It’s not Hanukkah without at least one batch of latkes. Crunchy on the outside and creamy inside, they are awesome with a bit of applesauce and, ideally, a big plate of brisket.
When it comes to heirloom recipes, like my Nannie’s latkes, there is a fine line between improvement and disaster. And, in my experience, the only way to find that line is to experiment. A few years ago I tried adding blue cheese to Nannie’s latke recipe, which sounded wonderful but turned out to be a gooey mess. And last year I thought that since apples are so tasty and healthy as a topping for latkes, they would be good in the latkes. But while the apples upped the nutritional profile of the latkes, they kept them from getting crispy. So this year, I decided to just go for the real deal – Nannie’s latkes. But once I looked at her recipe again and realized just how much oil it called for, I knew that I had to figure out a way to get perfectly crisp latkes without the grease overload (and without the greasy scent that fills the house).
And I think I got it. It’s pretty simple, actually. Just use a nonstick pan, less oil, and then crisp ’em up in the oven. Which is excellent, because the first batches of latkes inevitably have to go in the oven anyway to keep warm. As Nannie always said, the key to perfect latkes is draining the potatoes. If there is too much water in the potato mixture, the latkes will be soft and soggy instead of brown and crisp. So be sure to press all the liquid from the potatoes.
Nannie’s Latkes (the lower fat version)
4 medium baking potatoes, grated
1 tablespoon grated onion
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
sour cream and applesauce to serve
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the shredded potatoes in a colander lined with cheese cloth. Press on the potatoes to remove as much liquid as possible (do not rinse the potatoes with water). In a large bowl, mix the drained potatoes, onions, flour, salt, and eggs. Heat half of the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Drop the potato mixture by the heaping tablespoonful into the pan, and press down with a spatula to form patties. cook on one side just until brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes. Transfer latkes in a single layer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed, and using multiple baking sheets if necessary. Put the baking sheets in the oven until the latkes are fully browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the latkes with additional salt, if desired, and serve with sour cream and applesauce.