You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to love latkes, which are sometimes referred to as potato pancakes. Done right, the traditional versions made of potato, onion and a bit of a binder should be like the song says: crispy, tasty and thin.
Over the years, the Food section has let you in on some latke-making secrets, such as Marcy Goldman’s methods of parboiling the potatoes before they are grated, and frying in a wok to decrease splatters and cooking time. Barbecue expert Steven Raichlen fries his latkes in the oven, with a small amount of oil in a large, shallow pan; this allows him to produce bigger batches. And some cooks have bypassed the potato and/or vegetable route, choosing to use cheese instead.
If you’re looking to learn or improve basic techniques, consider these tips:
* Start with older potatoes, which may contain less moisture. Be sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the grated potatoes.
* Add potato starch instead of flour; this will keep them gluten-free and create good texture.
* A self-rising flour may help produce a drier potato-onion mixture.
* Don’t peel all the potatoes you’re going to grate, for a deeper flavor and interesting texture.
* Combine potato with other grated, raw root vegetables, such as celeriac (celery root), beets and yams.
* If you’re frying in a fair amount of oil, test the temperature with one latke. If the oil around it bubbles too vigorously, adjust the heat. Conversely, if there’s hardly any bubbling around the latke, increase the heat slightly.
* Speaking of oil, you can fry latkes in a relatively small amount of it — especially when you use an electric skillet or griddle.
* Instead of draining the latkes on layers of paper towels, transfer just-cooked ones to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. You can can keep them warm in the oven this way and they’ll stand a better chance of remaining crisp all around.
* Latkes take well to reheating at 350 degrees (on a rack or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, even if they’re frozen.
* Serve with a nice, soft ricotta instead of sour cream (earning bonus points for incorporating another symbolic ingredient of the holiday).
Check out the roundup of latkes from our Recipe Finder archive after the jump, along with appropriate sides and a few of our favorite briskets.
What kind of problems or successes have you had with latkes? We’d like to hear about them. Submit comments below.
Cabbage Latkes. Egg whites keep the batter light.
Crisp Latkes. Once you achieve the right shoestring thickness on the potatoes, there’s no need to squeeze out extra moisture.
Fire-Pit Latkes. A version of the cooked-potato method that starts on the grill.
Frankenstein Latkes. No bolts; just big and tasty.
Indian-Inspired Latkes. Yellow-gold and flecked with green, thanks to the turmeric, cumin, jalapeno and cilantro mixed in.
Leek and Beef Latkes With Beet Salad. A true, hearty meal.
Sweet Potato Latkes. Lightly spiced, these caught on years ago; scallions may be substituted for the chopped onion.
Swiss Chard Latkes. A standard dish on Sephardic Rosh Hashanah spreads. Why not go green for Hanukkah?
You could serve them with . . .
Gingered Applesauce. Healthful, kid-friendly, gluten-free.
Luxury Applesauce. Onion, almonds, winter spices and orange zest; it all works.
Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce. My personal favorite; the flavor of pear is a great complement.
Grandma Rubenstein’s Brisket. Beer’s involved; go figure.
Brisket Nina. A winner.
Abigail’s Top-Secret Brisket of Beef. The fruity components of the sauce can stand in for any applesauce-y side dish.
Brisket With Onion Gravy. A great match for particularly onion-y latkes.