Potato Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes)

The internet contains all sorts of potato latke recipes using all sorts of fussy ingredients.

Not mine. My latkes taste like potato and onion. Like they’re supposed to. These are real, traditional Jewish potato latkes, from an actual jew. In fact, they’re better than traditional, since we’re going to use a little science to keep them from turning gray.

These are a beautiful golden-brown on the outside, white on the inside and taste exactly like they should.

Most of the recipes I’ve seen start with one pound of potatoes and claim to feed four people. This is complete nonsense.

We’re going to start with seven pounds of potatoes and this recipe will happily feed 8 actual, hungry adults.

So, without any more delay, here we go!

Equipment:
One of more 8″ cast iron pans. The frying process creates a polymerized layer (“seasoning”) on the pan. You could use teflon or stainless, but then you’re left with a terrible cleanup job. If you use cast iron, the frying actually improves the existing seasoning.
Hand-held box grater, like what your grandmother used.
Food processor (could use the box grater, but it’s going to be quite a bit of work)
A 5 gallon food-grade bucket. You can get these from any deli or grocery store. They’re used to ship pickles, potato salad, etc.
Optional but really useful: An infrared (non-contact) thermometer for checking the pan temperature.
Ingredients:
7 Pounds (after peeling) Largest, cleanest, Idaho Russets you can find.
Bigger potatoes mean less peeling and less waste and less time spent peeling. It takes twice as long to peel 2 small potatoes as one big one.
If you can’t find huge potatoes, buy an extra two or three pounds, since you’ll probably have to trim quite a bit.
7 Large Eggs
2 Pounds Large Yellow Onions – not sweet, not Vidalia, just plain yellow onions.
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 Cups All Purpose Flour. On Passover you can used matzoh meal.
Peanut or Canola Oil for frying. You’ll probably need much less than a quart, but get an extra bottle anyway. You don’t want to run out.

Preparation:

  • Fill the 5 gallon bucket with cold water.
  • Peel the potatoes, remove any green, any eyes and anything that isn’t clean white potato. As you finish each one, toss into the bucket to prevent browning while you peel the rest.
    If you find there’s a lot of green or a lot of eyes or rot, bring them back to the store, get your money back and go buy more at a place that sells a LOT of potatoes in big sacks, like Sams’s Club or BJs.
  • Slice the whole, peeled potatoes into quarters the long way and toss back into the bucket.
  • Peel the onions and slice in half. Grate on a box grater. If you have a vent hood over your stove, and it actually vents outside, grate under the vent hood. This will completely eliminate tears.
  • Run each potato wedge vertically through a food processor with the “grating” blade installed and return the shreds to the bucket of cold water. The orientation is important. If you do them horizontally, you’ll get shreds that are too long.
  • Drain the potatoes, dump into a clean white towel and twist into a ball and squeeze them for all you’re worth. Get out every bit of liquid you can. Dump out the water from the bucket and rinse it.
  • Put the eggs in the bucket and whisk. Mix in the potatoes, onions, salt and flour and mix well with your hands.
  • If you’re not going to use immediately, put in a zip-top bag, squeeze out all the air and refrigerate.

NB. I know it sounds weird to do the potatoes in the processor and the onions by hand, however it makes a big difference. The box grater makes smaller bits than the food processor and loses less onion liquid, and will produce better latkes.

Cooking:

  • Take a small sheet pan and place a cooling rack in it, and place in a 275° oven.
  • Place about a 1/2″ of oil in a large heavy pan and heat on medium high until a thermometer reads 375°F.
  • Use a one-quarter cup measure, pack tightly with the potato mixture, and carefully drop into hot oil. Press down to flatten to about one-third of an inch thickness. Don’t crowd the pan. When the edges just turn brown,  flip the latke over and cook the other side until brown.
  • Test one (taste it!) if the inside isn’t cooked enough and the outside is already brown, you’ll need to reduce the heat a little because it’s cooking too fast.
  • As each pancake is done, place on the wire rack in a sheet pan in the oven.
  • Serve with sour-cream and sugar, or apple-sauce.

Makes about 24 big, awesome latkes and easily feeds 8 people.

Come back and leave a note if you liked it (or not!)

1 thought on “Potato Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes)”

  1. Hey there, have you seen my recipe? That is how we make potato pancakes in my native Slovakia. Potato pancakes are the best!

    And yes, I have also come across bunch of really weird recipes…

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