Latkes are a favorite for Hanukkah meals because they are so scrumptious and comforting — and deeply rooted in the traditions of the holiday. We fry latkes in oil to symbolize a miracle that happened back in 165 B.C. As the story goes, after three years of war, the Maccabees reclaimed the holy temple in Jerusalem. But in order to rededicate the temple, they needed oil to light the menorah, and they could only find one small bottle of it — enough for one night. Miraculously, it lasted for eight days and nights — and Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates them.
In the hot oil, the latkes fry up tender on the inside and wonderfully crisp and crunchy on the outside. Here we’ve served them with chives and a dollop of crème fraîche, but we also love them on the sweeter side with applesauce and sour cream.
Latkes are not hard to make, but they do require a certain amount of thoughtfulness, so here are our tips:
- Work quickly with your freshly grated potatoes, they tend to turn brown in just a few short minutes. If you want to prep them ahead, cover them in water.
- Squeeze all the water out of your grated potatoes; the drier they are, the better they’ll hold together and the crisper they’ll get.
- To keep the crispy crunch alive, put your fried latkes on a rack in a baking tray and store them in the convection oven at 200º or a slow oven at 325º until you’re ready to eat.
- Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc or a box grater, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer the mixture to a clean dish towel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.
- Moving quickly, transfer all of the ingredients (except the oil) to a large bowl and mix together, until the flour is absorbed.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough, a drop of batter placed in the pan will sizzle. Note: This is important because, if the oil is not hot enough, your latkes will be too oily; if it’s too hot, they’ll burn.
- Use a tablespoon to drop the potato mixture into the frying pan, cooking the first side until the edges are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Then flip and cook the second side for 5 minutes, or until browned.
- Drain the latkes on brown paper bags or paper towels, and cook the next batch.
- Serve with applesauce and sour cream. As with many fried foods, latkes are best served warm and fresh, while the crunch is still crisp.