Hanukkah is a commemoration of the revolt of the Maccabees, during which the oil that the soldiers used to light their reclaimed temple lasted for eight days, though it should only have burned for one. Thus, it is traditional to eat oil-fried foods during the Hanukkah season. One of the most beloved are potato latkes. These savory pancakes were originally made with ricotta cheese—it wasn’t until potatoes were widely planted in Eastern and Central Europe during the 1500s that latkes evolved to the crispy potato cakes that are now so beloved!
Latkes taste their very best when made fresh and eaten immediately, but you can make them ahead and freeze them for up to two weeks. Slightly underfry the latkes, then cool and freeze in a single layer (once frozen, they can be put into freezer bags or wrapped in foil). Reheat them in a 375°F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping once. Sour cream and applesauce are traditional accompaniments. This recipe is easily double or even quadrupled if you are cooking for a crowd.
Classic Potato Latkes
Makes about 3 dozen
Adapted from the New York Times
1 pound russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 large onion
2 large eggs
½ cup matzo meal or flour
2 tsp. coarse kosher salt,
plus additional fine salt for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Neutral oil such as canola or safflower for frying
Using a coarse shredding disk on a food processor or the largest holes on a box grater, grate potatoes and onions. Transfer mixture to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze and wring out as much moisture as possible, or you can use a salad spinner. Quickly transfer potato onion mixture to a large bowl and mix in eggs, matzo meal, and salt and pepper.
Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add about ¼ inch of oil. The oil is hot enough when a drop of batter sizzles immediately when dropped into the pan. Working in batches, drop batter by heaping tablespoons into the oil, then use a spatula to flatten and shape the batter into discs. Don’t crowd the latkes too much or the oil temperature will drop, making them greasy. When the edges of the latkes look brown and crispy (about 5 minutes), flip them and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a tray covered with paper towels or brown paper bags to drain; sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining batter.