The tradition of frying food in oil during Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of the Menorah, when a day’s worth of lamp oil stayed lit for eight days. Among the best known foods celebrating the Festival of Lights is the latke. Potato, onion and binders are formed into a small patty and lovingly deep fried to golden, crispy perfection. The food is rich, fattening and delicious and meant to be enjoyed without guilt during this Feast of Dedication.
One need not celebrate Hanukkah to enjoy the traditional potato pancake and the ingredients may vary. Potatoes of any kind are used, onions may be sweet or sharp, eggs and binders like matzo meal, flour or bread crumbs hold it all together. Unlike other potato pancakes, the potatoes in latkes are grated, not mashed. The rules of latkes are flexible, though, and the crispy, deep-fried patties can be adapted to suit any taste.
This recipe sticks fairly close to the most traditional latkes with a couple of exceptions. Instead of matzo meal, we use Japanese panko to give this latke an especially crisp crust around a soft center. Also included is a handful of flat leaf parsley to add a hint of garden fresh flavor that plays well with the onion and potato as well as applesauce and sour cream, the condiments commonly associated with latkes. As for the applesauce, go homemade. It’s worth it.
Any type of potato may be used in latkes, but starchier varieties will hold together better when cooking. Many swear by Russets, but we were very pleased with the results using Yukon Golds (chosen mostly because we had some on hand). Leave the skins on.
Rendered poultry fat (called schmaltz), is the traditional oil for cooking latkes, but is extremely rich and tougher to get. Instead, select a cooking oil with a higher smoke point, like canola or peanut oil, with mild flavor for deep-frying at a target temperature of 360-370 degrees to get that crisp crust.
Place the latkes on cooling racks (not paper towels) drain when they come out of the oil, but don’t wait too long to serve. Latkes are best served hot, fresh and crisp. Top with applesauce or sour cream. Maybe even both. This is a celebration, after all.
Crisp Parsley Latkes
Yield: About 20
- 3 pounds potatoes, washed
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup panko
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Canola or peanut oil, for frying
Grate potatoes and onions together using a food processor with grater attachment or a hand grater.
Wrap in cheesecloth and squeeze as much moisture out of the potatoes as possible.
Transfer into a large bowl and stir in eggs, panko, parsley, salt and pepper.
Pour canola or peanut oil into a large, heavy pot (cast iron preferred) to a depth of ¼”-½” and heat to 360-370 degrees.
As you go, use your hands to press potato mix into small, flat pancakes, using about ¼ cup of mix per pancake. Press firmly when forming pancakes to release some of the remaining water.
Cook latkes in the hot oil a few at a time (don’t overcrowd).
When the edges have browned (2-3 minutes), flip the latkes using a slotted spoon and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
Remove from oil and place on a cooling rack to drain (paper towels may be place under racks to catch oil).
Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce (or any other desired condiments).