I love latkes.
I’m also not Jewish by a long shot.
Don’t get me wrong. I went to a Bat or Bar Mitzvah every weekend of seventh grade. My grandmother hosts a Seder every year, because her friend Maury doesn’t have any family nearby. I’ve gone to celebrate Hanukkah with my friend and former roommate Liz, before she had to go and get a girlfriend and cut me out of the fun.
But I’ve never watched an actual Jewish grandmother make latkes, is what I’m saying. So don’t get angry at me if these are all wrong. They’re not wrong. They’re just Gentile latkes.
They’re also pretty darn good. Liz even claims that they’re the best latkes she’s had; her family doesn’t cook all that much so I’ll take it with a grain of salt.
They also freeze well after frying, which is exactly what I did with them. They’re currently awaiting their fate for our annual pre-Christmas cocktail party. You can of course make these regular sized, and cook them longer as needed. But this mini size is a fun bite for a holiday party, served alongside dishes of sour cream and applesauce. The horseradish sour cream I’m serving them with is also not exactly traditional — I hope the deliciousness will make up for that.
Makes approximately 90-100 mini latkes
2 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1/2 large yellow onion
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Wash and dry your potatoes. You’re welcome to peel them, but I never bother and haven’t gotten a complaint yet. Plus, peels make it healthy, right? Even if it’s fried in oil?
With the grating disc on your food processor, grate the potatoes. I usually slice them in half lengthwise to fit them in my food processor chute — cut as needed to jam them in there.
With an old fashioned box-grater, grate your onion. Why do I use the box grater instead of the food-pro? For the onion, getting it finely grated is important, and the box grater does a better job at that in my experience.
Dump the grated potatoes and onion in a colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Gather up the corners and squeeeeeeeeeze. Then do it some more. Then let it sit for a few minutes while you clean up some dishes. Then squeeze it some more. You just want to get as much liquid out of that potato/onion mixture as possible. And believe me, there’s a lot.
Transfer dry potato and onion to a large bowl. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. (I usually just use my hands.)
Beat eggs, then pour over potato mixture. Stir again to combine.
In the biggest cast-iron skillet you have, heat 1/4″ oil over medium-low heat. Once a piece of potato sizzles, it’s ready to go.
While the oil is heating, cover a wire cooling rack with a layer of paper towels. If you’re serving immediately, set your oven to 200 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and pop it in there.
Using your hands, form small patties (about 1″ in diameter”). I do a bit of a squeeze and fold maneuver, which helps remove any excess liquid and fold the potato strings over on themselves so the latkes stay together when you plop them in the oil.
Put latkes in the oil as you form them, so the oil has time to heat up a little bit between each one. Don’t overcrowd the pan — it’ll lower the oil temperature too much and your latkes will take forever to brown and get soaked with oil. I do 7 mini latkes or 3 big latkes per batch in my 9″ skillet. It’s a lot of batches.
Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on one side, until golden brown. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on the other side as well. Try to only flip it the one time — you’ll see the edges getting brown before the whole side is, so use tongs to lift an edge and give it a peek… you get the hang of it after doing a few.
Using tongs or a spatula, remove latkes and set on your paper towel lined cooling rack. I like to use tongs because I shake each latke over the pan to remove excess oil before placing on the rack. Let drain while you cook the next batch.
As you cook more batches, the oil level in the pan will start to drop. Top off as needed, making sure to let the oil heat back up before you add more latkes.
If you’re serving them fresh: after letting the oil drain off for a few minutes, transfer to the baking sheet in the oven, preheated to 200 degrees, to keep warm while you cook the rest.
If you’re freezing them for later: let cool completely on the rack. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet (I usually do this in batches while I’m still cooking the others). Put baking sheet in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to flash freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. They’re a little fragile, so put them on top of the mountain of stuff in your freezer rather than cramming them into a little cubby somewhere. To reheat, place in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheets in a 300 degree oven. Heat for about 15 minutes, until warmed through. Drop temperature to 200. Remove a reasonable number of latkes to an appetizer plate, and replenish from the hot ones in the oven as needed.
Serve with bowls of chunky apple sauce and sour cream on the side. Or, if you’re feeling sassy, serve with…
Horseradish Sour Cream
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish (depending on strength of horseradish and personal preference)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix everything together in a small dish. Adjust seasonings if desired. Start small with the horseradish so you can add more as desired. Serve alongside hot latkes.