By Erika Lenkert
I thought I had my latke recipe squared away: squeeze out the water from the grated potatoes and fine-grated onion, use potato starch instead of flour as a binder, add egg and lots of salt, and fry in enough hot oil to get crispy exteriors and soft, fluffy interiors. Ta-da: the best latkes.
Then I talked to my friend Craig Stoll.
Craig is the James Beard Award-winning chef behind the beloved San Francisco restaurant, Delfina. He’s also the guy who, along with his wife/partner, Anne, sold more than 1,000 local orders of his insanely good dozen pre-cooked frozen latkes in the first five days they were offered this year. (They’re still available in SF at all Delfina Pizzeria locations, some local markets, and Gold Belly.)
I quickly learned there are more steps that can be taken to get to the best latkes.
Craig uses russets, egg, potato starch, and salt, too. But he also puts his whole, unpeeled russet potatoes into a pot with water, brings it to a boil, drains the potatoes the literal second the water begins boiling, then refrigerates them overnight. He swears this preliminary step not only prevents oxidation of the potatoes to a large degree but also makes them dryer and easier to work with! He also blots his grated onions on paper towels after adding them to a fine strainer and pressing out as much liquid as possible.
His oil of choice? Rice bran.
Here are a few other tips worth following, fresh from the gffmag.com kitchen:
- Stick with russet potatoes. Their high starch content makes for the best latkes!
- Use either the large-hole side of a box grater or a food processor with the grater attachment to grate the potatoes (and carrots and/or beets or other vegetables, if using).
- Grate the onions super-fine with the small-hole side of a box grater.
- Always remove as much water as possible from your grated vegetables. Add the vegetables to a fine-mesh sieve and press out as much water as you can or wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess water by twisting the towel as hard as you can.
- Use potato starch instead of a GF flour as a binder. If you capture your potato water when you drain them, then let it sit, you can even pour off the water and be left with usable potato starch!
- Use a flax egg or other vegan egg substitute if you want vegan latkes. They work great.
- Go heavy on the salt. Latkes need it!
- Add salt just before cooking; salt inspires the vegetables to release more water. Last-minute salting stops the batter from getting wetter before cooking.
- Cook latkes in an oil with a high smoke point. Latkes take time to cook, and they need an oil that allows for patience. Follow Craig’s lead with rice bran or reach for canola or peanut.
- Cook latkes in enough oil that they’re halfway submerged. This ensures crispy results plus more fully cooked interiors.
- Make sure the oil is super hot before adding your dollops of latke batter. If you have a thermometer, you can check the oil to make sure it is about 375°F.
- If you need to add more oil as you go, make sure to heat it to temperature before adding more latke batter.
- Drain your fried latkes on paper-towel-lined baking sheets and keep them in one layer in a warm (200°F) oven as you make the next batch.
- Latkes are best eaten right out of the frying pan, but they do freeze well. To do so, spread the latkes in one layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Place latkes in a zip-top bag with parchment paper between layers and remove as much air as possible. Freeze, then, when desired, reheat on baking sheets in 350°F oven until lightly sizzling.
Ready to make some latkes? Try these recipes: