Potato Latkes, the Slightly Cheater Method

There are almost as many different ways to make a potato latke as there are people to eat them. Some of it goes back to what you ate growing up, or a new method you’ve found, or any one of a number of variables.

However, at the core is a very simple formula – grated potatoes, onion, egg, some kind of starch, salt and pepper.

I personally believe that a latke has to have grated potatoes to be a latke – mashed or pureed potatoes are a potato pancake but not a latke, in my opinion, if that distinction makes sense.

Growing up, my mom always peeled her potatoes, and used the grate blade on her Cuisinart to shed the potatoes and onions. She would take everything out of the bowl, put in the steel blade, and process any big onion pieces. She would also lightly chop half or less of the potato sheds – the shorter pieces would help the mix hold together.

To me, this is still the ideal method. But sometimes it takes to long, especially if you’re doing a large quantity. Or if you don’t have a food processor.

In college, our Jewish group would make latkes every year for the students, feeding 50 to 100 people. As we were students and Cuisinart-less, we would] buy frozen shredded potatos (hashbrowns) to use as a short cut.

This year, I was asked to make the latkes for our religious school’s Chanukah celebration, and I remembered the short cut from my college years.

The one thing I remembered, other than using the hashbrowns, wad that it was very important for them to be fully defrosted before trying to make the latkes.

This year, somehow, that one step caused more problems than any other. The first day I tried to make them, I put the frozen hashbrowns in bowls in a warmer box that was at about 100 degrees F. And three hours later, they were still mostly frozen! The next time, I left the bags in the refrigerator for three days, thinking it would thaw them, but again I found them frozen.

Out of desperation, I figured out how to defrost them without losing all of the starch, and ended up figuring out a pretty good method for making them, with the one short cut.

These latkes taste great, just like they should, and got raves, second helpings, and requests for the recipe. Which is a success in my book!

Potato Latkes, the Slightly Cheater Method

Potato Latkes, the Slightly Cheater Method

  • Two bags (1lb 14oz each) frozen shredded hashbrowns
  • 1-1/3 to 2 pounds onion
  • 6 eggs
  • About 1/2 cup matzo meal (see note)
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • Peel three onions and coarsely grate them, using a food processor or hand grater. If there are any large pieces, chop by hand or use the steel blade of the processor to chop.
  • Line a large colander with a cotton tea towel. Pour the shreds from one bag into three colander. Run hot water over the shreds, using your fingers to toss them and make sure the water is getting everywhere. You will feel them get warm and pliable, and when they're no longer cold and icy, turn off the water. Put roughly half of the onions on top of the potatoes. Press down to get water out of the potatoes and onions, then wring them out using the towel. When you can't get any more water out, empty the shreds into a bowl. Carefully peel the starch from the towel and add it to the bowl - the starch helps the latkes stay together. Repeat with the second bag of potato shreds and the remaining onion.
  • To the bowl of onions and potatoes, add the rest of the ingredients. Lightly scramble the eggs and mix everything together. It should be fairly thick and should hold together when formed into a ball.
  • Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a 1/4" layer of oil (I usually use canola). When hot, scoop a ball of mixture into your hand and form it into a thick patty. I usually make them 2-3 inches across but you can do whatever size you prefer. Carefully place the patty in the pan, and repeat until you have 5 to 8 patties in the pan (depending on their size and the size of your pan).
  • Cook until golden or medium brown, then flip and cook the other side. When done, move to a plate that has been lined with paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, adding extra oil as needed.
  • Latkes can be made in advance and kept in thr refrigerator or frozen for longer storage. Heat in a low to medium oven until hot - this keeps them crispy.
  • Note: my mother always used matzo meal, and it is my binder of choice. Some families use flour, so that is an option. You can easily substitute gluten free matzo meal or gluten free flour - it doesn't change the flavor at all.
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