The recipe for these delicious latkes was passed down from my husband Danny’s grandmother and tweaked over time. And when I say recipe, I mean it’s less of a “recipe” and more of a list of ingredients, as many family dishes are.
Origins of this latke recipe
One year, Danny’s uncle had us over for Hanukkah and we gathered around their kitchen island peering at the handwritten recipe card from his grandmother. As we talked through the recipe, we noticed one interesting technique.
These days, most latke recipes you say call for the potato and onion to be shredded on the coarse-grater (or shred) side of the box grater. Danny’s Grandma Figa, though, used to grate everything on the finer side of the box grater.
When we tested out her method against the typical method, we found that her latkes were more like potato pancakes, with a fluffy interior. The more popular method, on the other hand, yielded thinner, crispier latkes.
So which variation was better? Everyone loved both versions. The recipe I’m sharing with you today uses the larger, shred side because we just really love crispy latkes. But the rest of the recipe is based on Grandma Figa’s original recipe.
For the crispiest latkes, you want to drain out as much liquid as possible. Just when you think you’ve wrung out all the liquid…keep going! I use a cheesecloth to draw out the liquid, but I’ve heard that a salad spinner works amazingly well too.
Grandma Figa’s Latkes
- A cheesecloth (or thin cotton dish cloth or thin t-shirt) or a salad spinner
- Large cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan to fry the latkes
- a wire rack (optional) to keep the latkes crisp
- 4 russet potatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup matzo meal
- 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt, use half for any other salt brand
- black pepper
- 2 to 3 large eggs, beaten
- Neutral oil, for frying
- Flaky salt, for topping
- 1 handful minced parsley or dill, optional
- 1/2 cup homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought applesauce
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Line a large bowl with a cheesecloth, a thin cotton dishcloth or a thin t-shirt. The thinner your cloth, the more liquid will be released from the potatoes and onions, meaning crispier latkes.
- Grate the potatoes and onion using a box grater, food processor, or hand grater. You want to choose the large, coarse holes to grate from. Note: A hand grater will not get as many “stringy” ends that you might typically see in popular latke recipes — for those, you’ll likely need a food processor. Add the salt into the bowl.4 russet potatoes, 1 medium onion, 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Grab the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the cheesecloth. The potatoes and onions release a lot of liquid, so don’t worry if this takes a few minutes.
- Once the potatoes and onions are as dry as possible, transfer the potato/onion mixture directly into the bowl and set aside the cheesecloth (you will use it again in a few minutes).
- Add the baking soda, matzo meal, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, and 2 eggs to the bowl and mix until just combined. If you find that the batter is not holding together, you can add the final egg.1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/3 cup matzo meal, black pepper, 2 to 3 large eggs
- Prep the oil for frying: In a large cast-iron or heavy bottomed skillet, add about 1/4-inch of oil and set to medium-high heat. The oil is ready when sizzling, but not smoking (between 350F – 360F). Note: You want enough oil so that at least half of your latke is submerged to ensure even cooking.Neutral oil
- While the oil is heating, place the latke batter into the cheesecloth and squeeze out any excess liquid once more.
- To form a latke, scoop 1/4 cup of batter into your hands and loosely form into a patty (don’t pack it down or it will get dense), about 3 – 4 inches in diameter and 1/4 to 1/8 inches thick, depending on your desired thickness and width.
- I highly recommend trying a small test latke to see how it comes out. Once you've tested a tester, see if you need to adjust the salt, thickness, or heat before frying the rest.Fry the rest of the latkes: Carefully place a latke into the oil using a spatula (be careful, since the oil is hot!). I typically cook 3 to 4 latkes at a time in the oil using my 10” cast iron skillet. You can also spoon a bit of batter directly into the pan to make it easier.
- Cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes, then flip with a metal spatula until the other side is golden brown. Typically, this takes about 3 to 4 minutes total.
- Once the latke is cooked, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Press down on the latke to let any oil drain from the sides. Sprinkle with flaky salt.If you have a wire rack, place the latkes on the wire rack to keep them crispy.Flaky salt
- While the next batch is cooking, you can keep the latkes warm in the oven (especially on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet if you have one) at 250F. However, they'll be crispiest eaten straight from the fryer.
- Top the latkes with a bit of fresh parsley or dill if desired, and serve immediately with apple sauce and sour cream.1/2 cup homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought applesauce, 1 handful minced parsley or dill, 1/2 cup sour cream
- Squeezing as much liquid out as possible is one of the biggest contributing factors to a good latke. This is why a thinner cloth, like cheesecloth, is better because it’s easier to squeeze out that liquid.
- Do not let your latke batter sit out — prep the ingredients and make the batter right before frying. Otherwise, the potatoes can oxidize too much and turn brown. If you’re worried about oxidation, you can add a squeeze of lemon juice or a 1/2 tsp of white vinegar. But either way, you’re going to want to make your latkes as quickly as possible from when you start grating the potatoes and onion.
Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce
- 6 medium apples, about 3 lbs, peeled, cored, and diced; honey crisp, Granny Smith, or Macintosh all work. Avoid Red Delicious, as the texture is too mealy.
- 3/4 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup white or brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more as needed
- A pinch of salt, plus more as needed
- In a large dutch oven or high-walled heavy bottom pot, add all ingredients.6 medium apples, 3/4 cup apple cider, 1/4 cup white or brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, A pinch of salt
- Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the apples mash easily with a fork or spoon. This may take a bit longer, depending on the kind of apples you have.
- To finish the applesauce…° For a chunky mash, you can mash the apples directly in the pot with a fork or potato masher until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool before serving. At this point, you can also season the applesauce again with more cinnamon or salt if desired. If you want more sweetness, I recommend adding some maple syrup.° For a smooth mash, transfer the apple mixture to a blender. Blend until smooth. At this point, you can also season the applesauce again with more cinnamon or salt if desired. If you want more sweetness, I recommend adding some maple syrup.
References: https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/potato-latkes/ and https://www.seriouseats.com/2011/12/how-to-make-latkes-chanukah-hanukkah-recipe-guide.html