A few years ago my friend Shari and I decided to pool our latke-making skills and begin what has become our neighborhood tradition of “Shari and Jane’s Latke Party.” All our friends look forward to this. Having been taught by “the master” (my mom) I thought my latkes were pretty good—potato taste with just the right amount of crisp. What I didn’t expect was that there was an aspect to what made a great latke: it’s even edges.
When Shari (in white shirt) came to my house our first year, with her pans of latkes to stick in my large freezer, I was kind of amazed and perplexed. Her latkes definitely were much prettier then mine! I had prided myself on the funky, jagged edges of mine (maybe how I see myself with my funky curly hair? But her hair is even curlier then mine!). Whatever the reason, I took on the challenge to see if I could “clean up” my latkes and see if I could make them prettier. I have succeeded to some extent. Shari taught me that the key is to compress them onto a large spoon and glide them off the spoon into the oil then press them gently. It has definitely made a difference.
But the interesting thing about this is that I realized that we all cook our latkes differently—loose, tight, with sour cream on the side, without, with onion, without, etc. But in the end they are all yummy and do the job. To me, the most important part is that we are making them ourselves, from scratch.
Just before Thanksgiving, Sherry (Challah Connection Director of Customer Service) came to work looking forlorn. Her mother in law was visiting and had asked Sherry if she had any jobs for her while Sherry was at work. Sherry asked her if she would make 4 dozen latkes—“No” was the answer (actually—it was a tall order). When I asked Sherry why she was so upset by that, she confessed to me that she had never made latkes and was actually a bit intimidated by the process. I was fairly surprised since she and her daughters are great cooks who make lots of ambitious recipes. I offered my extra large pan and gave her a pep talk: I knew she could do it. Sure enough, Monday after Thanksgiving she came to work with a new confidence about her—her aura was different. She had conquered her latke fear and made 4 dozen perfect latkes!
Tomorrow night, we will be going to my parents’ house for a pre-Hanukkah party while my brother and his 4 kids who live in Israel will be visiting. My 17-year old, Harry, will be manning the latke pan while the rest of us admire his work and pop them in our greedy mouths. Whatever shape your latkes are, I know they will be great and you’ll be so proud that you made them yourself!
Happy frying and here is Shari’s recipe. By the way, we have a perfect apron for the occasion: our chic latke apron.
Grandma Anne’s Latkes
Simple, but the best traditional latkes. She always threw in a little of this and a little of that, but when pushed for exact quantities, here’s what I got-and they are delicious!
For a crowd-serves about 12
15 big white potatoes of your choice
3 large or 4 medium brown or yellow onions
6 large eggs
1 cup flour or matzo meal
3 tbl salt
1 ½ tbl white pepper
-Peel potatoes and place in cold water to retain color
-Grate onions and potatoes in batches, squeezing out and draining excess water as you go, but don’t take out the water from the last batch
-Add the eggs and mix
-Add flour, salt and pepper and mix well
-To cook the latkes, drop large spoonfuls into a pan of ¼ inch of very hot oil. Using the spoon, quickly and gently press the potato mixture to form a flat oval shape, then loosen from the bottom if it sticks slightly. Turn once, cooking until each side is golden brown. Remove to drain on a baking sheet covered in paper towels
-Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven
-To make ahead, freeze latkes in a single layer, then place frozen pancakes in a plastic freezer bag. To reheat, place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and heat for 7 minutes at 375 degrees