In the early 90’s, I was fortunate enough to live in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. There I encountered many wonderful Jewish families and their incredible, authentic beliefs and recipes.
One precious experience that still resonates with me today was given to me by a kind, yet strong elderly woman named Mrs. Weinstein. She claimed that traditional Jewish proverb states latkes are not mere culinary delights, but teach us that we cannot live by miracles alone. In other words, miracles are phenomenal things, but we cannot wait for miracles to happen. We have to work towards our goals, feed our bodies and nourish our souls in order to live fulfilling lives.
Nearly every Jewish family has their favorite latke recipe that is passed from generation to generation. However, the underlying formula is the same in that nearly all latke recipes have some combination of grated potatoes, onion, egg and flour, matzah or breadcrumbs. After mixing the batter small portions are fried in vegetable oil. The resultant latkes are served hot, often with applesauce or sour cream.
Some Jewish families add sugar or sesame seeds to the batter to sweeten them up a bit. Here is the best recipe that I have found to date. Golden, crisp, light and delicious. This recipe and its technique was handed down to me, if you will, by a wonderful woman that filled my heart and mind with love of Jewish culture and their simple, but delicious recipes. Ttikzi lemitzvot, Mrs. Weinstein.
2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded on a box grater
1 medium onion, coarsely shredded on a box grater
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsely
1/4 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs (matzo provides the crispiest results)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a colander set over a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the onion and squeeze dry. Let the potatoes and onion drain for 2 to 3 minutes, and then pour off the liquid in the bowl, leaving the starchy paste at the bottom. Add the potatoes and onion, along with the eggs, scallions, parsley, matzo meal, butter,nutmeg, salt, pepper and baking powder; mix well. In a large skillet, heat an 1/8-inch layer of oil until shimmering. Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of the latke batter into the skillet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly with a spatula. Fry the latkes over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the latkes to paper towels to drain, then transfer to a platter. Repeat to make the remaining latkes, adding more oil to the skillet as needed. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, smoked salmon and salmon roe.