Latkes: Top 10 Tips
makes about 10
active: 15 min
total: 30 min
On the surface, potato latkes are a simple dish. Potatoes, onions, eggs, flour or matzo meal. A little salt and pepper. Fry. What could go wrong? Turns out, plenty. Latkes can be limp, underseasoned, undercooked or burnt latkes and sometimes they’re all of these unfortunate things. Yes: even undercooked and burnt simultaneously. Blech.
Chanukah should be a joyous time. Eight days of gorging yourself on fried foods, pyromania and, of course, presents. But throw in some sub-par latkes, and you might start to feel like a dreidel-player who’s hitting shin, over and over again. We want nothing but gimmels, for everyone, so here we are sharing with you our top ten tips for latke glory.
Top 10 Latkes Tips:
- What kind of potato? The starchier the potato, the crispier the latke. Makes sense. And the starchiest potato out there is the unassuming russet. They’re usually pretty cheap too, which means more latkes!
- Hand grate or food processor? I like to hand grate my latkes. Because that’s how my Bubbe did it and if it’s good enough for Bubbe it’s good enough for me. Maybe it’s the blood, sweat and arm power you have to put into hand grated latkes, but they just taste better that way.
- Save the starch! Shred your potatoes into cold water to prevent browning. Then wait about 10 minutes, set aside a sieve over a bowl and drain the water into the new bowl leaving the potatoes in the sieve. Press out excess water from the potatoes. Let the starch in the reserved water settle, then carefully drain the water, reserving the milky white stuff on the bottom. That’s the starch! Add it back to your dried potatoes for extra crispiness. When making sweet potato latkes, I add cornstarch to the water to up the starchiness and crispiness.
- Dry baby, dry! After you take the potatoes out of the water, remove as much moisture as possible using towels. Again, less moisture means crispier latkes, which means better latkes. Are you seeing the pattern here?
- Seasonings. Feel free to get creative with your latkes! Add cumin, cayenne, za’atar, cinnamon and don’t forget the salt. What about toppings? Sour cream and applesauce are delish, but how about a horseradish cream, or guacamole for a change?
- Fry, baby, fry! Use an oil with a high smoke point to achieve perfectly golden latkes. I prefer grapeseed or canola oil. How do you know if it’s hot? If you test a bit of the latke batter in the oil, it will sizzle but not brown immediately. Check oil periodically while frying to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cool.
- Three’s a crowd. Don’t crowd the pan! Too many latkes cool down the oil, making soggy latkes. Let the edges of the latkes get nice and brown before flipping so they won’t stick. And resist the urge to use a nonstick pan: you want the potatoes to caramelize to get that nice golden color.
- Salt! Fried food tastes good with salt. It’s just science. Blot latkes on paper towels and drain on a draining rack. Salt latkes immediately after you take them off the fryer.
- Having a crowd? Set the oven to 250 degrees F to keep latkes warm while you are cooking the others. But don’t let the batter sit too long or it will brown.
- Make ahead. You can do this! Fry per usual, and then freeze them on a cookie sheet and pack in a freezer safe resealable bag. When ready to serve, let latkes thaw slightly and reheat in a 450 degree F oven.
Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, Texas. She blogs at What Jews Wanna Eat.