The Jewish tradition of enjoying fried foods, such as latkes, on Hanukkah is really about the oil used to fry them. The point of the latke is not the potato, but the oil! What matters is the recounting of the miracle of one night’s oil lasting eight nights in the temple over two thousand years ago. Latkes are considered a symbol of the oil used to light the menorah. So, in commemoration of this miracle, every year Jews light Hanukkah menorahs and eat fried foods, such as latkes. My family gathers together to light the menorah for eight nights but eight nights of eating latkes is unimaginable! Every year on Hanukkah, we organize a get together and celebrate Hanukkah with the whole extended family by lighting the menorah, eating latkes, jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot) and play dreidel!
I have been following this basic recipe every Hanukkah for thirty plus years. Proudly, this recipe produces crispy, greasy, and very satisfying latkes. Each family has a preference for either applesauce, sour cream or yogurt as an accompaniment to the latkes. Best served hot!
If you are planning to make latkes ahead, they freeze well. Follow the recipe and fry them until they are golden brown, but not too crisp. Once cooled, wrap the latkes in aluminum foil and freeze. Heat oven to 350ºF, lay frozen latkes on a baking sheet and heat until crisp and warm, approximately 25 minutes.
Serving; 25, 3-inch potato latkes
2½ pounds baking potatoes
1 large onion
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
⅛ teaspoon fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup matzo meal, or 2-3 tablespoons flour
olive or grapeseed oil
applesauce, sour cream or yogurt
1. Grate the potatoes alternately with the onion to keep the potatoes from darkening. (To keep from nicking your knuckle on the grater, hold your hand flat and press the potato against the grater with your palm, keeping your fingers out of the way.) Squeeze the excess liquid from the potato and onion shreds. Crisp latkes mean getting the water out of the potatoes.
2. Separately in a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, salt and pepper. Stir into the grated potatoes and onions. Add the baking powder and matzah meal (or flour). Mix well. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes allowing the the matzo meal (or flour) to absorb some moisture.
3. Heat ⅛ inch oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Use two large spoons to form each latke. Press some of the potato mixture into a spoon, squeezing excess liquid back into the bowl, then carefully slide it off the spoon into the hot oil. Lightly flatten the latke with a spatula. The latkes tend to be irregularly shaped.
4. Continue forming latkes and adding to the skillet until the pan is full, leaving a little room between each one. Fry the latkes until they are well-browned on each side. Don't turn the latkes more than once. Once you turn them, they won't get any browner by turning them again. Crispy edges are a good indicator they are done. Drain well on paper towels and repeat the process until the potato mixture is gone.
5. Serve latkes as soon as possible for best taste and texture. Accompany with applesauce, sour cream or yogurt.