Friday, December 11, 2009

Potato Latke or Kartoffelpuffer

Happy Hanukkah!

Since its the beginning of Hanukkah I thought it would be fun to share a recipe for one of the traditional dishes of the season. Most Jewish cooks call these latke but if you are German(or have spent any time there) you might know them as kartoffelpuffer or potato pancake. If you have made them before using 'traditional' recipes then there is a good chance you have found them to be just a little on the heavy and slimy side. Traditional recipes just grate the potatoes and onion mix in some flour and egg and fry. While I have nothing against the 'traditional' latke I like them just a little lighter and have found that mixing the grated potato and onion with mashed potatoes produces a lighter and tastier product. Instead of grating all the potatoes I take half the potatoes and boil and mash them before adding them to the shredded potatoes. This is also a good way to use left over mashed potatoes.

You'll need:

3 lbs. Yukon Gold or Idaho(russet) potatoes (about 5-6 medium potatoes)
1 large onion
2 large eggs, well beaten
2-3 Tablespoons flour (or matzoh meal for a very traditional latke)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Peel all of the potatoes. If you keep the peeled potatoes covered in a bowl of water it will keep them from discoloring. Take half the potatoes and cut them into one inch cubes and boil them in salted water for about 20 minutes or until they are tender and you can insert a knife into them without resistance. Drain and pass through a food mill, ricer or take them for a spin in the food processor or use a hand masher. Set aside.

Note: if you just really don't want to go the mashed potato route and want to be more 'traditional' then you can grate all of the potatoes. You'll get better texture in the finished product if you grate a third to a half of the potatoes on the small grate side and the balance on the the large grate side.

Using a box grater shred the onion on the small grate side and the potato on the large grate side. I usually do this on the tea towel (cotton towel not terry cloth) that I will use for squeezing. After everything is grated use your hands to mix the onion and potato together as this will keep the potato from discoloring. Fold up the ends of the cloth and with the potato and onion in the center twist and squeeze as much liquid as possible from onion-potato mixture. Now put everything in a big bowl and mix it thoroughly.

Note: Rinse out the tea towel with cold water just as soon as you get the potatoes and onions out and into a bowl. The starch from the potatoes will discolor it very quickly if you don't.

Using damp hands form into palm-sized patties that are about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick and set aside on waxed paper or parchment. Once you have all the patties made(you are looking for about 10) you can start frying in a large skillet in at least a 1/4 inch of corn or peanut oil (a 1/2
inch of corn oil is actually better). Traditionally, olive oil is used but I don't recommend it. If your oil is the right temperature the latke will need to cook for about 5 minutes on the first side. If they are more than slightly brown after a minute or two of cooking, your oil is too hot. After 5 minutes peek at one of the latke by lifting up the edge with your spatula, they should be a nice deep brown, if they are flip with a spatula and fork and cook on the other side for about 2 more minutes, or until dark golden brown. You want to make sure they are a nice dark brown as the sugars in the potatoes and onions will have carmelized and produced a full deep flavor. Too little browning and you have a bland latke. Not good.

Drain thoroughly on paper towels. Serve immediately with applesauce, salt, and/or sour cream.

You should get about 10 latkes from this recipe.

A few cooking notes/tips:
Use at least 1/4-1/2 inch of oil in your skillet and shoot for a temperature of about 300°F to 320°F but no hotter. Normally you fry at 350 - 375°F but that is too hot for this recipe as the latke will brown on the outside before the middle is cooked.

Really, really squeeze the shredded potatoes and onions. If you don't get as much water as you possibly can out of them you will get slimy latkes for sure.

These are really only good fresh from the frying pan. If you have to make them ahead leave them at room temperature for as much as 3-4 hours covered with paper towels(or a tea towel) and then reheat them in the oven(350°F) until they crisp back up.


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