Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around Hanukkah (which begins tonight with the lighting of the
first candle on the menorah’the treats, little presents, time-honoured dreidl games and the incredibly delicious, crispy latkes (little potato pancakes) that came out of the old-fashioned cozy kitchens of my grandmother on my mother’s side and my aunty on my father’s. My mother, a fantastic cook, was a strong contender, but it was these matriarchs whose latkes I always try to emulate.
Many people enjoy latkes as a sidedish with chicken and roast. Some people don’t top them with anything other than a little salt. Others sprinkle sugar and cinnamon’they can be enjoyed many ways. You can make latkes ahead and then warm them in the oven, but diehards say the best way to experience them is out of the pan.
Most people today when they make latkes, especially for a crowd, use a food processor to grate the potatoes. In honour of my childhood memories, when I make them for my own family of four, I still hand-grate them. And I don’t let anyone near the stove. The trick to making perfect potato pancakes is to avoid distractions’never turn away from a searing pan of latkes!
Whether you hand-grate or food-process, this is the recipe I’ve used for years for a very appreciative family. It’s my Hannukah gift to you:
5 Yukon OR baking potatoes peeled
2 small onions quartered
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Vegetable oil for cooking
Shred potatoes and onion quarters. Put mixture into a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Put into a large bowl, and mix in the rest of the ingredients, then let stand a few minutes. Pour out any liquid. In large pan, heat 1/4 inch oil over high heat until hot. Do not heat until smoking. Add a large serving spoon-size of mixture per latke, leaving a little space in the pan between each. Flatten gently. Fry a few minutes until golden brown and crisp around edges. Turn over and fry two to three more minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain off the excess oil. Continue with remaining mixture. Makes 20-22 latkes.