I dream about potato pancakes. There aren't enough Hanukkah parties to sate my appetite; I always want more.
I used to cry like a spoiled brat because even though I have the perfect recipe— and I do mean "the best latke you've ever tasted"— my routine took a couple hours of numbing handwork to prepare, and ruined any possibility of a quick fix.
I don't like squeezing water out of potato gratings in cheesecloth scraps until my arms fall off. I don't care to spend all day grating a mountain of potatoes plus part of my knuckles. Yet nothing but my own recipe satisfies me.
It turns out that immediate gratification IS possible with the right equipment. It took me twenty years to realize this, but no one should suffer as long as I did. The tools are everything in this recipe. There are no substitutions!
Susie's Perfect Latkes On Demand
2 1/2 - 3 cups grated potatoes, grated in a Cuisinart
1 onion— the size of a tennis ball, grated in a Cuisinart
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons fine matzo meal crumbs from the box— no other crumb will do!
2 tsp. sea salt
Lots of black pepper
2 T. butter
2 T. canola or safflower oil
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees— you won't be baking, but you need a warm place to store your piles of fresh-cooked latkes. You'd like to think you could cram them all in your mouth at once, but be realistic— you need a spot to keep them hot.
Grate your potatoes (any kind as long as they're fresh) using the standard grater attachment in the classic seven-cup Cuisinart food processor— the greatest kitchen aid since a sharp knife. I've had mine for twenty years and it works as well today as it did the first second I turned it on. Your potato grating will take all of five minutes. I can hear my grandmother weeping.
Grate the onion the same way and put it aside in a mixing bowl.
The key to tasty latkes is to get the water out of the potatoes before you fry them in hot oil. But the potatoes don't want to give up their water. How to do you squeeze them efficiently without exhausting yourself? The answer is an old-fashioned potato ricer.
Put a handful of the sopping potato gratings in the ricer's mouth. Press the handles together, and all the water is expressed through the sieve side. What's even better is that you don't have to use two hands. You leverage one arm of the ricer against the other by propping it over the sink-top and pressing down. You only do it once— there's no extra effort required. Your second five minutes is now over.
Now mix all the ingredients in your bowl. Don't try to reinvent the cracker crumb with your rolling pin. What you want is in a inexpensive box of prepared-food luxury that will last you all year: unsalted matzo meal. It's exactly the right size of crumb, and the ideal flavor.
Any kind of salt will do; I like sea salt. Shake your pepper shaker like the Duchess's mad cook. I suppose a tablespoon is the right amount.
Melt 2 T. butter and 2 T. canola or safflower oil in a seasoned cast iron skillet.
Don't even THINK about using another kind of pan; your latkes will suffer for it.
Another caution: don't be tempted to use olive oil, because it will leave too much of a flavor for our purposes. And never leave out the butter. This is the full-cardio latke and there's no messing around!
Over medium-hot flame, there should be a quarter-inch or so of melted hot oil in your pan.
Ladle in a heaping tablespoon of the latke batter and flatten it with the back of your spatula.
It will fry quickly and you'll see it browning through the other side. The smell will make your mouth water.
Turn them over for another minute, then take them out and put them on a plate laid with a paper towel.
Stick them in the oven to keep warm while you dash off the rest of the latkes. Of course, you could eat them right out of the pan, but that could incite a riot if you're making a batch for everyone. Just keep adding the hot latkes to your hot platter, layered with paper towels to blot a bit of the buttery residue.
Serve with sour cream and applesauce. Cry freely, because they taste so good and you barely broke a sweat.
Potato pancakes are a controversial dish because of family tradition... everyone longs for their childhood memory. My recipe may not bring your great-grandmother to life, but I dare say you'll look upon me as a favorite aunt.
Last year at Xmas, I gave my notorious homemade eggnog recipe, and it is, to this day, one of the most popular links on this site. No wonder this place isn't workplace safe— the gluttony and pleasure-seeking never cease!