Every year, along with Hanukkah, come the latke battles. I sit on the sidelines and watch my social media feed fill up with “How To Make The Perfect Latke” controversy.
The titles could read:
- Don’t Grate On Me
- My Fat Beats Your Fat
- Give Me Matzo Meal Or Give Me Death
Then, there are all the variety of latkes with chefs, cooks and food bloggers trying to out-creative and out-clever one another: Sweet Potato Latkes, Zucchini Latkes, Cilantro Jalapeño Latkes, Spaghetti Squash Latkes, Spinach-Feta Latkes and on and on. I’ve even made Salmon Potato Latkes, Bacon Potato Latkes and Mushroom Latkes, so I’m clearly not a purist.
However, there’s nothing like a well made, straight up potato latke, hot from the fat, smothered in sour cream and slathered with chutney, like my new Ginger Bred chutney I made for Christmas gifts.
The battles are entertaining to watch, but as I do, I find myself becoming hungry and jealous. Hungry for latkes and jealous that my Jewish roots are very thin, so my family doesn’t celebrate Hannukah and get to eat a lotta latkes.
When my mom was little her roots were confusing. Her mom was born Catholic and converted to Judaism. Her father was a Russian Jew, but he’d lost his faith in God because his family was exterminated by Stalin. Not sure if they had latkes for the holiday when she was little, but I decided to I needed to make some to assuage the growling in my stomach. I didn’t have an official recipe of my own. I’d just make them with no real recipes.
I took advantage of the latke battles of 2014 and conferred with various “How To Make The Perfect Latke” articles including the well researched The Complete, No-Nonsense, Slightly Neurotic Guide to Making Great Latkes by Max Falkowitz, the Splendid Table’s Perfect Potato Latke (which comes up first on Google when you search for “How To Make The Perfect Latke” ) and my friend and Latke Queen, Dori Fern’s article and recipe, Latke Love: One New Yorker’s Triumphant Quest for the Perfect Potato Pancake. She frys her latkes in duck fat! Just the thought makes my mouth perspire. Dori makes a gazillion latkes every season for charity. This past holiday, she turned thirty pounds of potatoes into duck fat fried latkes for over sixty five folks.
I read them all and read a few more, to come up with Jackie’s “Perfect” Latke recipe. I agreed and disagreed. I tweaked and taste. These are damn good! Will I be pitting mine against anyone else’s for the title? No way. They never last that long.
- 2.5 pounds russet potatoes
- 1 pound Spanish onions
- 1- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- Animal fat and or vegetable oil for frying
- On a mandoline, set to extremely thin, slice the onions, then chop them with a knife to break up the the rings. Place onions in a large bowl and mix in 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
- In a food processor, fitted with the grater blade, grate the potatoes.
- Mix the potatoes with the onions. Taste the potatoes and add more salt if necessary. Allow mixture to sit for 15 minutes.
- Thoroughly wring out potato onion mixture in a cheesecloth, over a new bowl to remove all the moisture. In the bottom of the original bowl you will see water. Carefully strain the water so you keep the potato starch that has gathered in the bottom of the bowl. Beat the eggs with the potato starch. Mix the potato-onion mixture back into the eggs.
- Preheat oven to 250° and place a sheet pan in the oven. Have a paper towel lined platter near the sink.
- Heat 1/2” of fat-oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Spoon tablespoons of the latke mixture into the oil. Fry the latkes on one side until golden brown, then flip them over with a spatula and brown the other side. Place latkes on paper towel lined platter, then transfer them to the oven.
- Enjoy latkes with sour cream, apple sauce or your favorite chutney.
- 2.5 pounds pineapple chunks
- 2.5 pounds seedless green grapes halved
- 2 pounds of Granny Smith apples, peeled and cubed
- 12 ounces white sugar
- 4 ounces brown sugar
- 12 ounces apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 pound ginger, julienned
- 1 small red pepper, minced
- 1 pound yellow onions, chopped
- 1 cup raisins or currants
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- Mix all remaining ingredients in a 7 quart stainless steel stockpot.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours. Remove from heat.
- Cool slightly. Fill sterilized jars with chutney.
- Place flat lids on each jar. Screw on bands to seal, but don’t over tighten them.
- Arrange jars right side up in a canner and add water so it’s at least one inch above the jars. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for ten minutes.
- Cool jars on rack. Store in cool place.