It’s Chanukah, which means chocolate gelt, jelly doughnuts and of course, the traditional potato latke. Dave and I recently attended a Latkepalooza, where local Philadelphia restaurants created their own version of the holiday potato pancake. At the event, we were debating about what a latke should taste and look like. Dave enjoyed his mother’s potato latkes growing up and I remember being served the Manischewitz latke mix from a box (that hardly hold a candle to homemade ones). Of the more traditional latkes served, there wasn’t one that hit the mark of what a latke is SUPPOSED to be. From this conversation our Latke-Off was born.
I knew that a traditional latke should have a hint of onion and use flour and egg to bind it together. Dave wanted to strive to reproduce his mom’s recipe, which apparently was only grated potatoes fried in oil. So that is what he did, but substituted in sweet potatoes. I found a recipe from Food and Wine Magazine’s blog that advertised the perfect potato pancake, and that is exactly what they were.
While Dave and I were both standing by the stove frying our pancakes, mine stayed perfectly together, while Dave’s first mound disintegrated into match stick fries. He immediately added flour and egg to his potato mixture, which helped some, but not enough. (We later realized that sweet potatoes have a different starch and water content than white potatoes, and that is why they didn’t stay together.)
Here is the final product of both our latkes and recipes to follow. The sweet potato latke recipe I made a few years ago, and I promise they won’t fall apart on you. The pictures are of our results from the Latke-Off; your results may vary.
Renee Simmons Latkes Recipe
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Makes 8 medium-sized and one Super latke
3 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and halved
1 large yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
canola oil, for frying
applesauce and sour cream for serving
1. Set a large strainer over a bowl. In a food processor fitted with the shredding disk, shred the potatoes and onion in batches. Add each batch to the strainer and let stand for 5 minutes, then squeeze dry. Pour off all of the liquid in the bowl and add the shredded potatoes. Stir in the flour, eggs, salt and baking powder. Scrape the mixture back into the strainer and set it over a bowl; let stand for 5 minutes.
2. In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil until shimmering. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the potato mixture into the canola oil for each latke, pressing slightly to flatten. Fry over moderate heat, turning once, until the latkes are golden and crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Drain the latkes on a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Serve the latkes hot with applesauce and sour cream.
Sweet Potato Latkes
From the Sun Sentinal Newspaper
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
vegetable oil, for frying
1. Grate sweet potatoes and onion, using grating disc of a food processor or large holes of a grater. Transfer to a large bowl. Beat eggs with salt and pepper and add to potato mixture. Add flour and mix well.
2. Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick. Fill a 1/4 cup measuring cup with potato mixture, pressing to compact it, and turn it out in a mound into skillet. Quickly form 3 more mounds in skillet. Flatten each with a back of a spoon so each cake is about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, pressing to flatten.
3. Fry over medium heat 3 minutes. Turn carefully with 2 slotted spatulas and fry second side about 2 1/2 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
4. Drain on paper towels. Stir potato mixture before frying each new batch and add a little more oil to pan. Serve pancakes hot. Makes about 4 servings.