The Midlife FoodieI love real, whole food, the stories about it, the people who produce it, the places it comes from and the way it brings people together. I am a food writer and educator (I also do copywriting on the side), I mother three millennials, I practice yoga and meditation, and, yes, cook a lot.
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This Hanukkah marks the tenth anniversary of my latke class. I taught my first one in 2005 at Whole Foods Market Princeton, and since then I’ve been teaching a Hanukkah latke class somewhere every year.
Soon I realized that people came to it not so much to learn as to schmooze and compare notes. As the sayings go, “two Jews, three opinions,” and “two cooks, three opinions.” So imagine what happens when Jews who cook come together!
I think I’ve received more advice than I’ve given, and I’ve tested all the tricks and tips. After ten years of crowdsourcing, I’ve come up with these rules for diving into latke cooking:
Use two kinds of potatoes: russet for the texture and Yukon for the flavor
Grate by hand. Don't try to fight this rule; it's a big one. Use a grater with large holes and grate the potatoes from their narrow side. This creates long strands of potatoes that fry to perfection. Trust me, I’ve tried every other method, and this one wins.
Grate the potatoes as you go. Instead of grating first and then frying, grate a couple and start cooking. Grate the rest as the previous batch cooks. This will prevent the potatoes from releasing too much liquid and from turning brown.
Squeeze the liquid out of the grated potatoes. Even if you grate them as you go, potatoes will release a lot of it. So squish them with a spoon against the walls of the bowl before you fry to rid of excess water.
Don’t skimp on oil. It should reach at least half of the level of the latke.
And now, the recipe:
4 (2 each) medium russet and Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
One tablespoon flour
One medium onion, grated
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Canola oil for frying
Fill an 8-to-10-inch skillet with ¼-inch deep oil. Heat on medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.
In the meantime, combine the potatoes, egg, flour, onion, salt, and pepper. Place a tablespoon of the mixture in the hot oil. Flatten it with the spoon. The oil should reach about half the height of the center of the latke and the edges of the latke should be submerged. Leave a half-inch gap between the latkes.
Cook the latkes until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown. Transfer to a flat plate lined with paper towels.
Note: If making latkes ahead of time, cool completely and keep them in a tightly covered container in the fridge. Separate the layers with paper towels. To heat them up, place them in one layer on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until warm and crisp.
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