The Latke Method

The Latke Method

Thursday is the first night of Hanukkah, and I am especially grateful at this dark time of year for a holiday in which light plays a central role, and latkes a strong supporting character.  One of the joys of creating Boat Sauce has been discovering its versatility, and I was especially delighted the first time I drizzled some on a fresh, hot latke on a cold December afternoon.  Move over, applesauce! (Well, just move to one side of the plate, because I still have room in my heart for you, too.) 

There are plenty of recipes for Latkes, but in my opinion, the technique in this dish is more critical than the ratios themselves.  The key, which anyone will tell you, is to get as much moisture as possible out of the grated potatoes and onions.  Opinions differ on how to achieve this, but I have always had luck with wringing the living hell out of your potatoes & onions in a clean, slightly damp tea towel.  Wring the liquid out over a bowl, let the contents settle, and when you pour off the murky water, the potato starch remains.  Return the vegetables back to the bowl and proceed with the recipe.  

The other suggestion is, painful as it may be, fry your latkes in an ample amount of oil.  This isn't a weekly staple, it's a special occasion.  And if you don't use enough oil you're going to end up with burned or unevenly cooked pancakes.  There are plenty of recipes on the internet for Latkes, and this one isn't different than most, however it yields a smaller amount in case you're only cooking for 2-4.

Latkes (for Bobbie's Boat Sauce) 

1 large russet potato (about 1lb) 
1/2 medium onion
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt (Diamond Crystal, or less if using Morton's)
Black Pepper 
1-2 Tbs Matzo Meal, breadcrumbs, or flour (I take 1/2 a piece of matzo and process it in my blender)
Oil (I prefer grapeseed)
With a box grater or grating attachment on a food processor, grate onions and potatoes.  Take a clean, damp tea towel and lay it on your counter, then place the grated vegetables in the center.  Gather the ends and start squeezing the moisture into a medium sized bowl.  Squeeze.  Squeeze as hard as you can.  Squeeze all your frustration about 2020 and anxiety about the future until you're looking at a bowl of cloudy liquid.  Let this settle while you compose yourself again, then pour off the liquid until you have a layer of starch at the bottom of the bowl. Add the potato/onion mixture to this, then your salt, pepper, egg, and matzo meal.  If you don't have matzo meal, breadcrumbs or flour is fine.  The point is to have a fairly stiff "batter", but really a mass of coated grated potatoes.  
Take a heavy bottom skillet with deep sides (a Lodge pan is perfect), fill it with a 1/2 to 1 inch of oil, and set it on high (you will be adjusting heat eventually).  When you think the oil is hot, add a small grating of potato and see if it sizzles actively. If so, drop dollops of latke in the pan, about 2-3 Tablespoons worth apiece.  With a metal spatula, and utilizing the sides of the pan, press and shape each latke into a solid mass.  Turn over when golden, and cook for 3-5 minutes total.  Drain on paper towels. 
Serve with sour cream, Bobbie's Boat Sauce Classic or Hot, and it's not a bad idea to have some applesauce handy too, for variation,.