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December 18, 2008 at 7:15 AM

Help! Latke recipes are giving her tsuris

Over the river and through the woods, to Bubbe and Zayda’s we go! Nah. Instead, I’ll take you all the way to Peoria, where All You Can Eater Kathryn Lambert has (appropriately enough) some burning questions. Kathryn, known here as frequent commenter KAG, is having “issues” with potato pancakes, as noted in her email. Here’s her culinary conundrum:

“Tomorrow I’m frying latkes for our kindergarten and first grade classes here where I work (Common Place is a non-profit social service agency with a large literacy program for adults and an after school program for children grades K-12). Most of our kids don’t know a latke from a French fry — but what’s not to love about fried potatoes?

I’ve been looking through recipes and I’m wondering: should you use only the starch from the potatoes, or should you add additional starch? And if you do add more, should it be flour or matzo meal? Why would you add baking powder to a latke recipe? Most recipes use vegetable oil and some use peanut. One uses olive oil (traditional but with a low smoking limit) and one uses chicken fat (but then if you’re Kosher you can’t eat them with sour cream — my favorite!)

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe last year and had very good success with it. I hand-grated the potatoes and added two eggs and one white onion, the leftover potato starch, and salt and pepper. (Oh yeah: white or yellow onions? Do you add green onions or not?) I made the batter the night before, refrigerated it, and brought it to work so all I had to do was bring it to room temperature and fry a lot of latkes. The problem? This year they want me to double the batch and I have no extra time. So, I was looking for a recipe I could do in my food processor instead of hand grating. That led me to many recipes and many opinions and now I’m wondering: what do you think?”

Ha! Funny you should ask, KAG.

I considered many of the questions you pose in a treatise on the subject, written during the Great Hanukkah Latke Frenzy of 2003 (read it and weep — right here). And after culling through a multitude of cookbooks, I turned not to Martha, but to “The Mensch Chef,” by Mitchell Davis, who offers up his friend Steve Gold’s excellent latke recipe, which requires hand grating. But I’ve since found an on-line recipe for kid-perfect mini latkes published by the fine folks at Fine Cooking, composed by The Mensch Chef himself! And whaddaya know? His mini-latke recipe directs you to use a food processor to grate the potatoes.

So, nu, fellow Eaters? Have you got any latke-making tips you’d like to share? Potato starch, matzo meal or flour? How many onions — white or green? What kind of oil? Applesauce, sour cream or both? Anybody care to share their favorite latke recipe? Come on. The time is nigh for celebrating the Festival of Lights, the menorah’s polished, our frying pans are at the ready and there are kids out there — from one to 92! — who have (sha! don’t say it) yet to eat a decent latke!

Comments | More in Cooking, Holidays


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