge accepted! No, they're not my grandma's latkes. But oh my are they good. They're sweet yet earthy, studded with delicious briny and savory accents. Happy Hannukah! - deensiebat —deensiebat

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: deensiebat is a trusted Food52-er from the Pacific Northwest, whose vegetable-heavy diet has lead to some of our favorite recipes.
WHAT: Russet-less latkes that just became a new holiday tradition.
HOW: Caramelized leeks are mixed with grated sweet potatoes and parsnips, crumbled feta, egg, matzoh meal, and nutmeg. It's a loose, dry mix, but lightly smooshing the cakes together before they hit the oil ensures they'll hold together.
WHY WE LOVE THEM: Four assertive flavors -- feta, leeks, sweet potatoes and parsnips -- melt together into sweet, savory, completely addictive pancakes. To dress them up, sprinkle on extra feta or swipe with creme fraiche, or go all out with a crisp apple relish or tiny pile of lemony salad. —The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 as a light meal
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 medium-sized leeks, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (usually about 1 large)
  • 1 pound parsnips (number will vary depending upon size)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled (a creamy French or Israeli style is nice)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 3/4 cup canola oil for frying (amount will vary depending upon how many skillets you want to have going)
In This Recipe
  1. Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened and are beginning to color (about 10 minutes).
  2. While the leeks are cooking, wash and peel the sweet potato and parsnips. Grate on the coarse holes of a box grater, and place in a large bowl (if you have no patience for hand-grating, you can use the shredding disk on a food processor, but place about ¼ of the mixture back in the bowl of the processor with the regular blade and pulse a few times). Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, feta, egg and matzo meal. Stir to combine. Mix in the cooked leeks.
  3. Pour the canola oil to a depth of 1/2-inch in a frying pan—you can use the pan used for the leeks, and additional pans if you’d like to make quick work of it. Heat the oil over a medium flame until hot—if you drop in a shred of the latke mixture, it should bubble vigorously. Shape about 3 tablespoons of the latke mixture into a round shape (I like to pack a 1/4 cup measure mostly full), and place in the oil. Flatten slightly to form a small pancake. Repeat as many times as your pan space allows. Cook the latkes until well-browned, 5 to 7 minutes, then flip and brown the other side. These latkes are more delicate than standard potato pancakes (especially when warm), so be delicate. When the second side has cooked, place on a plate lined with brown paper, stacking as needed. If you want to be extra-good, now and then strain out any rogue bits that have floated into the oil before they burn (or leave them in, for a taste closer to what grandma would have made). Serve. Or...
  4. If you’re not serving at once, layer the cooled latkes in a sealed container with parchment between the layers, and freeze. To serve, preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the latkes on a cookie sheet (you can place them on a rack on top of a cookie sheet for a crisper result, but usually the sheet is fine for me), and cook until they have colored a bit more and are heated through and sizzling (10 to 15 minutes).
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