Deep fried, crunchy on the fringe and soft in the middle. The potato pancakes, or latkes, that make my kids scream for joy have no commonality with the potato pancakes I ate earlier this week. Those reminded me of growing up.
I remember grey pucks of reconstituted potato flakes from a dusty box. Gummy with an aftertaste that I would best describe as a funk. I don’t remember if it was baked or pan fried, but the latkes of my youth were an embarrassment to 5000 years of tradition and history.
My recipe was intended to break the cycle of latke despair and offer my children a better way forward. I drew inspiration from my travels to Korea and the delightful balance between a crunchy fringe and light center of a scallion or seafood pancake.
I also needed the potato to have a crunch without a burnt taste, and I looked to Holland for hints about deep frying.
Latke recipes share similar ingredients. Potatoes, onions, a binder of egg and starch and salt for flavor. Latke success is about process.
My recipe was simple: russet potatoes that were peeled and kept in water to delay browning. Onions that were shredded in a food processor then wrapped tightly in a tea towel and squeezed to remove any moisture that would result in sogginess. The binders of egg, corn starch and baking powder kept the potato together and the center airy.
I shredded five potatoes to each onion and combined with an egg, a tablespoon of cornstarch and a teaspoon of baking powder and teaspoon of salt. I placed my deep metal baking dish across multiple burners on the stove top and fried the pancakes on low heat until the the pancake was slowly blanched. Just like the Holland’s twice cooked fries, I then raised the heat until the exterior was crunchy, brown and delicious.
Salted and steaming hot, these are memories served to the next generation, who should never have to eat a potato pancake that was borne from a box.
- Food processor with shredding disc
- 4 Russet Potatoes (Medium)
- 1 Onion (Medium)
- Canola or other high smoke point oil
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- sour cream (optional)
- apple sauce (optional)
- Peel potatoes and submerge in bowl of cold water.
- Cut onion and shred using food processor or box shredder.
- Place shredded onion in clean tea towel and squeeze out liquid. Place onion in large bowl.
- Add egg, salt, baking powder and corn starch to onion and mix together.
- Heat oil in a wide frying pan.
- Cut potatoes and shred using food processor shredding blade or box shredder. The potatoes will start to turn brown, so save this step for last.
- Mix shredded potatoes to the onion/egg mix.
- Form a blob of mix onto a flat spatula or spoon and place the mix into the oil. The mixture should bubble slowly. If the bubbles are too aggressive, turn down the heat. The oil should be between 300 and 325 degrees.
- Flip the mix every three minutes or so. The pancake will be loose and strands of potato may float off. Don't worry. As the starches cook, the pancake will become sticky and adhere together.
- After around 10 minutes, the pancake should be soft and pale. Turn up the heat to 375 degrees. The potato pancake will start to turn golden brown. Flip every few minutes to ensure an even color on both sides.
- Drain on paper towels or a drip rack. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Serve with a side or sour cream or applesauce (optional) or even creme fraiche and caviar if you are feeling decadent.