It was not until the potato arrived on the European scene from the New World that potato pancakes could be embraced by Eastern European Jews as classic Hannukah fare. Previously, latkes were made of buckwheat or root vegetables (typically parsnips), says Joan Nathan, cookbook author and scholar of Jewish culinary history.
The potato latke had centuries to dominate. Now the pre-potato latke is making a comeback, thanks to adventurous chefs who grate everything from celery root to Honeycrisp apple and butternut squash and let it sizzle. The universal secret to latkes that are light, not leaden: Squeeze out excess liquid before mixing the batter. And then squeeze again. A watery batter tends to turn out heavy pancakes.
Chefs have their personal favorite frying fat, but the truth is you can use what you like. It’s bound to taste good.
The Classic Potato
Chef Missy Robbins
A Voce, New York
Grate 3 large Idaho potatoes and 1 large onion, place them in a colander and squeeze vigorously to drain liquid. Mix with 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and pepper to taste. Mix, form into patties and fry 2 minutes on each side. Chef’s choice: Canola oil
Butternut Squash and Honeycrisp Apple
Chef Jake Martin
Fenouil, Portland, Ore.
Melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large sauté pan, then add 1 chopped yellow onion and 2 minced shallots and cook on low heat until translucent, about five minutes. Increase heat and add 1 peeled and grated butternut squash and 4 peeled and grated Honeycrisp apples and cook, tossing occasionally, until the mixture is almost dry. Remove from heat to a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly. Stir in 3 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of chopped thyme, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and pepper to taste, then 2½ cups of panko bread crumbs until a semi-dry dough forms. Mix, form into patties and fry 2-3 minutes on each side. Chef’s choice: Clarified butter
Chef Michael Schwartz
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
Grate 2 white yams (about 2 pounds) and 1 medium yellow onion; put the mixture into a clean dish towel and wring out excess liquid. Add 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, pepper to taste, 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk. Mix, form into patties and fry 3 minutes on each side. Chef’s choice: Vegetable oil
Beet, Carrot and Potato
Chef Eric Greenspan
The Foundry, Los Angeles
Grate 2 red onions. Heat a small sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil; cook half the onion until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Grate 3 peeled Yukon gold potatoes, 1 red beet and 1 carrot and squeeze out all liquid in a colander. In a large bowl, mix vegetables with 2 eggs, ½ cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and pepper to taste. Mix, form into patties and fry 2 minutes on each side. Chef’s choice: Grapeseed oil
Chef Jeff Banker
Baker and Banker, San Francisco
Peel and grate 2 small baking potatoes and 1 small onion. Using hands, squeeze out excess liquid over a small bowl; put potatoes and onions in another bowl. Allow liquid to settle for a minute, then pour off liquid, leaving potato starch at the bottom of the bowl. Pour starch over the potatoes. Grate 1 medium celery root and add in 2 large eggs, ¼ cup of all-purpose flour and 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt. Mix, form into patties and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. Chef’s choice: Canola oil
Just in time for the Holidays… whew!!