Some people pronounce them lot-kahz” and some people pronounce them “lot-keys” but the emphasis is on the “lot” either way, and we think you’ll like them…well, a lot! Latkes, the perfect potato pancakes, are a favorite tradition at Hanukkah. Fried in oil, they remind us of the story of the oil used to rededicate the Temple. Whereas legend says there was only enough oil to last one day, we are taught that God caused the Temple light to continue burning for eight days, until more oil could be procured.

In years past, we’ve published various recipes from staff members. At the risk of ruffling friends’ and family members’ feathers, I have to say that the latkes that stand out in my mind are those made by my colleagues, Steve and Janie-sue Wertheim. They are eye-rolling, sigh-heaving, mouth-watering perfection.

Traditional for Hanukkah

What you need:

  • 6-8 russet potatoes, grated
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 1 large onion chopped fine
  • Oil for frying

Serves six people

What you do:

Place a heavy pan on the stove and fill with oil to a depth of 1 and a half to 2 inches. Heat over low to medium heat while you put together the ingredients for the batter.

Squeeze out the excess liquid from the grated potatoes and put the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped onion, salt, pepper and eggs. Mix well. Add the flour a little bit at a time, mixing as you go till the batter sticks together well (you may need to use all the flour). Cover the batter with cellophane wrap so that no air hits the batter while you are waiting for the pan to heat. (If you leave it uncovered, your batter will turn black due to a chemical reaction with the air!)

Check the pan to see if the oil is hot enough by carefully easing a scant teaspoon of batter into the oil. If it is hot enough, it will immediately begin to fry vigorously and will quickly turn golden brown. If this doesn’t happen, you need to wait till the oil gets hot and try again (you can test this with a kitchen thermometer—the oil should be at about 375¦F).

When the oil is hot, use a 1/4 cup measure full of batter to create your latkes. Don’t crowd them too much in the pan. Turn them over when they are dark golden brown on one side and cook the other side. Drain well on paper towels. If you are making a big batch, put a pan in the oven with a wire rack. Heat the oven to about 250oF and lay the drained latkes on the rack so they’ll stay warm while you are cooking the rest. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce.

If your latkes never make it to the table because greedy fingers keep snatching them off the paper towel before you can load up a plate, mazel tov (congratulations)—you’ve mastered the art of latke making.