Learning the Language of Latkes

For three weeks I've had one dish on my mind: latkes. So what is a latke you ask? For those who don't know, here's an official definition:

(in Jewish cooking) A pancake, esp. one made with grated potato.

Now here's my (unofficial) definition:


Circular potato pancake of deliciousness. 

I am officially on break for a month, thus: the perfect time to start cookin'! And boy, was this dish an easy blast!

Here we go!


It took me absolute ages to peel these potatoes, but I made it happen! A good vegetable peeler is an essential tool for the kitchen. Without it, I would have used that knife, and I'd probably still be peeling. (Okay, honestly, the peeler probably just saved me 10-15 minutes tops.  Still!)


Next, in order to fit the onions and potatoes into the food processor for shredding, I had to cut them up into little pieces. I'm happy to announce that the onions did not sting my eyes, as they usually do. I don't normally have access to food processors at my apartment, so using one definitely saved me some time. If you've got one, use it. Some recipes call for graters, which I'm sure work fine, but if you're planning on making latkes for a dinner party, or planning on having leftovers, a food processor is the way to go.


The recipe calls for 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and one large egg, but since I used two potatoes, I ended up doubling the recipe. Adding the freshly shredded and drained potato/onion mixture to the...well, mix, I whisked it all together until everything was coated.


Latke time! Here's what I learned:

1. When the recipe tells you to scoop a mere teaspoon of latke mix into a pan, do it. I decided to take spoonfuls because I wanted bigger cakes, but that was a MISTAKE. They cooked slower than I wanted, and I just didn't feel in control at all.

2. Although the recipe called for peanut oil, I found that extra virgin olive oil does the trick nicely as well.

3. You'll have to use more oil than what the recipe suggests.


Here, I finally started to get the hang of it. (Notice that I heeded the recipe's advice and lessened my spooning size. )


FINALLY, FINALLY I got it! Perfect size, good crispness. What I learned:

1. YOU MUST WATCH THESE CAREFULLY. These cakes are much smaller, and significantly thinner, so they crisp before you know it. One minute is a pretty solid amount of time, but every cake crisps differently.

2. If you've got an electric stove like I've got at home, the heat should be at about 6. If you've got a gas stove like I've got at my apartment, 5 or 6 is probably a good, safe place to remain.


Into the tupperware they go, ready to be eaten tomorrow for dinner!!

Doubling the recipe made a TON, and this is a great food item to make in advance, and they're great re-heated. What's also great is that these aren't just for dinner parties! Potato pancakes can be enjoyed at breakfast, or as hor d'oeuvres with some yummy topping combinations!

Oh! And here's the recipe from Smitten Kitchen!

1 large baking potato (1 pound), peeled 1 small onion (4 ounces), peeled 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper Peanut oil, for frying

In a food processor or on a box grater, coarsely shred the potato and onion. For longer strands, lay the potato sideways in the chute of your food processor. Transfer to a colander or wrap in a cheesecloth sling, and squeeze as dry as possible. Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze dry again.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, egg, salt and pepper together. Stir in the potato onion mixture until all pieces are evenly coated.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until shimmering. Drop packed teaspoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of a spoon. Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

Happy Cooking!!

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