After doing a little bit of Google research (a new statistically insignificant method of acquiring knowledge quickly), I have concluded that there are as many opinions about the best potato latke recipe as there are viewpoints about how to manage the impending fiscal cliff. Fortunately, you needn’t waste your breath arguing over what method works best; just sort through the choices below and if you can’t decide, there are eight days of Chanukah – try them all. By the way, you can spell Hanukah at least eight different ways as well – so if you can’t decide, try them all too!
Each method and recipe offers at least one key component that makes it work. Below are my summaries of these helpful tips and the links to the recipe posts:
1. The Onion/Potato Ratio:
In this recipe appearing on the James Beard web site, Mitchell Davis says that it is his mother’s ratio of onion to potato (two potatoes, 1 onion) that is key to its success.
2. Hand Grating:
Olga Massov of the blog Sassy Radish insists (as do many other experts) that you must grate the potatoes by hand. She offers the food processor approach, but says the texture you get from hand grating just can’t be matched.
3. Sideways in the Food Processor Plus Cheesecloth and Reheating:
And then there’s Deb from Smitten Kitchen, who must know what she’s talking about cuz she can crank out gorgeous results in her tiny kitchen in NYC and write a cookbook all at the same time. She suggests putting the potatoes sideways in the food processor to get the closest approximation to hand grated and offers two other helpful tips: strain the potato/onion mixture in cheesecloth (rather than a kitchen towel) and most importantly, yes you can reheat latkes to their crispy state – a true revelation if you are trying to feed a crowd and might actually like to visit with them while they eat your latkes.
4. Temperature of Oil and Timing of Salt:
And from Cheryl Sternman Rule, the brilliant voice behind the blog 5SecondRule and the co-creator of the cookbook RIPE: A Fresh Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables, I learned from her friend Alison’s recipe that in addition to the crucial need to squeeze out all the liquid, it’s key to fry them in oil that is hot enough. Be careful to maintain oil temperature and be sure to salt them right after you take them out of the pan so the latke and salt become one with each other.
5SecondRule Shares her Friend Alison’s Perfect Potato Latke (and the photo above!)
5. Panko Bread Crumbs Instead of Flour or Matzo Meal:
And then there’s Tori Avey of the The Shiksa and History Kitchen blogs. She offered a new spin on her traditional latke using panko bread crumbs, which are generally used to coat tempura fried Japanese cuisine. She feels they yield a super crispy result – three cheers for a little Asian flair added to a traditional Ashkenazic dish.
6. Corn Starch Instead of Flour or Matzo Meal = Gluten Free:
From executive chef Robert Soriano of Bernard’s Market, who is of Tunisian descent, we have the tip of using corn starch which not only helps the latkes crisp up, but provides the added benefit of making them gluten free.
The Best Potato Latke Recipe Ever (that’s what they all say!)
7. Use Starch from Bottom of Bowl:
How could I not see what The Kosher Channel had to say and their recipe, among other things, espouses the use of the starchy liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl after squeezing the juice from the potato/onion mixture. The accumulated starch should help to crisp up the latkes.
8. Use Baking Powder to Make them Lighter:
And last, but certainly not least, from a very thorough post on a barbecue website called Amazing Ribs (really) about the various steps and techniques to achieve latke perfection, we have the use of baking powder to lighten them up – but if you prefer dense, leave it out.
And What About the Oil?
And finally, if you look at all of these recipes (and more), you’ll see many different suggestions for what oil to use to fry these crispy pancakes – the suggestions run from peanut oil to canola oil to olive oil and the amounts range from a couple of tablespoons to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. I would lean towards using an oil that can handle high heat (not olive oil) and to heed Cheryl and Alison’s advice – keep it to temperature before putting the next batch in if you want to achieve a crispy exterior.
Cheers to a wonderful holiday season, no matter what holiday you are celebrating or how you choose to spell it.
What’s your top tip for making the best potato latkes ever? Or have you tried a new type using sweet potatoes or zucchini? Please share your wisdom and experience – I’d love to know!