By Emily Fleischaker, Bon Appetit
She may not wear leggings and a cape, but food editor Selma Brown Morrow is a culinary superhero. She is Latke Lady!
Last year, Morrow cooked 400 latkes for her sister-in-law's 70-person Hanukkah party. She made the same number for a Hanukkah party in 2008, and she'll do it again this year. "It's no big deal. It takes me 12 hours," she says. "I've got it down to a science."
Four hundred latkes!
We begged her to share her tips. But Latke Lady is humble. She didn't understand why you might care to cook 400 latkes. "Who's going to make that many latkes?" she said. But she was quickly convinced; many of our ambitious readers host huge crowds during the holiday season. Not only did she agree to share tips, Latke Lady gave us the ultimate Classic Potato Latke recipe the she's perfected over the years.
Coming from the editor who wrote most of the latke recipes published in Bon Appetit since 1989, this one's going to be a keeper.
How to Make 400 Latkes
1. Start a day ahead. Remember, this takes Latke Lady 12 hours. When you fry them, you want to cook them just under--until they are just golden brown but not at all dark. Do not drain the latkes. The day of the party, reheat them in a 400 degree oven until they crisp up and darken further. You may want to flip them once during baking.
2. Get equipped. You'll need rimmed baking sheets. Lots of them. Once you have fried the latkes, they need to chill overnight in single layers on these baking sheets. "I use more than a dozen big rimmed baking sheets," says Morrow.
3. Measure. Even Latke Lady uses a recipe, measures her ingredients, and uses a scale for the potatoes. Your goal is uniformity; you want the potatoes to be predictable so you don't have some batches that are loose and some that don't crisp enough.
Related: Our Top 10 Hanukkah Menus
4. Work in batches. The Latke Lady preps one batch at a time, which makes about 18 latkes. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you try to peel a huge number of potatoes in the beginning, they will brown.
5. Ask for help. The mass production of Model T Fords inspired the invention of assembly lines. The mass production of latkes deserves no less. Latke lady has a friend or family member weigh, peel, and dice the potatoes and onions for her next batch while she blends and fries the current batch.
6. Avoid browning. When peeled, potatoes begin immediately to oxidize and turn brown. One of the tricks to reduce discoloration is squeezing out all of the potato water (See tip #7). Another trick is grinding the potatoes with onions; they help keep the potato mixture white. More onions are added later for flavor.
7. Squeeze 'em. Once you've ground the potatoes and onions, turn the mixture out onto a smooth kitchen towel (don't use terrycloth) and squeeze the heck out of it. If liquid remains in the mixture, they won't crisp and color properly. Even if you have squeezed the potatoes thoroughly, once you make the batter, liquids may still collect as the batter sits. So drain the liquid from each spoonful of batter.
8. Season generously. Use kosher salt and always grind fresh pepper.
9. Breathe deep. Open the windows and get ready to smell latkes for 12 hours. Latke Lady's sister-in-law places bowls of open vinegar around the house to absorb the fry smell. "It's a serious day of frying," Morrow says. "But we always stop for lunch and have tamales from a local spot in LA."
10. Mix it up. You've got 400 latkes! Serve some of them topped with sour cream and caviar. Serve some as a crisp vehicle for gravy. Switch out the traditional applesauce for a pear or plum sauce. When no one is looking, Latke Lady just dunks hers in sugar. As superheros do.
See Also: Holiday Cookie-a-Day Slideshow
Classic Potato Latkes
Don't worry if the latkes don't cook to the right color or crispness in the
time stated. Skillets, stoves, and other conditions vary. Just keep cooking
and turning them, until they are right for you.
Makes about 18
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions, divided
1 large egg
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Line colander with smooth kitchen towel. Stir 1 1/4 cups onions, egg, flour,
salt, baking powder, and pepper in large bowl to blend.
Place remaining 1 1/4 cups onions in processor; add potatoes. Blend until
potatoes are very finely chopped and mixture is almost a puree (some liquid
is forming). Scrape potato mixture into towel in colander. Wrap towel around
potatoes and squeeze out as much liquid as possible (at least 1 generous
cup). Scrape dry potatoes into egg mixture. Stir until batter begins to
moisten and stick together.
Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high
heat. Drop potato mixture by scant 1/4 cupfuls into skillet; flatten each
latke to 2 1/2-to 3-inch round. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until golden,
about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat,
adding more oil to skillet as needed. DO AHEAD: Latkes can be made 2 hours
ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Or up to 1 day ahead. Cover latkes on
sheets and refrigerate.
To make latkes ahead: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake latkes until
crisp and deep brown, 5 to 6 minutes per side.
To serve the latkes right away: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place latkes on a
baking sheet as they come out of the skillet and keep them warm in the oven.
Photo by Levi Brown
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By Emily Fleischaker, Bon Appetit