Potato pancakes, or latkes (referred to as levivot in Hebrew) are essential to a Hannukah menu. But potato pancakes aren’t just for Hannukah, they’re delicious year-round and it’s a great appetizer to enjoy at gatherings or parties as well. Potato pancakes make for great finger foods, can satisfy your fried food cravings and is a vegetarian dish that will please a large crowd. I’ve cut back on the amount of fried foods I eat in general, but every once in a while it’s worth it and these are worth the exception. I find Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook a great source for recipes, her recipe for latkes included.
When serving potato pancakes straight from the pan, some optional garnish ideas include sour cream mixed with dill, chives, or scallions based on your preference. Or in addition to the seasoned sour cream, top with smoked salmon or lox for another option. And for a little something decadent, serve with chopped chicken liver or my vegetarian alternative walnut pâté. In Israel seasoned sour cream is the usual garnish of choice for this dish. In the U.S. apple sauce is often an accompaniment; tart and a hint sweet apples mixes wonderfully with this pleasantly salty starchy dish.
My Mother’s Potato Pancake (Latke) Recipe via Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook
Food processor with large grating disc or hand grater*
*There is a difference between the large grating disc versus using the regular blade on the food processor. For crispier potato pancakes, similar to hash browns, be sure to use the grater. A bit easier to mold in the pan, opt for the regular blade. There is a difference in texture, a slight difference in taste, but both are delicious. The pictures here reflect potato pancakes made using the regular blade.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings (12 to 15 pancakes)
1-1/4 pounds large potatoes, peeled (the russet potato works best for frying)
1 medium onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (I also add ground black pepper)
2 tablespoons flour (I prefer matzo meal, ground matzo flour, but use what’s on hand)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (not required if using matzo meal)
1/2 cup or more of vegetable oil (or canola oil)
Using coarse grating disc of a food processor or large holes of a hand grater, grate potatoes followed by the onion.Transfer the puree to a colander. Press out as much liquid as possible; discard liquid. Put potato-onion mixture in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix together.
Heat 1/2 cup oil in a deep heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet. For each pancake, add about 2 tablespoons of potato mixture to pan. Be sure not place too many pancakes in at once or the mixture won’t crisp as desired. Flatten with back of a spoon so that each measures 2-1/2 inches. Fry over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Using 2 pancake turners, turn them carefully. Fry second side about 4 minutes, or until pancakes are golden brown and crisp. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot. Garnish with sour cream or toppings of choice.