Just six ingredients
Potatoes, onion, eggs, potato starch, salt and pepper, that's it. But soon you will miraculously transform them. A few words about each:
Potatoes: Three large Russets only. They must be very firm like an apple. They should not yield to the touch which is an indication that starches are converting to sugars and will result in gumminess. Avoid potatoes with eyes or patches of green. Choose three that are large and uniform. Oh and if you are thinking of sweet potatoes or parsnips or some other avant-garde ingredient, please exit and go visit Martha Stewart (strictly Goyem).
Eggs: Two large eggs.
Potato Starch: worth seeking out. You can find it at Whole Foods or Amazon. Matzo meal will do if you can’t find it. Never use wheat flour. Approximately ¼ cup – maybe more.
Onion: Pick a medium yellow onion. You will use ¼ for every three potatoes. No more. Your latkes should not taste of onion, but you would miss their presence if omitted.
Salt: about a tablespoon of coarse sea salt. Additional to sprinkle after cooking.
Pepper: grind freshly.
This is a preview of what you will be doing. It is meant to give you an idea of the process. Ten steps, just like the ten days of Christmas (lest we forget Jesus was a jew).
Each step should be done with fidelity. If you stray you will still end up with excellent Latkes, if not epic.
1. Peel and dry potatoes and onion.
2. Prepare two cuts of the potatoes: a shred and a
3. Grind onion
4. A two step process to squeeze all of the liquid out of potatoes while capturing the natural starch for incorporation
5. Beat eggs with reserved starch and seasoning
6. Mix potatoes and onions
7. Blend in egg mixture
8. Perform squeeze test and adjust
9. Fry in batches
10. Drain and eat
Follow these directions carefully and you will get the best latkes you have ever eaten. With practice you will achieve epic latkes.
The single most important factor is timing. Once you begin, you start a process that will lead directly to serving. They cannot be prepared ahead and reheated. Epic latkes are consumed within 3o minutes of completion. Preferably they are eaten as they are finished. Make it a communal experience and you will see your guests impatiently chirping like hungry baby birdies waiting for worms.
You will need some basic equipment:
1. Food processor with a fine grating wheel and the standard blade
2. A wire mesh style colander.
3. A large non-reactive bowl (glass, ceramic, or wooden salad style)
4. Wire whisk, large spoon, vegetable peeler
5. large towel
6. Slotted pancake flipper
7. Baking sheets/wire rack/paper towels
8. Large heavy sauté pan
Prep the potatoes and onions
Place the wire mesh colander into a bowl that fits its circumference but has space to collect liquids underneath. Here we will drain the potatoes after they are processed.
1. Peel three large potatoes wash and dry. Cut lengthwise to fit through your food processor’s feed tube. Put a fine grating disc and process all to produce shreds. Place in colander.
2. Swap the grating disc with the standard blade. Now remove a very scant half (somewhere between ¼ and ½) of the shredded potatoes and put back into processor. Pulse several times to the consistency shown. Do not over process. Place back into colander.
Cut your Onion in half. Save half for another use. Remove the papery skin and the tough outer layer on the remaining half and cut in half again. You will likely only use a quarter, depending on the size of the onion. Cut vertically to fit into your processor and pulse to a very fine dice. Be careful not to over-process. Reserve in processor bowl. And remember if the onions make you cry, enjoy the experience Jews revel in misery.
This is the single most important part. Do not attempt to omit. It really is not that complicated.
You will now have both grinds of potatoes in the colander resting in a bowl, (fig a.) reach in with both hands and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. (fig b.)
Lay a clean towel out and place the potatoes in the middle. Distribute evenly. (fig c.) fold the bottom and top like grab the ends and twist twist twist the remaining liquid out (fig d.)
Collect starch - add eggs
What remains in the bowl will look like figure a. foamy pinkish water which is floating on top of a starchy sludge. Gently pour off the the water and reserve the starch (figure b). It will have the texture of wet plaster. Run your finger through just to feel what lives inside of a potato.
Add two whole large eggs for each three large potatoes directly into the collected starch (figure c.). Take a wire whisk and beat the eggs and starch until incorporated and smooth. Now beat in the salt and pepper.
Lay out another dry towel and put the minced half of onion – roll and twist the towel, just like you did with the potatoes to remove the water (figure d.).
The ties that bind
Latkes require a bit of binder to marry together the ingredients. The conventional binder is Matzoh Meal, which will yield acceptable results. Some recipes suggest flour. This concept is strictly goyim and will render your latkes as gummy as an old-timer at the country club.
To achieve Epic Latkes take the effort to locate potato starch. Whole Foods stocks the Swan brand as shown. This product is light and has a special affinity for its parent product, like a good Jewish child.
Prep for frying
Prepare a baking sheet for draining freshly fried latkes. Line with two layers of paper towels and place a wire rack inside.
Place a heavy large skillet on your burner and fill with about and inch of vegetable oil. The very best is rice bran oil which has a high smoke point, is very light and does not add its own flavor to food. It is available on Amazon. Peanut oil is an acceptable alternative. Canola should be avoided since it imparts a car wax-like flavor.
Put the flame on medium high and start heating the oil while you do the final mixing of ingredients. Keep an eye on it with an instant read thermometer, when it reaches 365 degrees lower the flame to maintain.
Mix and feel
Take your large non-reactive bowl and add a bit more than ½ of the minced onion. Add the potatoes and mix well.(figures a, b.)
Sprinkle ¼ cup of the potato starch over the mixture. Have more handy incase it is needed. Mix well. (figure c.)
Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well with your hands. Next comes the “feel” test. Grab a handful in your hand and squeeze. It should hold together but not be overly wet. If it does not hold together, sprinkle a bit more starch and test again. (figure d.)
When complete pour out any liquid which may have accumulated.
drop and squash
This technique is critical to the epic latke. Use a large mixing spoon (with draining holes) to scoop up the latke mix press out any liquid with your fingers then drop in a clump into the hot oil Figure a.
Then immediately press the center to distribute. It should create a latke with some meat in the middle but crispy lacy edges Figure b.
Do not underestimate the importance of this maneuver. It takes some practice but the throw-aways will still be mighty yum.
The heat is on. Don’t crowd the pan too much and don’t be impatient on the flipping. When the edges turn golden and you see oil bubbling through little holes, it’s time for the first flip. Figure a.
The second side will go faster watch for the edges to go dark and oil bubbling through gaps. Figure b
Remove from the pan to wire rack.
Note that your first batch will be the the test batch – fresh oil needs to break down a bit and you bill see that subsequent batches will fry faster and to a deeper color.
Finish and repeat
Place the latkes on the wire rack with paper towels underneath. Salt them with sea salt such as Gray Salt or Fleur de Sel. Never defile them with standard iodized table salt as it is an inferior over-processed product. fi
Repeat frying, keeping an eye on the oil heat. Keep a bowl handy by the stove and remove the little bits of potato that remain in the oil lest they burn and taint the latkes with an off taste.
Latkes are best when freshly fried so I prefer to serve them in batches a la’
minute. You may keep them warm for
up to an hour in an oven at 180-200 degrees but that is the absolute maximum time. After 30 minutes they lose their status as epic latkes.
Now, revel in praise
The level of detail and care it requires to produce the miracle of epic Latkes will not go unnoticed. Serve them simply with the classic accouterment of sour cream and fresh apple sauce (preferably made from scratch; it is quite easy to make).
Praise will shower upon you and you will have to develop crowd management techniques to insure people are not injured as they trample to receive them sizzling from your spatula.
And we should never forget the reason we eat Latkes, a celebration of a battle against barbarians who trashed our ancestor’s sacred temple. And a tiny vial of oil which miraculously burned for eight days. My guess is it was rice bran oil.