The Latke Miracle

Being a lover of all things fabulous, delicious, educational, inspirational and fun, it's time to kick off the holiday season with a miraculous Jewish tradition, latkes--which reflects the "miracle" of Hanukkah.

The miracle happened more than 2,200 years ago when the Jews thought they had only enough oil to light the temple's menorah candles for one night. To their shock and delight, the candle burned for eight glorious nights--which is how and why foods cooked in oil are a common element of the holiday observance.

Hanukkah starts tomorow, Sunday, December 6, and in honor of my many friends and family who will commence the eight-day celebration, let this be your new latke recipe of choice. And if you're not Jewish, trust me, these easy to make and absolutely delectable crispy potato pancakes are begging to join your family table for a few reasons.

Even though I am not Jewish, my German ancestor's made wickedly good Kartoffel puffers (potato pancakes). However, unlike the traditional German potato pancakes (such as those served at Wurstfest each year in New Braunfels, Texas), this particular recipe for Jewish latkes uses no flour and becomes super crispy--which is fine (and preferred) by me.

Perfected by the inimitable team at America's Test Kitchen, latkes are traditionally served with brisket during this seasonal occasion, though no one would argue if they were topped with a savory dollop of sour cream or a sweet spoonful of apple sauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon or both or all of the above. Start any Sunday morning with an exclamation point and serve latkes topped with a slice of fried ham, a poached egg and a generous dose of an easy blender hollandaise sauce.

David said it was one of the best things I have made and even tops the food served at our favorite Sunday brunch eatery--which is quite good and perhaps one of the city's best restaurants. But latkes aren't on their menu.

According to experts, there is a folk proverb suggesting that latkes, while absolutely heavenly to eat, also teach us that we cannot live by miracles alone. The proverb purports that if we work towards our goals, feed our bodies and nourish our souls, we will live fulfilling lives.

And these latkes do a superb job of feeding our bodies and nourishing our souls.

Chag Sameach (happy holidays) and Buen provecho!
Crispy Latkes
The Cowgirl Gourmet found this recipe in the 2014 America's Test Kitchen cookbook and slightly adjusted it (the original recipe is not available from the Test Kitchen site, but I have provided another link to the exact recipe)

Print recipe

Potato pancakes have been a part of my cultural and culinary heritage for as long as I can remember. The German variety I grew up on includes flour in the recipe, whereas these particular Jewish potato latkes have no gluten and are cooked until they are crispy and golden. We topped ours with egg, ham and hollandaise sauce and were thrilled with the results. They would be equally good served with brisket or a side of applesauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon or for a savory punch a scoop of sour cream and minced chives.

Makes 8-10 pancakes

2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and shredded
1/2 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 large pastured eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
Vegetable or olive oil, for cooking
Maldon or similar flaky salt, for seasoning after they are cooked

Using a box grater, shred the potatoes and onion and then place grated potatoes and onion in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss well to combine.

Take a clean kitchen towel and place half of the potato-onion mixture in the center. Gather the edges of the towel together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible, reserving the liquid in liquid measuring cup. In another bowl, transfer drained potato mixture and set aside. Repeat process with remaining potato-onion mixture adding the liquid to the measuring cup again. You will collect about 1 cup of liquid and then set the liquid aside to let it rest for five minutes so the starch settles at the bottom.
Add the remaining potato-onion mixture to the other potato-onion mixture in the bowl and place the bowl in the microwave until just warm, about 1-2 minutes, stirring with a fork every 30 seconds.

Then spread the potato-onion mixture on a clean baking sheet and let cool for 10 minutes. Set the bowl aside as you will use it to blend the potato pancakes.
Pour off excess liquid from the potato liquid leaving the potato starch in the bottom of the measuring cup. Add two eggs to the potato starch and beat lightly to mix everything together. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the cup to get all of the potato starch incorporated into the eggs.

Return potato-onion mixture to the big bowl, add egg mixture (scraping any remaining starch that might be left in the bottom of the measuring cup), parsley and toss until evenly combined.

Set a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/4 inch oil. Heat until shimmering but not smoking. Place 1/4 cup mound of potato mixture in oil and press with the back of a spatula to flatten into a disk. Repeat to fill pan--I was able to make three potato pancakes at a time. Cook and adjust the heat so the oil bubbles around the latke edges, until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
Flip carefully and continue browning on the other side until crispy and golden, about 3 more minutes.
Drain on paper towel lined plate and season with Maldon salt or similar flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Alternatively, if you are making a lot of latkes, reserve the cooked latkes on a baking sheet in a preheated 200 degree oven to stay warm.

Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding more oil as needed between batches. Serve immediately with brisket, sour cream or applesauce.
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