Hanukkah, which begins this year on December 12, commemorates a miracle in which a single day's supply of oil kept the Temple lamps of the Maccabees burning for eight days. Given the emphasis on oil, fried foods are a staple of Hanukkah celebrations, and what fried delicacy is more ubiquitous or loved than the latke?
Although we know and love them today as potato-based, latkes were originally tater-free and made with ricotta cheese. Try recipes for both the original, cheese-based version (courtesy of Tori Avey on PBS Food) and an updated classic potato one (from Rachel Reuben on PBS Food).
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
3 large potatoes, ( 1½ lbs) peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup medium grind yellow corn meal
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt, freshly ground pepper
½ cup high-heat vegetable oil, for frying, plus more if needed
Freshly chopped herbs, optional (parsley, chives, rosemary)
1. Place half of the raw potatoes and half the raw onion in the large bowl of a food processor or in a strong blender with a wide carafe; add enough water to cover and process by pulsing until the potatoes and onion are roughly pureed. (Don’t over-process to the extent that it the mixture is liquefied.) Drain mixture through a fine sieve, using a wooden spoon or the bottom of a ladle to press the mixture and push most of the excess liquid through; transfer drained mixture to large bowl. Repeat with remaining potatoes; add to bowl. Mix in egg, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add optional herbs. You want the consistency of this mixture to be like a thick batter, or like applesauce. If it appears too watery, then you may need to add a little more flour to firm it up.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with foil. Prepare another baking sheet or platter covered with paper towel for draining.
3. Heat a large heavy skillet or cast iron pan until medium hot, then heat enough oil in the pan to cover bottom of pan (a ¼ inch or so). The key to creating a non-stick surface with a skillet like this is to make sure the pan is hot, and then the oil is also hot before introducing the batter. When the oil is shimmering, add ¼ cup or so of the potato mixture per latke, leaving at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) between each; tap lightly on top of each latke with a spatula to flatten them a bit.
4. Fry the latkes in batches, adding more oil as needed (and making sure the oil gets hot again each time you add some), until bottoms are lightly golden and edges are crisp, 1-2 minutes. Turn over and fry until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from oil and place on paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat until batter is completely used up. Remember, you are not fully cooking these in the oil. You are just crisping them on the outside, and the inside will finish cooking in the oven. This way you can achieve a light golden color by frying and a fluffy interior by baking to finish. Place latkes on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven to finish, about 8-9 minutes. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 8 hours; reheat on rimmed baking sheets in 400°F/200°C oven, about 5-8 minutes.) Serve with apple sauce or sour cream.