Creamy Potato-Onion Latkes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Yield: About

    4

    servings

Appears in

They had a silver Hanukkah menorah full of the finest oil with a large shamash candle ready to kindle the other wicks. Nothing but the best. From the kitchen one could smell the heavenly aroma of freshly rendered goose fat.

“We’re having latkes tonight,” Benny told me as we stood at the door, and my stomach rumbled with hunger!

SHOLOM ALEICHEM, “BENNY’S LUCK”

It comes as no surprise that, as with other Jewish foods, there is no definitive way to make a potato latke. Most cooks use raw potatoes, but some grate boiled potatoes. And a few use a combination of both.

When made entirely of cooked potatoes, latkes, to my palate, are not latkes at all, but croquettes: they lack the requisite crunch and the deeply satisfying fried potato taste that are the hallmarks of the genus. But adding a little cooked potato to grated raw ones makes for lighter latkes, with real potato crust and soft centers (a trick I employed for the Onion-Crusted Light Potato Kugel, and that Irish cooks use in their potato pancake, boxty). While this combination latke is wonderful on its own with the traditional accompaniments, its lightness makes it an excellent candidate as well for a side dish served with substantial meats and poultry.

In this recipe, I swirl savory frizzled onions into the cooked potato before combining it with the grated raw potato. The latke fries up with a thin, crackly potato crust enclosing an airy, onion-luscious mashed potato center.

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Ingredients

  • About 1¾–2 pounds russet (baking) or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • ½ pound onions, chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Accompaniments

Method

  1. Cut about one-third of the potatoes into small chunks and boil them in a saucepan of salted water until tender. Drain and mash until very smooth (no lumps wanted here) by forcing through a food mill, ricer, or colander into a large bowl.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat, stirring, until golden and just speckled with brown, 10–12 minutes. Season the still-hot onions generously with salt and pepper and stir them into the mashed potatoes. Let the mixture cool.
  3. Coarsely grate the remaining potatoes in a food processor fitted with the grating disk, or grate by hand. Put the grated potatoes in a colander, rinse under cool water, then use your hands or a wooden spoon to extract as much moisture as possible.
  4. Add the grated potatoes to the mashed ones. Whisk in the egg, baking powder, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
  5. Using about ¼ cup for each latke, form the batter into small, flat patties about ½ inch thick and 3–3½ inches wide. Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet until hot but not smoking. Fry the latkes a few at a time; crowding the pan will make the latkes soggy.
  6. Watch the heat carefully, reducing it if necessary when the latkes are golden and crisp on the bottom. To prevent the oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon), to turn the latkes gently. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but wait until it is hot before adding the latkes.
  7. It’s best to flip the latkes only once, so that they don’t absorb too much oil during cooking. So, before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.
  8. Drain the latkes as they are done on paper towels or untreated brown paper bags. If necessary, keep the latkes warm in a single layer on an ovenproof platter or baking sheet lined with paper towels in a 200°F oven while you prepare the rest. But they are at their best served as soon as possible.

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