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Latkes - the Topic!


Fat Guy
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We started out asking the raw latke forming teams to make 3" diameter latkes.

Actually let me describe the setup:

We had 3 cookers in the kitchen, with a backup person to hand them trays of raw latkes and collect the cooked ones onto other trays covered with papaer towels. Outside the kitchen were four workstations that each had 2-3 graters, several bowls, cheesecloth, and the fixings for 5 pound batches (10 potatoes, 2 onions, plus salt, pepper and matzoh meal, plus intructions. About 8 volunteers worked each table in 2 hour shifts, producting a trays of 36 raw latkes every 10 minutes.

The preparers would get ahead of the cookers, but as their wrists tired from grating or their eyes failed from onion fumes, the cookers would catch up. We had 4 16" skillets on the gas stove and 2 electric skillets next to them. Each skillet held about a dozen latkes, and at peak performance, the cookers were turning over batches every 6-7 minutes.

The kitchen and workstation setup began at 12:30. Grating at 2pm, first cooking at 2:15. By 7pm, 1,669 net latkes had been produced, cooled, packed in parchment paper into plastic bags of 24-30 each for freezing for events over the next two weeks.

Things worked out pretty well. We asked for smaller latkes to hasten cooking time as the day wore on. Some of the people used the wrong side of the graters and made mush latkes instead of shreds; one team had no concept of the volume of a tablespoon and used 4x too much pepper in a batch.

In my position as a backup in the kitchen, onion slicer, team coordinator, tray washer, grease dabber, potato grater, cheesecloth strainer, and quality control taster, things went pretty well. Especially considering we were a 52 person mostly male group with varying levels of food prep from good to "do we need to peel the onions first?"

I am still smelling cooked potatoes and onions where ever I go.

1500 latkes: about 250 lps of potatoes!  In 6 skillets.  We hope to accomplish this between 12 and 6 pm.  We may need another hanukah miracle to make this happen.

Hey Mark,

A miracle is right! How big are the latkes? I can do 8 at a time in each of my electric frying pans - and work 3 of them at a time. 300 lbs. of potatoes took a lot longer than 6 hours . . .

--mark

Everybody has Problems, but Chemists have Solutions.

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Made my very first latkes last night. Hand-grated, as I enjoy the effort. Wrung out in cheese cloth. Fried in Crisco. Eaten over the stove.  :biggrin:

That's the way! They're not any good without knuckle meat in there.

Just did a big batch with the kidlet's Hebrew school class, it's great to have 25 little hands to do peeling and grating :biggrin:

my2c

Jorge

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I made the best ones I've ever made or eaten.  Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

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Wow, Randi, those look positively gorgeous. You are definitely getting your money's worth out of your new kitchen and I am so glad that you got it finished before the holiday season. :biggrin:

Maybe I should reconsider my decision to cancel my CI membership - those latkes are to die for!

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Randi - your latkes look great! But it looks to me like you shredded the potatoes using the large hole on the grater or food processor. I'm pretty sure that somewhere back in this thread, I posted about how my mother said you have to use the small holes. She said it has to have a little knuckle in it - while I won't go that far - I've become very fond of the "small hole" style of Latke making!

Well, thanks to the magic of digital photography and blogging - I have the entire photostory on my blog. But here is the secret weapon:

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The Cuisinart's equivalent to the smallest holes on a box grater is the cheese grating wheel. It makes latkes that are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside!

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Peeled Potatoes are Loaded

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Grated Potatoes

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Finished Batter

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Fry in Peanut Oil

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Only Turn Them Once

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Top with Apple Sauce (or Sour Cream)

Stuff face, reload plate and repeat!!

The full pictorial on making these babies is on my blog.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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  • 1 year later...
  • 2 weeks later...

This Hanukkah I had latkes -- prepared either by me or by our various hosts -- on six nights. I was able to observe and attempt a variety of techniques and thought I'd report a few observations, conclusions and instructions:

- My ideal latke has a coarse potato texture but is not a nest of shredded potatoes. I'm not a fan, relatively speaking, of latkes made from a "batter" that has no identifiable potato texture. In other words, I like something in between those extremes.

- There is no blade on the Cuisinart that achieves this texture. The fine grater makes batter and the coarse grater makes shredded-potato nests. The chopping blade is not reliable at producing a consistent, predictable texture.

- The best way to get the desired texture is with a hand grater. The same size holes on the hand grater (either a box grater or a cheap imitation made-in-China "mandoline") that are too large on the Cuisinart medium grating disc are ideal when rendered on the hand grater. The hand grater tears and shreds, creating a lot of variation in texture. The Cuisinart blade, because it spins so quickly and is so sharp, just produces uniform shreds.

- There are a couple of cheats available to get from the Cuisinart texture to the hand-grater texture. First, you can shred with the Cuisinart medium disc, run about a third of the product through the blender (or the chopping blade) and recombine. Second, you can shred about two thirds with the medium disc and one third with the fine disc. Both of these tricks are pretty effective, and necessary for production of any significant quantity of latkes, but assuming my ideal the hand grater produces a slightly more desirable end product.

- Most people don't use enough onions.

- Straining to remove the extra water is not necessary, since you can remove the excess water by hand as you form each latke. Saving and recombining the starch makes little or no noticeable difference in the end product.

- Oil temperature is difficult to judge and maintain when shallow frying because only the very tip of the thermometer gets into the oil. So your thermometer may read 225 when your oil is actually at the ideal mid-300s frying temperature. You have to make a judgment call about what apparent thermometer temperature corresponds to a really good frying temperature. Of course, using a thermometer is essential unless you have magic powers.

- Because you're shallow frying (of course many people either don't use enough oil to shallow fry, or use so much oil the they're deep frying -- but those approaches don't produce my ideal latke or anything close to it), there is a drastic temperature drop when you add the latkes. The situation can be helped by using as many pans simultaneously as possible, getting the oil temperature up a bit over the target before adding the latkes, not trying to use every square centimeter of available pan space and turning the heat to full blast once the latkes are in and until the temperature recovers.

- Freezing and reheating is convenient and can maintain pretty good latkes, but there is enough of a loss in quality that I wouldn't do it unless preparing latkes for a huge party.

- The oil debate is overblown. Most of them taste the same, that is to say they taste like nothing. Even the type of olive oil one would use for frying (i.e. not extra-virgin) has little identifiable taste. Peanut oil has a somewhat distinctive taste. Of the oils I tried I preferred peanut oil by a little bit but wouldn't bother to seek it out. Animal fats -- chicken or duck fat -- improve flavor substantially but most people aren't going to use them, either because of convenience, perceived health issues or the fact that you can't use animal fats with a dairy meal if you want the meal to be kosher. Still, if you're interested in latke-making, you owe it to yourself to try a blend of half poultry fat and half vegetable oil at least once.

- Sprinkling the latkes with salt upon completion of cooking makes them taste better.

- Don't be cheap with the paper towels. The latkes are better if thoroughly blotted.

- DO NOT ADD OIL while cooking. This drops the temperature way down and creates greasy latkes. If you need to add oil -- which you will likely need to do -- add it between batches and then let the system come back up to temperature.

- Keep the oil as clean as possible by running a straining utensil through it to remove the burnt bits and floaters. This will significantly reduce your odor problem and reduce the likelihood of a burnt taste in the later batches.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I made latkes this year following CI's recipe that calls for shredding on the processor disk, then taking 1/2 of the shreds and processing them to a fine mixtures, which seems to be what Fat Guy is advocating.

I fried mine in 50/50 duck fat / peanut oil. All i can say is: WIN.

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We did something a little bit different this year. Instead of using the cheese grating wheel for the entire process, we used that wheel for the potato, and the "regular" grating wheel for the onions. We still got our wonderful creamy texture, but the onion had a better presence.

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"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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  • 2 weeks later...
- The best way to get the desired texture is with a hand grater. The same size holes on the hand grater (either a box grater or a cheap imitation made-in-China "mandoline") that are too large on the Cuisinart medium grating disc are ideal when rendered on the hand grater. The hand grater tears and shreds, creating a lot of variation in texture. The Cuisinart blade, because it spins so quickly and is so sharp, just produces uniform shreds.

After years of making latkes, I figured something out this year. If you must use a food processor for latkes (which I usually do because of large batches), grate some of the onions with a hand grater. The problem with the food processor is that the onions turn to mush and liquid. Then most of the onion flavour is left in the bottom of the bowl when you form the latkes. If you grate a few by hand and mix them in, they'll retain some texture.

- Straining to remove the extra water is not necessary, since you can remove the excess water by hand as you form each latke.

I'm not sure about this. I squeeze, add eggs, salt, black pepper and flour (I prefer it to matzo meal) then fry up a sample, adjusting the seasoning. If I don't squeeze the liquid out before seasoning, by the time it sits for a while, it's swimming in liquid and I'd imagine the finished latke loses some of the seasoning. No? This is probably a bigger issue for large batches than small ones, but I think it would make a difference.

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  • 10 months later...

It's latke season! I want to know if people are making non-potato latkes. My favourite at the moment are zucchini and leek, with just a little potato in them for body. I've also made cauliflower/corn/cheddar and mushroom/wild rice latkes.

Nu? Doing anything interesting with the latkes?

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I just posted this recipe on my blog and I thought I would share it here too:

Make-ahead Latkes

Nothing beats home-made latkes (potato pancakes). They are primarily potato and onion, but some people make them “mushy” with the potatoes and onion ground to a pulp. Others make them with the potatoes shredded like hash browns. Either way there’s a lot of prep on the day you make them.

This recipe was designed to accomplish two goals: Have the latkes pre-made so they could just be fried on the day you want to eat them, and to be able to make them in a deep fryer. Both goals are accomplished by freezing the latkes and frying them direct from the freezer.

This recipe uses the shredded potato approach and simplifies that by using frozen hash browns. You can, of course, shred your own potatoes.

Ingredients

(makes about 16 good sized latkes)

1 30 oz package of frozen hash browns

1 medium to large onion

2 extra-large eggs

2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3 tbs potato starch

In a small bowl beat the eggs, salt and pepper until well mixed. Peel and grate the onion, either with a box grater or use the chopping blade on a food processor. Put the grated onion and it’s juice in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the bag of frozen hash browns (yes, still frozen). If they are frozen in a clump, beat the bag before opening to break them apart. Pour the egg mixture over the top and stir a few times. Sprinkle the potato starch over the top and stir thoroughly until everything is well combined and the potatoes are coated thoroughly.

Measure out about 1/2 cup of the mixture onto a non-stick cookie sheet or sheet pan. Form this into a rough patty about 1/2 inch thick. The potatoes will be loose and really not stick together like dough. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. (This will take several cookie sheets.) Put the cookie sheets in the freezer and freeze until they are frozen hard (several hours at least). Once the latkes are frozen, they will stay together. Lift them from the cookie sheets (by hand or with a spatula) and put them into a freezer bag and keep frozen until ready to use.

To use, remove from the freezer and fry while still frozen. You can either deep fry them or shallow fry them in a frying pan until golden on both sides.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

My T shirt site: Guy Bling

My NEW Ribs site: BlasphemyRibs.com

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It's latke season! I want to know if people are making non-potato latkes. My favourite at the moment are zucchini and leek, with just a little potato in them for body. I've also made cauliflower/corn/cheddar and mushroom/wild rice latkes.

Nu? Doing anything interesting with the latkes?

Hey Pam - I make zucchini and gruyere fritters with shallots - probably my favorite latke of all time.

Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.
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IMG_1425.JPG

Not new or different but delicious nonetheless. Potatoe latkes with onion served with sour cream (non-kosher - fried in bacon grease). Someone in the house who is having appetite issues managed to scoff 3 of them with no trouble at all!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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On Sunday in my religious education class, we made latkes with the kids to celebrate Hanukkah. I've always made them the way my Grandma, an Irish Catholic taught me; shredded potatoes (hand grated, her, Kitchen Aid shredded for me), onion, a little flour, an egg. Grandma used corn oil, I use peanut, shallow fried. Course salt scattered on as they come out.

This time in the interests of brevity, my poor UU kids got the boxed mix done on an electric skillet with a spray of olive oil. It probably did not make the impression Grandma's "potato pancakes" made on me.

But I have to say, any latke is better than no latke. We stayed in the kitchen long after class was over, "to use up the mix". :rolleyes:

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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I do what is, I guess, essentially a latke, with zucchini, and I've done it with yellow squash as well. It uses crushed saltines instead of matzoh meal or flour. I use my food processor for the potato and onion, the regular processing blade, just in a series of pulses until I get the texture I want, and then I drain that in a colander for a bit before adding the egg and crumbs and/or flour (I've done both).

Has anyone done sweet potato latkes? I'm anxious to try this, being a fiend for anything you can do with a sweet potato.

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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  • 11 months later...

Chanuka is closer to the end than the beginning -- any good latkes going on out there? I've had it up to my ears with traditional potato latkes and I made an excellent batch of mushroom wild rice latkes.

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  • 1 year later...

Hubby e-mailed me a link to this recipe the other day. Since he doesn't cook - I assumed that meant he wanted me to make him latkes. Which was indeed the case!

Figuring that baked latkes was not the way I wanted to go, I made him more standard latkes loosely based on the recipe in recipeGullet here. Added some Penzey's granulated onion, fried in a mixture of beef fat and sunflower oil.

Served with a nice piece of brisket I'd cooked sous vide for about 13 hours at 80º C.

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I don't know if it's resting on a rack rather than on paper towels / bags that's making some of the difference, but I used about 50-60% rice bran oil (said to give crispier results for tempura), and my latkes this year came out crispier than usual.

latke.jpg

Mine are pretty standard - potato, onion, matzoh meal, kosher salt, pepper. I grate the potatoes by hand on a box grater no matter how many I'm making, wring out the potatoes as well as I can, and since I usually don't use egg, I add back the potato starch solids to the mix. I shallow fry them in a fair amount of oil.

I've done beet and sunchoke pancakes before - sunchoke ones are great, but the after-effects not as great.

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Figuring that baked latkes was not the way I wanted to go, I made him more standard latkes loosely based on the recipe in recipeGullet

I know a lot of people make baked latkes but I've come to the conclusion that they aren't really latkes. The whole point of latkes is that they are cooked in oil, so I think you made the right choice.

So far we've made over 100 dozen standard potato latkes. I'm in charge of the latkes for the family Chanuka party on Sunday and was thinking I'd stick with plain potato, but now I'm wondering if I should do more than one variety. Maybe zucchini and leek latkes because though they're fried, they feel healthier. :rolleyes:

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