If you have ever celebrated Chanukah, you’ve had Latkes. Potato Latkes are a beloved and cherished traditional treat that is definitely not low in calories. Each latke is fried to a crispy golden brown, placed on paper napkins to help soak up the oil, then eaten with delight.
What are Latkes?
Latkes are a fried pancake made of shredded potatoes traditionally eaten during the Jewish Festival of Chanukah. Different garnishes are served along side such as sour cream, apple sauce and sugar.
The word latke itself is derived (via Yiddish) from the Russian word ‘ladka’, ‘oladka’, a diminutive from ‘oladya’ (оладья), “small pancake”
Before the Jewish diaspora Migration to Europe, it was customary to eat fried dairy foods for Chanukah inspired by the Book of Judith and the oil lasting 8 days. The custom is based on the story of how She saved the day by feeding wine and salty cheese to the invading Assyrian Army General before decapitating him and heralding the Miraculous victory of the Maccabees and the even bigger miracle of the oil in the eternal synagogue lamp lasting eight days before being replenished.
Medieval Jews across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East each had their own traditional dishes fried in oil. The latke’s humble beginning has its root in an Italian Jewish custom, documented as early as the 14th century of ricotta fried pancakes to celebrate Chanukah.
Crossing into Northern and Eastern Europe, cheese was hard to come by, and so was cooking oil that wasn’t made from animal fat. To maintain kashrut, they could no longer use dairy products. Buckwheat and various grains replaced the cheese, but by the 1800’s the potato had gained in popularity and poor populations relied on it for sustenance.
Their north American debut coincided in the 1800’s wave of Jewish immigrants.
“The point of latkes at Chanukah is not the potato but the oil,” Joan Nathan of The New York Times. “What matters is the recounting of the miracle of one night’s oil lasting eight nights in the temple over 2,000 years ago.”
Here are 3 Recipes:
1 small onion 4 large potatoes
½ cup matzo meal
1/8 teaspoon black pepper 1
1 teaspoon salt
Oil for frying
1.Grate together onion, potatoes, eggs and matzo meal.
2.Add black pepper and salt.
3.Heat oil in heavy-bottomed skillet.
4.Make sure entire skillet is covered with oil ¼ inch or more deep.
5.Drop in a tiny bit of batter. If it browns, you’re ready to fry.
6.Spoon in latkes.
7.Fry three minutes on each side.
8.Remove, place on paper towel to drain excess oil and serve immediately.
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Nonstick cooking oil spray, for frying
- Combine all ingredients except the nonstick oil in a food processor. Process the mixture for about 45 seconds, pausing a couple of times to scrape the sides, until the mixture forms a thick batter.
- Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking oil and heat over medium. Use a spoon to scoop up the batter, then pour it onto the hot skillet in the size/shape of silver dollar pancakes. Use 1-2 tablespoons of batter per pancake. Spread the batter out into a thin circle after it hits the skillet.
- Fry the latkes for 2-3 minutes on each side until they turn golden brown. Test the first latke for doneness and make sure it’s cooked all the way through; if the latkes are browning faster than they’re cooking, reduce skillet heat. Expect some variation in the shape of the latkes, they won’t form a perfect circle. Serve immediately.
- These latkes can be eaten plain or topped with a drizzle of honey. Other toppings include jam or preserves, sour cream, maple syrup, yogurt or agave nectar.
Gluten Free Note: You can also make these latkes using a gluten free flour substitute mix. They will take a bit longer to brown, but they’ll still taste great!
Yield: 16-18 latkes
(Photo and recipe by Tori Avey)
Sweet Potatoes Latkes
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
2 scallions, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup olive oil
- Stir together potatoes, scallions, flour, eggs, salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a deep skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
- Working in batches, spoon ⅛ cup potato mixture into oil and flatten. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until golden brown. Transfer latkes to paper towels to drain.
- Serve with ½ cup regular or parve sour cream mixed with 1 tablespoon maple syrup if desired