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My Latke Recipe

My Latke Recipe

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Happy Hannuka!  I use a variation of the recipe I learned from my mother.  But because we're in this highly inconvenient little apartment, far from most of our possessions, I did not have the recipe with me.  Didn't matter; I remembered well enough without it and the nonconformities may have been beneficial.  So here's the way I did it last night; I'd already promised the recipe to

bandcandy, and  antosha_c probably has a good recipe of his own, but I thought it might interest others also.


I'm going to write this as a stream-of-process, rather than the traditional list of ingredients and steps.  I'll put amounts of ingredients in boldface.

First I peeled 6 potatoes and left them to sit in a bowl of water.  (We only have one large bowl right now, so I couldn't start mixing anything until later and I find it's better not to grade the potatoes until nearly the last minute).  Then I chopped up 2 onions and set them aside.  In another, smaller bowl, I beat 3 eggs, added about 1/3 cup of low-fat, plain yogurt (or "madzoon," as my Armenian wife calls it), some salt and fresh-ground pepper, and some nutmeg.  (I grated the nutmeg directly into the mixture, so I'm not sure exactly how much there was, but I'll bet it was about 1 teaspoon (I really like nutmeg).)  I mixed these wet things together until they were relatively smooth.

I chopped up a bunch of Italian parsley -- now, in the past I put the parsley directly into the final latke batter, which is the way my mother did it, and it adds color and a nice bit of flavor.  But my kids don't like them that way, so this time I just set it aside to dump on top of the latkes when served.

I took the potatoes out of the bowl and set them on some paper towels while I rinsed and dried the bowl.  Then I grated them on a hand-grater (coarsest option) into the bowl.  (Had I been at home I would have used a food processor with the coarse grater blade; I liked this a bit better, actually, and besides, my friend Jennifer used to say that latkes aren't authentic unless they contain a bit of grated knuckle...)  Then I added the onions, the wet mixture, and about 1/3 cup of unbleached white flour.  I mixed the whole mess with my hands (which is really a lot of fun).

I got out the biggest skillet we've got here, and filled it with peanut oil (with some olive oil added), to a depth of a bit more than 1/4 inch.

The oil has to be really hot (but obviously not burning), or else the latkes will soak up too much of it and taste unnecessarily greasy.  When it is hot, I added the batter using a heaping soup spoon (i.e., 1 tablespoon); after they were all added I flattened them a bit.  The problem with adding them all at once is that it may cool the oil down a bit and slow the cooking process.

I turned them only when they were at least golden on the bottom, which really tries my patience.  I have to use a spatula and a fork in concert, because you really don't want to splash that hot oil.

When they were  browned on the second side, I removed them to a platter that has several layers of paper towels on it to soak up the excess oil.  I actually made two batches (or 12 latkes, in my skillet), keeping them warm in the oven, before serving.  (Note that as the oil level begins to decrease in the pan, some of the latkes will tend to scortch before others are even golden; adding oil may help, but then you have to heat it up again).

I served them with applesauce I'd made earlier in the afternoon, with extra yogurt and the parsley.  Our friend Holly had brought some asparagus with lemon that we ate along with it.  There were three adults and two children eating (and my 7-year-old only ate a bit of one of the latkes), but between us we polished off the whole recipe.  Since it was Shabbat we also had some bread and wine; the kids (of course) ate Hannuka gelt for dessert.

The only real down-side of this process is that the cook himself can't really sit down to eat; he has to be constantly back-and-forth to the pan.  This worked out fine, actually, because the kitchen table here will only seat four, and so I had an excuse not to use it.  I suppose you could just cook all the latkes in advance and them serve them all at once, but I really think they're better right out of the pan.  I look forward to eating these things (which are far to high-fat and high-calorie to eat at any other time, really) all year.  The whole apartment still smells of the cooking, 24 hours later.
  • Happy Hannuka to you too. Thanks for the recipe. I love Lates. Don't have to wait around Hannuka to make them. My version is similar, but from Weight Watchers. Not for me (I'm 5'3" 108lbs) but for my husband who is over 6'2" and prone to be heavy if he does not watch it. My version uses only egg whites and fry until golden brown, and then bake until crispy. Your version remindes me of my Mom. We did ours last night, and our house smelled wonderfuly.
    • Rakheleh, I should have known that you'd have a recipe too. :) I think I might try that Weight Watchers' version sometime. It sounds great. One hundred eight pounds? Eat, eat, bubeleh! You'll waste away to nothing.
  • Happy Hannuka to you too!

    Thanks for the recipe - they sound suspiciously close to the German potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer) that I grew up eating, and I love those. I'll have to give these a shot for our family Christmas gathering this year and see how everyone likes them.

    I honestly don't know how a problem ever got started between Germans and Jews - the food and slang are practically interchangeable.
    • Kartoffelpuffer? Ausgeseichnet! It's hardly surprising that the recipes would be similar. Jewish cooking is heavily influenced by the regions in which various communities of Jews lived for the last thousand years or so. My ancestors are all Ashkenazim, which means they're primarily from Eastern Europe. There's heavy German, Russian and Polish influence in all Ashkenazic recipes. And Yiddish, the Ashkenazic folk language, is a heavily-altered version of German.

      By contrast, the Sephardim, the Jews who settled in Spain and in the Arab-dominated Middle East, have an entirely different set of cuisines and languages. For Hannuka, for example, they typically make small jelly doughnuts rather than latkes.

      (It's the heavy use of oil (in celebration of the miracle) that's the important part of the food for this holiday. Last year for Hannuka, my Armenian wife made Imam Bayaldi a sublime eggplant dish that supposedly got its name (Turkish for "The Priest Fainted") from the huge quantities of olive oil it uses.)

      As for the problem, truthfully it wasn't a problem between the Germans and the Jews. It was, initially, a problem between the Jews and the non-Jewish (but especially Christian) populations of every country in Europe. We were officially banned from Spain in the 1490s, from England in the 1280s; "Antisemitism" as a formal political movement got its start in France in the 1890s; pogroms (organized mass looting, rape and murder of Jews) were common, but especially at Easter, in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, what is now the Czech Republic, etc., etc. What made Germany "special" in this regard is that, economically crippled and psychologically damaged by the aftermath of the First World War, the German population was peculiarly vulnerable to the manipulations of a murderous lunatic. It could easily have happened anywhere in Europe, and there were plenty of non-Germans (French, Polish, etc.) who enthusiastically helped out in the killings. I think it's a mistake to think of it as a German phenomenon.

      • Yeah; I'm aware of all the crap Jews put up with in Europe over the centuries; my comment was meant more glibly than it came across I suppose. I've done a lot of reading about religious persecution and it never ceases to amaze me how people will look for a scapegoat from the "other" culture regardless of what that "other" is. Jews wound up on the wrong end of that so often because of their close community ties and the relative ease with which they could be identified. At other times it was Muslims (see Crusades) and even fellow Christians (see Inquisition, Thirty Years' War, and the Albigensian Crusade just off the top of my head). But for the most part, Jews were handy and easily identifiable so they made perfect patsies when disease, poverty, or other misfortune befell people.
  • Ken, no one has called me Rakheleh in ages! Well sometimes my husband does if he's teasing. Sometimes he calls me "weary little lamb" Leah is my middle name, that means weary. I dislike the Yiddish sound for Rachel, love the Hebrew. Yeah, I was happy visiting Mexico recently. They all called me Raquel.

    Hey 108lbs is not that thin. I'm only 5'3" Funny...they all told me in Mexico to eat more!
    • You're both Rachel and Leah? Discussions of the story of Jacob in your household must have been very interesting to listen to...
      • Ha-ha...not just my name although I've just about had it for Jacob and his tastes in wives. I had no say in it. I was named for dead relatives. I have a sister named Sara Rebecca and a brother David Simon. Only my younger sister gets the best name Shulamith. That is Hebrew for Susan. My mom found the name in a book she was reading. In Israel my relatives call her Shuli, We call her Susie

        The Weight Watchers version of Latkes

        1 1/4 pound potatoes peeled and shredded
        2 medium egg whites
        3 Tbsp all purpose flour
        2 medium scallions minced
        4 tsp vegetable oil

        Soak the potatoes 30 minutes drain and blot dry Preheat oven to 375 F

        In medium bowl combine the potatoes, egg whites, flour, scallions and salt Form into 12 pancakes.

        In large nonstick skillet over medium heat Heat one third of th oil. Cook the pancakes 4 at a time until golden. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with the remianing oil and pancakes Bake until crisp and cooked through 5-7 minutes.
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