I have some sad news. This will be the first year since its inception in 2001 that I will not be hosting our annual Christmukkah party, renowned for the extremely boozelicious egg nog and the scrumptious potato latkes. That baby I alluded to in my last post (4 1/2 months ago!) has arrived and is keeping me too busy to make 100 latkes and several gallons of egg nog, much less post regularly on this blog. It's all I can do to keep up with posting photos on our baby blog, and I regularly get crabby emails from my mother-in-law that I have been slacking in that department as well! So my holiday gift to you this year is, instead of a party I am passing on my well-honed recipe for the famous latkes. They weren't always this good mind you. I have made many a latke that was burned on the edges, soggy, or fell apart the instant you tried to pick it up. But after literally years of trial and error, last year I found the holy grail. The recipe for latkes that are flavorful, pretty, crispy on the outside, steamy and soft on the inside, hold together well in the pan and can be frozen and reheated and not fall apart and still STAY CRISPY!!
The freezing and reheating part is essential for me. The first year I made latkes for our party, I just mixed up all the batter ahead of time and thought I would just fry them up as the party began. Well, that was completely unrealistic. It takes a surprisingly long time to brown a latke properly, and even with all 4 burners going on the stove, I could only cook about 12-14 latkes at a time. I spent almost the whole party in the kitchen, distractedly mumbling conversation with the guests who meandered in and out trying gamely to help. The next year, the mother of one of my piano students told me she always made hers ahead of time for her Hanukkah party, placing the fried latkes on a baking sheet on the porch to freeze and then tossing them into ziplocs in the freezer until party day. GENIUS! But it still took me a while to refine the recipe until I was perfectly happy with it. And here, I now bestow on you, the final version, a miracle of potatoes and oil:
Robin's Perfect Potato Latkes
2 lbs russet potatoes - this is the starchiest variety of potato.
1/2 cup grated onion
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 large eggs,
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup flour
plenty of pure olive oil (not extra virgin) or peanut oil (I like to do half and half)
Shred the potatoes in a food processsor, or by hand. (I used to think that machine shredded potatoes wouldn't cook evenly, but my laziness has prompted me to experiment with the food processor and I am happy to report they work just fine.) As you go, empty gratings into a large bowl of cold water. This keeps the potato shreds from discoloring.
Drain potato gratings, reserving white sludgey stuff that remains in the bottom of the bowl (important trick). This is potato starch and it will help your latkes hold together.
Spin the gratings in a salad spinner until most of the excess liquid is removed. Mix with the grated onion and wrap a the mixture in an absorbent dish towel about a cup at a time and squeeze to remove any more excess moisture.
Combine the eggs, scallions and salt in a bowl. Beat lightly, then pour mixture into the reserved potato starch and stir until blended. Add to potato-onion-scallion mixture and mix well, sprinkling in the 1/4 cup flour a bit at a time.
Put a large, heavy bottomed non-stick or cast iron skillet over high heat. Add oil until it is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. When the oil seems hot, test by dropping a smidgen of latke mixture into the pan and see if it sizzles.
If it does, spoon 2 tablespoons-worth of latke mixture into the skillet. Flatten with a fork until the latke is about 3 inches across. Repeat until there are 4 latkes in the pan. Do not be tempted to put too many latkes in the pan or they will reduce the temperature of the oil and take forever to cook. (Alternately, you can do one tablespoon's worth per latke if you want little cocktail party-sized latkes - these will be about 2 inches in diameter when flattened and you can cook 5 in a large frying pan.) Reduce heat to medium high and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
If you are making them to serve immediately, keep the baking sheet in a warm oven so the latkes stay hot. If you are making them for later, put the baking sheet in the freezer (or outside if it's cold enough and you're not worried about animals stealing your latkes!) and when all the latkes are frozen, transfer them to a ziploc and keep in the freezer until ready to serve. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until sizzling.
Makes about 25 latkes, or 40 cocktail-sized latkes. Serve warm, with applesauce or sour cream. (I like to top mine with sour cream and caviar!)