Latkes: Light and Lucious

Latkes are potato pancakes with a dismal reputation, considering America’s taste for fried food.  Frowned on for being heavy and greasy, the traditional Chanukah treat is often skipped. Worse, when I lived in Washington, D.C., I saw toaster

A plate of crisp latkes. Never keep them warm in the oven on paper towels. Crisp will be replaced by mush.

latkes! The horror, the horror! Here in Phoenix latke is a foreign word, and you know what that means–headless torsos in the desert, probably caused by latke eating. The state’s biggest paper had not a single word on Chanukah food in today’s food section of the Arizona Republic–nope, the section was filled with what I call the Trifecta of Trayf–scallops wrapped in prosciutto, and a pork/cabbbage dish.

If you have never made your own latkes, the recipe I use is easy and delicious. Light, crisp and flavorful, you can use it instead of hash browns at breakfast. I made them for supper, and made the applesauce, too. Both recipes are below.

Chanuka Latkes (Potato pancakes) Serves 4. Time: 1 hour. Active time: 20 minutes.
Put away your measuring spoons. I cook without measuring, and for this recipe, so can you.

  • One large baking potato (russets are fine)
  • One large yam–the orange kind
  • One medium yellow onion
  • One organic apple–Gala, Fuji but not Granny Smith or Red Delicious.
  • Two fresh eggs
  • Good quality olive oil
  • One head curly parsley
  • Salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg.

Scrub all vegetables. Peel the onion and apple, core the apple. In a big mixing bowl, grate the potato, skin and all , using a box grater. The biggest holes are the ones that work best. Follow by grating half the onion, all of the apple, and the yam. That order will keep you from weeping as much as if the onion were on top.

Wash the parsley, discard the stems, or save for soup. Cut up half a bunch of parsley into tiny flecks of green. Add to bowl. Add a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Grate about a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg into the mix.

Crack two large eggs into the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to mix.

Using a large skillet, cover the bottom with good olive oil and heat till a drop of water spatters. Using a serving spoon, drop a generous spoonful of mix into the pan and immediately pat it thin. You are cooking the potato, so a thick latke won’t cook all the way through. You should be able to fit four into the pan.

Modulate the heat between medium high and medium, but never allow the pancakes to stop sizzling. In about 2 minutes, try to flip a latke. A cooked latke will release easily. It should be crisp and brown. Turn only once, or you get an oil sponge. When all four are done, serve, put in another four and eat yours at the table. The idea that you can make all of them and put them in an oven between layers of paper towel is a myth. They will go from light and crisp to soft and greasy. It’s worth the work of going back and forth to the stove top.

Serve with unflavored Greek yogurt or sour cream and applesauce, below.

Apple Sauce (Serves 4 as a side dish)

  • Choose 6 organic apples of almost any sort except Granny Smith and Red Delicious.
  • Optional: Orange juice, vanilla, sugar, honey, cinnamon or nutmeg.

Wash, peel and core the apples. If you hate peeling apples, you can strain the applesauce through a colander at the end. I like cooking them with peels as it makes the sauce pink and gives more flavor.

Cut up the 6 apples into chunks (cut each quarter into 2), put a half cup of water in a saucepan, and add the apples. You can add orange juice instead of water and add a bit of vanilla. I’m a purist, so it’s apples in water. Cover the pan and boil. When the apples reach a boil, stir occasionally. Do not let the pan dry out. When the apples start to disintegrate, help them along with a potato masher. If the result is watery, take off the lid and boil off some of the liquid. Once you have applesauce consistency, strain to remove peels. Return to pan and sweeten to taste with honey, brown or white sugar.

Light candles and enjoy!