Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy Chanukah! or Hanukah! Adam and Maxine Rapoport's Potato Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

The other day
 I stumbled upon the latke line up for the Fourth Annual Latke Festival. I nearly boarded a plane and headed straight for LaGuardia airport. All those latkes, made by some of the best restaurants in New York. Oh, I wanted to be part of it. I wanted a little latke taste...
But (now) I live almost 1,800 miles from Brooklyn and flying in for a latke festival seems a bit extravagant. Maybe next year. 
Or better yet, I can organize a latke-swap right here in Denver. Who's in?
We could have all kinds of latkes. Sweet potato, leek, yam & carrot, curried latkes. Oh, and the toppings. We could really go crazy! 
But maybe I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. Before taking on a more inventive latke menu maybe I should master the classic. 

I took out my most recent copy of Bon Appetit and there it was: the most perfect looking latke. The recipe was from Adam Rapoport's mother Maxine. Adam is the current editor of Bon Appetit magazine, so I figured it had to be good...
And it was. 
The latkes cooked evenly on both sides and they were perfectly crisp. Not a bit of sogginess or unwanted oiliness. I made the recipe just as it was written, minus the optional schmaltz. 
For those of you who don't know, schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. I have vivid memories of my father cutting fresh challah bread and slathering it with schmaltz. It was part of our family's Friday night shabbat ritual and it was a big treat in our house. But then around the mid-80s the truth about schmaltz came out-- it turned out rendered chicken fat wasn't exactly good for you. And just like that, my mother abruptly stopped serving it. I think it took my father years to recover emotionally; he really loved that schmaltz.
But anyway, back to the latkes. They are really simple to make and I have to tell you, they are the best latkes I've ever been able to make at home. 
So enjoy these classic latkes and have a very happy Chanukah!

Adam and Maxine's Famous Latkes

Russets are ideal for latkes. Their high starch content means you won't need flour to bind the pancakes. The result? More potato, and a crunchy (not cakey) texture.
(Courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine
Makes 24
3 pounds large russet potatoes (4-6)
1 medium Vidalia, yellow, or brown onions (about 2)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fine plain dried breadcrumbs
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-4 tablespoons (or more) vegetable oil

2 tablespoons (or more) schmaltz (chicken fat; optional)
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 325°. Peel potatoes. Using the large holes of a box grater or the grater disk on a food processor, grate potatoes and onions. {I use the box grater for the potatoes and the food processor grating dish for the onions.} Transfer to a large kitchen towel. Gather ends of towel; twist over sink and squeeze firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Open towel; toss mixture to loosen. Gather towel; wring out once more.

Whisk eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Add potato mixture. Using your fingers, mix until well coated. (Latke mixture should be wet and thick, not soupy.)

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Set a wire rack inside another large rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons schmaltz, if using, and 2 tablespoons oil (or 4 tablespoons oil if not using schmaltz; fat should measure about 1/8 inches) in a 12 inches nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drop a small amount of latke mixture into pan. If the fat sizzles around the edges, it's ready. (Do not let fat smoke.)

Working in batches and adding more schmaltz and oil to skillet as needed to maintain 1/8 inches fat, drop large spoonfuls of mixture into pan, pressing gently with the back of a spoon or spatula to flatten slightly. (If mixture becomes watery between batches, mix to incorporate; do not drain.)

Cook latkes, occasionally rotating pan for even browning, until golden brown and cooked through, 2 1/2-3 minutes per side. (If small pieces of potato floating in the oil start to burn, carefully strain out.)

Transfer latkes to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer to prepared wire rack. Place sheet with latkes in oven to keep warm and crisp while cooking remaining latkes.

Serve warm latkes with applesauce and sour cream.

Here are some vegetarian options from the Fourth Annual Potato Latke Festival in Brooklyn: 

  • Potato Latke with Fontina, Apple, and Truffles from A Voce.
  • Potato, Yam & Carrot Latke with Honey, Preserved Lemons & Yogurt Sauce from Balaboosta
  • Potato Pancakes with Vanilla Applesauce and Schmaltzy Onions from Blue Ribbon Brooklyn
  • Laid Back Latke with Deviled Egg and Red Onion, Parsley and Black Olive Relish from Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
  • Spud Maccabee with Pickled Fennel Jam, Butternut Squash, and Crème Fraîche from The Farm on Adderley
  • Magic Mushroom Cakes: Traditional Potato Pancakes made with Mushrooms & Onions and topped with Porcini Mushroom Sauce and Cranberry-Apple Sauce from Norma's
  • Duo of Potato Latke with Balsamic Lemon Crème Fraiche, Fresh Shaved Black Truffles and Micro Green Salad from Veselka
Follow Me on Pinterest


  1. Yum! Those look delish! I just made a potato/sweet potato/parsnip latke recipe from Cooking Light... served with an apple-beet puree. Mmm mmm!

    Happy chanukah!!


    1. Kat, you've outdone yourself! Those sound amazing. I'll have to check out Cooking Light-- or will they be on the blog? Speaking of blog, that wedding elopement cake for you-know-whos wedding looked AMAZING! You are truly something. We miss you oooooooodles. Hugs to Mr. M.

  2. these look AMAZING! I love celebrating chanukkah with latkes! yum!

  3. Those little latkes look delicious! Now I'm just waiting for some sufganiyot!

    1. Thank you-- Adam's recipe is wonderful. I'm working on sufganiyot and some Sephardic dishes too- I've got 4 days left to make it happen :)

  4. Yum! Applesauce for me! I bet the littles loved them.

    1. Jo, Next year I want to have a latke party-- great for kids and even better for adults. We can menu plan closer to the time :) xoxo

  5. Batya, you are right...these are the best latkes! My husband's family is from a long line of Eastern European Jews who settled in NY 100 plus year ago. I came to NY/NJ when I was 5 from Ireland. Guess who just really impressed her mother-in-law with these?! You are the BEST! Happy Hanukah.