Latkes: Fried or Baked
You shouldn’t need a special holiday to enjoy latkes. These crunchy potato pancakes only require a bit of prep work and can be fried or baked in the oven. Top them with a dollop of applesauce or sour cream and you’re in for a treat any time of year.
The best potatoes for latkes are russets as their high starch content helps them hold together with just a little matzo meal. The potatoes don’t even need to be peeled as long as you scrub them well.
Although traditional recipes don’t include any spices aside from a little salt and pepper, a Czech friend of mine told me to always add some dried marjoram. The marjoram adds a little brightness and herbal flavor to the batter. You can fry the latkes in vegetable oil but, if you’d like to make the most delicious latkes in the universe, add a little schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) to the pan.
An old-fashioned box grater is acceptable for preparing potatoes and onions but if you have a food processor with a grating blade it’s fast and effortless! To ensure the crispiest latkes, you’ll also need a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth for squeezing out as much liquid as you can from the potatoes and onions. This is when I usually call my husband into the kitchen to use his brute force to wring out the mixture. Just be aware that the liquid from the potatoes might discolor your towels.
The prep work for pan-fried or oven-baked latkes is exactly the same. If you’re frying the latkes, you should pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees to keep the prepared latkes warm while you fry up the rest. If you’re baking them, heat the oven to 425 degrees.
5 large russet potatoes (4 pounds), scrubbed or peeled
2 medium yellow onions (1 pound)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup matzo meal
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Vegetable oil and schmaltz for frying
Cooking spray – if you’re baking the latkes
Applesauce, sour cream and some chopped chives for serving
For fried latkes: Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
For baked latkes: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Using a food processor, grate the potatoes then the onions and transfer them to a large colander. Press out as much liquid as you can from the vegetables then transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and wring out as much liquid as possible.
In a large bowl, whisk together the matzo meal, eggs, marjoram, salt and pepper. Add the potato-onion mixture and stir to combine.
For fried latkes: Heat ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a large (preferable cast iron) pan. Add a couple tablespoons of schmaltz. When the oil is shimmering drop tablespoons of the latke mixture into the pan. Flatten them slightly with the tablespoon and fry until lightly browned. Using a metal spatula, gently flip the latkes over and continue frying. The process should take about 2-3 minutes per side.
Transfer the fried latkes to a foil-lined baking tray and keep them warm in the preheated oven while you cook the rest of the mixture, adding more oil and schmaltz when necessary.
For baked latkes: Make sure your oven is preheated to 425 degrees. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with oil and place tablespoons of the latke mixture on the baking sheet. Flatten each latke out slightly. You can spray the tops of the latkes with more oil or put a small dab of schmaltz on each for added flavor.
Bake for 15 minutes, then flip each latke oven and continue baking for 10 additional minutes.