Killer Latkes: Perfect Potato Pancakes Every Time

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a traditional food enjoyed during Hanukkah, but you won't have to try very hard to find them on breakfast and brunch menus year-round.

The ultimate latke has great browning, with crisp edges and a light, fluffy center. From there, there's limited directions you can take this perfect little starchy pancake. This includes the type of potato you use, what other ingredients you mix in, and even what you dollop on the side. (Some will swear by applesauce, others go in a much more savory direction.)

Oil
Use grape-seed or olive oil for frying, suggests Craig Kanarick, founder of Mouth. the indie food and spirits purveyor. Make sure the oil is super hot, but not smoking hot. 

Avoid a Mess
Potatoes are wet, so they'll splatter. Wear an apron! “Little bits of the latkes are going to come off in the oil, so use a slotted spoon to remove some of them (those are the bits we usually fight over until they get super burned),” says Kanarick.

Have Fun
Making the latkes should be part of the party because they're best when hot, right out of the pan,” says Kanarick. "Just like the first pancakes in a batch are never perfect, the first few latkes won’t brown as well as the ones that follow," says Kanarick.


Classic Latkes
"One of my favorite things about being a chef is the yearly rotation of seasons and the holiday foods that come along with them. I look forward every year during Hanukkah when I can grate potatoes and make them golden and tasty. My wife, Emily, and I will usually have a latke party at our house for friends. We will lay out lots of topping options. I turn classics like sour cream into whipped feta cheese instead as a creamy topping. I skip the apple sauce but instead make an apple-and-walnut jam with Italian dessert wine that is always a crowd pleaser. Go outside of the box and think about smoked whitefish salad, salmon roe with frisee and lemon, and a curried egg. When making your latkes, don't be so worried about getting that crust on both sides. The side you place down first will always look the best and should be served facing up," says Alon Shaya of New Orleans' Shaya (Esquire's Best New Restaurant of 2015 and Eater's Restaurant of the Year).

 

Ingredients 

  • 3.75 lb russet potatoes, peeled & grated 
  • 1/2 lb onion
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1.5 tbsp salt
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 7 egg whites, whipped until frothy 

 

Directions

  1. Grate the potatoes and onions through a cheese grater. (Please note, the weight of the potatoes and onions in the recipe is after they are grated.)
  2. Combine the grated onion, potato, salt, and lemon juice together and place in a towel over a colander to drain.
  3. Add weight to the colander to press out any excess liquid. Let it sit for 1 hour, then ring out the mixture to dry it even more.
  4. Fold the whipped egg whites, cornstarch, and green onions into the russet mixture.
  5. Pan-fry the latkes in thin, even layers in clarified butter until golden brown on both sides. Canola oil can be substituted for clarified butter.

For Clarified Butter: Place the butter in a saucepan and slowly melt over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the top, and slowly pour into a container, discarding the milky solids in the bottom of pan. 

 

Southern sweet potato latke cake with a Cajun and scallion crème fraiche  

"Our sweet potato latke draws inspiration from Southern ingredients and the ?anukah spirit. The sweetness from the potato is balanced by a savory scallion crème fraiche and topped with salmon roe to add a delicious burst of savoriness. Garnished with pickled mustard seeds, because we're Jacob's Pickles, this new take on an old favorite is perfect for celebrating the holidays," says Jacob Hadjigeorgis of Jacob's Pickles in New York City.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatos
  • 1 tbsp spoon kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp spoon white pepper 
  • 1/2 extra virgin olive oil

Cajun and scallion crème fraiche

Ingredients

  • 2 cups crème fraiche 
  • 2 tbsp spoon Cajun spice 
  • 1/4 cup scallion (green onion) finely slice on a bias 
  • 1 tsp lemon juice 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper 


Directions

  1. Using a French mandolin, shred the sweet potatoes using the small teeth of the mandolin.
  2. In a small non-stick pan, add EVOO, when the oil is hot to the smoking point, take off heat and add the shredded sweet potato, put back on the heat and add half the salt and pepper.
  3. Make circular shape using a rubber spatula. After 6–8 minutes, turn over and add the remaining salt and pepper.
  4. Place in oven and cook for additional 15 minutes. Place on a rack after taken out.

 

Cajun and scallion crème fraiche

 

Directions

Add all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and slowly whisk together until all is incorporated evenly 

 

Sunchoke latke with smoked sablefish and American caviar 

"The Sunchoke latke with smoked sablefish and American caviar is a great way to dress up your holiday with some indulgence. The earthiness and sweetness of the sunchokes pair well with the sable and caviar," says Executive Chef Ben Pollinger of Oceana in New York City.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium russet potato
  • 4–5 large sunchokes
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ pound smoked Alaskan sable, flaked
  • 2 tbsp chives, minced
  • 2 oz American hackleback caviar

 

Directions

  1. Peel and grate potatoes and sunchokes on large hole of a box grater.
  2. Mix with egg and starch.
  3. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Loosely form into four latkes and pan-fry in ¼ inch neutral oil until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 minutes.
  5. Divide sour cream on top of the latkes.
  6. Toss sablefish with chives, divide among the latkes, placing on top of sour cream.
  7. Divide the caviar among the latkes, placing on top of the sable.