Latkes are the East European Jewish expression of Chanukah, which is an eight-day festival in December, commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple of ancient Israel.
The celebration of Chanukah is supposed to include fried foods as oil played a significant role in the Chanukah story. One small jug of oil miraculously provided fuel for the Temple Menorah for eight days.
The ancients were using olive oil, so abundant in the Mediterranean basin. In Easter and Central Europe, latkes were traditionally fried in poultry fat, but nowadays, we fry latkes in vegetable oil. Prior to the introduction of the potato to the Old World, latkes were made out of cheese.
Each family has perfected their favourite latke recipe over the generations but the main ingredients remain nearly all the same: grated potatoes, egg, flour, matzo meal and oil for frying.
These classic potato pancakes are super crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. I hope you’ll enjoy these traditional and savoury Chanukah treats!
Makes about 24
1 pound russet (baking) potatoes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 medium onion
¼ to 1/3 cup matzo meal
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Cream of tartar (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
Sour cream or apple sauce for serving
Peel the potatoes and grate them on the favourite side of the grater. You could also shred them in a food processor with a shredding blade. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. You could add a pinch of cream of tartar to prevent potatoes from browning. Grate the onion and squeeze out excess water then transfer the onion to the bowl with potatoes and stir in the matzo meal, eggs, salt and pepper. The secret to great latkes is to remove as much liquid from the potatoes and onions as possible.
To cook the pancakes, fill a large skillet with ½ inch oil over medium heat until very hot. Spoon out the batter, using a scant ¼ cup for each pancake and flattening each latke slightly with a spatula. Fry, turning the latkes once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with sour cream and/or apple sauce or sprinkle with Confectioners' sugar.
Enjoy in moderation!