We do potato latke to remember/ honour our Jewish friends, those that are with us and those that have since died, on first day of Hanukkah. I started doing/learned about latkes when I first started teaching, at a private Jewish school for younger children. We actually did latkes at the school with each family hosting the session with their family recipe for each day of the celebration. This recipe I have is a basic and simple recipe that I would like to share with you. There are a lot of recipes out there so explore, enjoy and remember.
2# (almost 1 kg) russet/ Irish style potatoes, peeled, course grated and juice squeezed out;
1 med to large white or yellow onion, de-juice with potatoes (see instructions below);
several scallions, spring onion tops or chives for colour (a generous handful);
matzo finely crumbed or matzo meal, for binding and crisping (optional);
1 large egg, for binding (or two medium so small eggs);
salt to taste;
oil for frying (get cooking oil that can handle high heat).
Coarsely grate peeled potatoes and onion. Mix. Squeeze out as much juice as possible (plunk it in a cheese cloth or jelly bag and twist hard until dripping stops). Add the egg and salt. Mix. You can place meal in and mix well if using -- I like it because it adds that specialness/ symbolism to the reason of the mealtime instead of just fancy hash browns/ potato pancakes.
Preheat your oven to keep latkes warm if you are not consuming right out of the skillet and having a sit down (we do it like regular pancakes where youngest goes first, load a plate then next in line and so on until every one gets one load then repeat the line-up as necessary). You can drain the latkes on paper toweling or briefly on fine grid/mesh cooking rack if you don’t want oil before transferring on to plates. If going to oven, suggest you do drain to keep them crisp. But I’m getting ahead of myself! you need to cook these before draining oil! Sorry for the bunny trail!
I like to use cast iron skillet to cook in for heat and consistency reasons -- so add your high heat oil to the pan. When oil is hot enough for frying, drop by spoonful into oil and smash with metal spatula to make a patty so it will cook through. Flip when golden. Adjust heat as necessary. Top with lox, sour cream or applesauce. We never have lox but always the sour cream and applesauce.
Enjoy and remember to say a prayer for our friends and neighbors of the Jewish faith. Hanukkah Sameach
Periodically I revisit this short clip of Julia Child flipping a potato pancake —”a daring thing to do” — on her ’70s television show where flubs and mess-ups were left as-is. In the course of a few minutes, the amazing Julia ad libs essential wisdom that applies to any daring endeavor, and life itself.
After half the potato pancake landed on the stove, she explains why the fail happened:
When you flip anything, you must have the courage of your convictions...See when I flipped it, I didn’t, I didn’t have the courage to do it the way I should have.
Her assessment is spot-on. Look closely and you can see her unease as she gets ready to flip the potatoes. She didn’t feel courage. But she was candid about her momentary lapse — we all have them — and completely unembarrassed about what to do with the crashed mess of potatoes:
But you can always pick it up. If you’re alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?
For Julia, her fail was an opportunity to learn:
But the only way you learn how to flip is just to flip.
And of course, expanding her essential principle:
The only way you learn how to cook is just to cook…
The only way you learn how to draw is just to draw…
The only way you learn how to love is just to love…
…making mistakes and learning, on and on…
Through her crashed potato, Julia shared a lesson that applies to most things in life:
Anytime that anything like this happens, you haven’t lost anything because you can always turn it into something else.
The morphing of failure into something new is what art and life are made of.
As if I really needed another way to be consuming potatoes!
I used this Aaron and Claire video to learn how to make Korean potato pancakes (or gamja jeon). They’re even easier than latkes to make and they’ve got really interesting texture. The outside is crispy and the inside is kind of chewy but in a really pleasing way.
To make 1 big one, I just use 1 peeled potato and about 1/8th of an onion.
- Chop up the potato into blender friendly pieces and then add the potato, the onion, and some water (½ to 1 cup) to the blender and mix until smooth.
- Strain the mixture into a bowl through some cheesecloth laid over a sieve. Squeeze the cheesecloth to remove excess moisture from the mixture.
* DO NOT * throw away the water. Allow the bowl to sit for approximately 5 minutes so that the starch has time to settle at the bottom of the bowl. Carefully drain the bowl, leaving the settled starch.
- Add the potato and onion mixture to the settled starch, add a pinch of salt, and mix together (the starch helps bind the potato mixture together)
- Heat a skillet with a little bit of oil in it and then use a spatula to spread the potato mixture into the pan until between ¼ inch in thickness (don’t make it too thin!). Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.