The Keys to Successful Potato Pancakes

For food lovers, there's nothing more essential to Hanukkah celebrations than latkes.
We begin craving them the minute December dawns, and when the holiday finally arrives, we happily down several (or a dozen) straight from the pan.

But why confine potato pancakes to this time of year? They're just as delicious in other seasons. To that end, here are five recipes-a crisp, golden classic and four creative variations-that will easily make the transition from Festival of Light to year-round festivities. They incorporate a far-flung range of influences, and would be at home on menus from India to New England to the Southwest. Try them as hors d'oeuvres or side dishes during the holidays and beyond.

Four keys to successful pancakes:

  • Speed Things Up

Once you peel and grate the potatoes, work as quickly as possible to prevent discoloration - after a few minutes, they'll start to oxidize and turn brown.

  • Dry It Out

Squeeze all the liquid you can from the potatoes and onions-lingering water will keep the pancakes from holding together and cooking properly.

  • Mix Your Fats

You can cook latkes in either oil or butter, but a mixture of the two will combine the flavor of butter with oil's high smoking point (which helps protect against scorching or burning). We like a one-to-one ratio.

  • Keep the Crunch

Potato pancakes are best served as soon as possible, before they lose their crunch. Of course, if you're frying them in batches (as in these recipes), you'll need to keep the first batches warm in the oven while you cook the rest. But as long as you work somewhat quickly, they'll retain most of their texture and flavor. Using two pans can lessen the holding time, but be sure you're comfortable with the frying process-you'll need to watch both pans closely to prevent burning. Or, if your kitchen is close to your guests, offer the latkes as they come out of the pan, after a brief drain on paper towels.

Recipe:

Classic Potato Pancakes

Epicurious | December 2005

Developed by Andrew Friedman

Yield: Makes about 24 pancakes

Ingredients

This is the classic latke, made with little more than grated potatoes and onions, with egg and flour for binding.

  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 4 large russet or Idaho potatoes (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Applesauce and/or sour cream, for serving

Preparation

Preheat oven to 200°F. Place 2 nonstick baking sheets in oven.

Using box grater or food processor fitted with grating disc, coarsely grate onion and place in colander set in sink. Coarsely grate potatoes, add to colander, and set aside to drain.

In large mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs, then whisk in flour.

Press potatoes and onion to extract as much liquid as possible, then add to egg/flour mixture. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using wooden spoon or hands, mix well, but do not overwork.

In heavy-bottomed, 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter until hot but not smoking. Drop 4 scant 1/4-cup portions of potato mixture into pan and flatten with spatula to form four 3-inch pancakes.

Fry until bottoms are golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes, then turn over and fry until golden-brown and crisp, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season immediately with salt and pepper. Keep warm on baking sheets in oven while making remaining pancakes.

Using paper towels, carefully wipe out pan. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter and fry 4 more pancakes. Repeat with remaining batter, wiping out pan and adding 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter before each batch.

Serve pancakes hot with applesauce and/or sour cream.

More Potato Pancake recipes:

Indian Potato Pancakes with Curry-Lime Yogurt

New England-Style Cod and Potato Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Potato-Parmesan Pancakes with Creamed Spinach Dip

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Salsa Dip

By Andrew Friedman

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