The Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah starts tomorrow at sundown and unlike some Jewish “delicacies” (insert: gefilte fish), you don’t have to be Jewish to love latkes. Traditionally potato, modern latke varieties include sweet potato, carrot, parsnip or any combination of potato and root vegetable. These shredded pancakes, flecked with onion and bound with flour (or matzoh meal) and egg, are fried in oil–the oil being the link to the celebration of Hanakkah. As the story goes, the holiday commemorates the miracle that happened when one days worth of olive oil miraculously kept the menorah of a rededicated temple in Jerusalem lit for eight nights. I’m simplifying things here but you get the drift…potatoes fried in oil, umm, “Yes, please!”
My family was excited to kick off the holiday season this past Saturday night with a Latkes & Vodka party hosted by our warm and wonderful friends, the Millers. After reconnecting with many old friends and making some new ones, I worked my way over to the latke station. Here I would have been perfectly happy to find a platter of potato latkes surrounded by the traditional accompaniments of sour cream and apple sauce and I was not disappointed because the traditional were certainly represented. But alongside these perfectly fried beauties there were chaffing dishes of carrot latkes and sweet potato latkes and accoutrements inclusive of fig jam, blue cheese, tzatiki and smoked salmon. Needless to say, I paced myself and managed to sample a little of everything. I left the Millers with a renewed appreciation of latkes which is why I am writing my second blog post on the subject.
In my first, I focused on traditional potato latkes, New York-style. This time around, I am going to share the method of my friend Jennifer Segal of Once Upon a Chef fame for Oven Fried Potato Latkes. Yes, once again, I am deferring to Jenn and while I’m at it, I encourage you to preorder her cookbook, which will be released Spring 2018, here. Another friend brought this method to my attention and it was an immediate “A-ha!” moment. Of course, frying the potato patties on a baking sheet slicked with oil makes perfect sense. Eliminating the stovetop pan of splattering oil and cooking batches of a dozen latkes at a time is cleaner, more efficient and healthier than the tradition pan-fried technique. For me, it’s a game changer. As Jenn emphasizes in her recipe introduction, the use of unlined, non-stick pans is essential. The patties will stick if you try to get away with anything other than non-stick or attempt to line the pans with foil.
So go ahead and try the oven method this week with your own recipe or the Once Upon A Chef recipe shared below. And if you are not celebrating Hanakkah, I still encourage you to give latkes a try. They are a fantastic side dish with any roast, braise or stew. Made smaller (bite-size), latkes topped with a dollop of sour cream and a small piece of smoked salmon or a spoonful of caviar make for an elegant holiday hors d’oeuvre. And don’t get me started on latkes topped with a poached or fried egg. Breakfast perfection. Enjoy and Happy Hanukkah!
- 2 lbs russet potatoes (2-3)
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled (about the size of a baseball)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 scant tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 c all purpose flour
- 1 c vegetable oil
- Equipment: 2 heavy non-stick rimmed baking sheets*
- Set oven racks in center height and preheat oven to 425F.
- Peel the potatoes and then coarsely grate them, along with the onion, with the shredding disk of your food processor or by hand using a box grater.**
- Place potato mixture in a fine sieve and press down firmly with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Stir and repeat a few times with fresh paper towels until liquid is mostly drained.
- Transfer potato mixture to bowl and mix in eggs, salt, baking powder and flour.
- Fill two heavy non-stick rimmed baking sheets with 1/2 cup oil, each.
- Place pans in oven for 10 minutes to heat the oil.
- Wearing oven mitts, carefully remove pans from oven.
- Drop batter by the 1/4-cupful onto baking sheets, spacing about 1-1/2 inches apart.
- Using the bottom of the measuring cup or a spoon, press down on pancakes to flatten just slightly. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bottoms are crisp and golden.
- Carefully remove pans from oven and flip latkes (tongs are the best tool as a spatula may cause oil to splatter).
- Place pans back in oven and cook until latkes are crisp and golden brown all over, about 10 minutes more.
- Remove pans from oven and transfer latkes to large platter lined with paper towels.
- Serve immediately with sour cream or apple sauce, if desired.
- *It is very important to use non-stick baking sheets so the latkes don't stick.
- **The same friend who alerted me to this oven method shared a short cut of using pre-shredded potatoes from the refrigerator section of the supermarket. I haven't experimented with the pre-shredded potatoes just yet but I imagine they would work great and be a definite time saver.