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Latkes “101″: Tried and True Tips!

Happy Hanukkah! (and can we officially retire “Thanksgivukkah”?)

Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, it’s almost impossible to avoid the deluge of posts, articles, and images regaling the joys of everyone’s favorite Hanukkah treat – latkes!

These crispy addictive potato pancakes are eagerly awaited all year long – and I’ve been churning them out every December for over 20 years. While they are not at all complicated to make, there are a few tips to ensure the most crisp/tender and flavorful results every time.

zucchini potato latkes

I’my so excited to share a recipe I’ve been making for my family for many, many years, along with all of the tried and true tips that I’ve gathered along the way. Be sure to read through the entire recipe before starting so you can make note of the do-ahead suggestions and get started in advance.

zucchini potato latkes

Note: I love this “twist” on traditional latkes, with the addition of lots of grated zucchini. The recipe doubles, triples, and even quadruples (yes, I’ve done it!) beautifully, in case you need to feed a crowd. And while you can’t beat the texture and “crunch” that hand-grated potatoes provide, I appreciate the convenience of the food processor for pureeing the onions and potatoes – especially when making large batches!

Zucchini Potato Latkes
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

3 russet (baking) potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 onion, quartered
2 t. white-wine vinegar
2 t. kosher salt
1 ½ pounds zucchini (about 3), scrubbed and trimmed
1 t. dried thyme
2 T.  flour
2 large eggs
vegetable oil for frying

applesauce and/or sour cream as accompaniments

The night before:

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Transfer to a large pot or bowl filled with cold water to cover and place in the fridge.

Quarter the onion – cover and refrigerate.

Using a hand grater or the grating disc of your food processor, coarsely grate the zucchini. Cover and refrigerate.

The day of:

Drain the potatoes – puree in your food processor with the onion, vinegar and 1 t. of the salt. Transfer the puree to a large sieve set over a bowl.

Drain any liquid from the zucchini – toss with the remaining 1 t. salt and add to potato mixture. Weight it with a plate and a 5-pound can (to extract the liquid) for 30-60 minutes.

Pour off the liquid in the bowl, but leave the potato starch that is left at the bottom. Add the potato mixture, thyme, flour, eggs and pepper to taste, and combine well, being sure to scrape the starch up from the bottom.

Prepare several baking sheets with double layers of paper towels.

In a large skillet heat 1/4″ of oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking – ideally between 360 and 375 degrees. Don’t have a candy or deep-fry thermometer? You can tell when the oil is at the right temperature a few different ways:

1. Sprinkle a pinch of flour over the oil – if it sizzles, it’s ready
2. Place an unpopped popcorn kernel into the oil. When it pops, the oil is ready.
3. Drop a small piece of bread into the oil. If it takes about a minute to brown, the temperature is right.

Start with a “test” latke – I like to use the spoon I eat soup with from my cutlery set for just the right size. Drop it into the oil and pat it down lightly. When it is golden brown around the edges, flip (I use 2 forks for the easiest “flip”). When browned on the other side transfer to your prepared baking sheet.

Continue frying in batches – don’t crowd the pan as this will lower the temperature of the oil.

Serve latkes immediately, with sour cream and applesauce to accompany.

You can make latkes in advance! Of course they are best served hot out of the pan but this isn’t always possible. Here’s how to make them ahead of time:

Up to 4 hours ahead, cook latkes as instructed above. When cooled, remove paper towels and cover loosely with plastic wrap – keep at room temperature for up to 4 hours (Do NOT refrigerate! This results in heavy, mushy latkes).

When ready to serve, re-heat in a 375 oven for 7-10 minutes, till crisp.

You can also freeze latkes! Re-heat straight from the freezer for best results – do not thaw or refrigerate.

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