Latkes: Potato Pancakes for Hanukkah

Thanksgiving is barely over, and already I’m talking about latkes–potato pancakes normally eaten at Hanukkah. (Starts at sundown on December 8 this year).

Crispy and light, delicious! Not the heart-attack-on-a-plate of yesteryear, either.

Latkes can be eaten by anyone, and not just at Hanukkah. They are not a diet food, however. Not that you asked. You can eat them as hash browns for breakfast, too.

Traditionally latkes are eaten with homemade apple sauce or topped with sour cream. I’ve eaten a lot of bad latkes in my life–left in the oven to “warm” —where they will just get mushy, toaster latkes (No. Just No.), and low calorie latkes. (What?)

I’ve worked with latkes over the years and like to mix the potato with apples, sweet potatoes, onions and carrots, all grated with the same grater. Lowers the carbs, adds a lot of juicy flavor. Here’s the recipe:

Hanukka 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 sweet potato–the orange kind
  • One medium yellow onion
  • One organic carrot
  • One organic apple–Gala, Fuji but not Granny Smith or Red Delicious.
  • Two fresh eggs
  • Good quality olive oil
  • One bunch 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. If you are diabetic, skip the sugar alcohol substitute sugars (they have drastic gastrointestinal consequences for me) and stevia (not for me, either) and try the least amount of sugar you can handle. Three teaspoons will give you good flavor in the total amount, particularly if you don’t eat a lot of sugar.

Light candles and enjoy!

–Quinn McDonald loves latkes a bit more than she should. She makes them only once a year.