For Hanukkah, potato latkes are a tradition, whether you like them sweet or sour
Potato latkes – or potato pancakes – are a Hanukkah tradition for my family. Potato latkes are often served during Hanukkah celebrations: fried in oil, latkes symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days when it was expected to last just one.
There isn’t a “right” way to enjoy potato latkes. Latkes are served two ways: with a sprinkling of sugar or a dollop of sour cream and applesauce. Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews maintain a debate over which is correct. My children grew up with healthy helpings of sour cream and applesauce to enjoy my latkes, but that preference has given way to my son-in-law’s preference for a sprinkling of sugar. My grandchildren wouldn’t think of putting anything but sugar on the potato latkes that I now make every Hanukkah.
Potato latkes are simple to make, and you can certainly enjoy them whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not. My tips for perfect latkes? Choose starchy potatoes, like Idahoes, for crispy latkes. Use the traditional shredder attachment for your food processer and grate the potato into long pieces. This results in a nicer texture than chopping the potatoes. Cook them quickly so that they don’t oxidize and turn an unappetizing gray.
Here’s the simple recipe I use. First mix:
Six large, huge grated Idaho potatoes
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour or 1/2 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fry the latkes in 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola oil and drain well before serving.
In the spirit of the serious conversation about latkes, though, I have to confess. This year, my daughter made the latkes, and she couldn’t find the grating blade for her food processor, so she used a smaller blade that chopped the potatoes.
After all these years, her husband and kids announced that her potato latkes were the best she’s ever made.
Sugar vs. sour cream. Grated vs. chopped. Our family “latkes focus group” will reconvene on the next holiday, ready to share their opinions.