family latke recipe

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I've had a few requests for that latke recipe (we pronounce it as "laht-kuh," Jack, but I've definitely heard "lot-key" used as well). This recipe comes from my father's side of the family--his mother made them for him when he was a child in Germany, and he in turn made them for me and my sister every winter when we were growing up. When I left home, he gave me the recipe, and I'm now the official latke-cooker in my house.

Here's it is, as I learned it. This is not a Joy of Cooking recipe with exact proportions...you'll have to use the rule of thumb guidelines provided.

Ingredients

  • lots of large potatoes ("about the size of a man's fist," dad says; I generally use Idaho baking potatoes)
  • 1 egg per potato
  • 1 "baseball-sized" white or yellow onion per ~4 potatoes (to taste, really)
  • 1 tbsp salt per 6 potatoes (again, this is to taste)

Instructions

Peel and grate the potatoes (to a "mush" consistency, using the fine tooth side of the grater; not the side that makes shreds). Grate the onions the same way, and mix into the potato mixture. Use a ladle or large spoon to remove excess moisture...we put a heavy metal ladle onto the mixture, and the liquid drains into the ladle over the edges. Keep this up for as long as you have the patience for it; removing the water helps the pancakes stay together better when cooking.

After removing the water, add in the eggs and salt.

Heat ~1" of oil (preferably peanut oil, but vegetable or canola oil will work) in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) until water "pops" when dropped into oil. Pour some of the mixture in with a ladle. If it falls apart, it means that either the oil is too hot, or the mixture is too watery and needs more egg. Experiment with temperature first, because it's easier to undo than adding eggs.

Latkes should float above the bottom of the pan, not stick to the bottom. Use a spatula (metal, not plastic!) to dislodge them if they stick. When edges start to brown, flip.

When latkes are crispy around edges and brown on both sides, place on paper towels. We rip up a full roll of paper towels, and just layer the latkes and paper towels; 2 paper towels, 3-4 latkes, then 2 more paper towels over that, more latkes, etc. Keep the plate with latkes and paper towels in a slightly warm oven while you're making more, so that you can bring out a lot at a time, reducing family warfare over who gets them. :-)

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Open Soucrce Latkes from Community Mobilization on December 16, 2004 5:15 PM

This Spring I wrote about the open source Passover Hagadah project that essentially allowed Jews of all practices to self assemble their own Hagadah. Read More

8 Comments

Do you peel the taters first? I cook alot, but peel vs. no peel can start a whole war on it's own at our house.

Thanks for this! I've wondered what latkes are - I'd just worked out they're delicious, that's all!

How big should they be?

Julia, I updated the recipe to show that the potatoes do get peeled.

Jill, latkes (potato pancakes) are a traditional hanukkah food.

Size can vary; I usually do three per skillet, with a 2-3" diameter. They have to be small enough that you can flip them with the spatula.

As an old perpetrator of "latkes," let me add a couple of hints: Do a small test version first, to check whether the batter has too little onion or too little salt. (If too much of either, you need to grate another potato.) And if the test latke tends to fall apart, add another egg to the batter.

The dish is very common throughout Northern Europe and there is simply called potato pancakes. Best served with sour cream and/or applesauce.

My grandmother used to serve cold left-over potato pancakes at the next breakfast, with very sweet black coffee. A weird dish that I somehow relished when I was a small boy.

When my daughters were little we kept them out of the kitchen while I grated the onions because they considered onions to be yucky. But, unsuspectingly, they loved the resulting potato pancakes.

Dad

Here's a possibly-interesting case of cross-cultural traditions:

When I was young, my mother (born of German immigrants, both Protestants of some flavor) carried on a tradition during the week preceding Easter. One day's dinner (Maundy Thursday, I believe) was composed of "Kartoffelpancuchen" and applesauce (I don't guarantee the spelling). The next day featured prunes. I may have the order wrong.

Kartoffelpancuchen are, as far as I can tell, identical to latkes--that is, potato (earth-apple) pancakes. I miss them.

Probably the trickiest part of making latkes is removing the excess water from the grated potatoes. For the past several years I've made this easier by ladling the grated potato into a fine strainer. I may lose some potato this way but not much. Once I forgot this step and realized that the batter was too watery after I had already added the eggs and onion -- but I saved the batch by straining it late and then adding extra eggs. It was still good. -- Mom


Hello Walt
You almost got the spelling right actually it is KARTOFFELPFANNKUCHEN but I know what you meant.

So nice to see a recipe that doesn't ask for flour!! I was taught that made them into breakfast pancakes. I think I use about 1/2 the egg you do, maybe 2 eggs with 4 lge potatoes (just enough to bind it all together, 1 lgr onion, salt and pepper and NO flour. And I was taught to "drain" the mixture by tilting the bowl, holding my hand against the mixture and allowing the liquid to run out between my fingers. Turn the bowl and do it again, and again, until it thickens up suitable for frying. Haste at this point and you're trying to fry soup!

Have a great holiday season.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on December 16, 2004 4:51 PM.

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