Latkas Recipes: Fear of Frying Therapy! Kugel and all Variations. Gluten-Free Friendly
Posted on 29th of November, 2010 by Lévana
Ah Latkas! The food we love to hate! To make matters worse, courtesy of the alarmist low-carb food industry, the humble potato has gone from being a faithful staple at every table to making rare and apologetic appearances, as in Chanukkah, where we fry and eat it with a vengeance.
I rarely fry anything, but there is no Chanukkah without latkas! In my catering career and for my friends and family at home, I have made thousands upon thousands of them and always watch them disappear at a flatteringly alarming rate. There is no doubt about it: latkas are a heavenly treat, and once we enter a house where the glorious fragrance of latkas frying wafts through the kitchen, even a very spartan dieter (whom I have yet to meet) will sheepishly watch his or her noble resolution not to “get near it” turn to dust.
You may have guessed it: I have nothing nice to say about frying. Getting burned long ago while fishing out a schnitzel from the frying pan, which eluded me and defiantly jumped back into the pan splattering my hand, turning it into a human dumpling for days and leaving its ugly scar for many months, didn’t help endear this method of cooking to me. But my love for latkas has not suffered at all, thank you.
Frying (stir-frying does not fall into this category, as it requires very little oil and minimal cooking) is the nemesis of every health-conscious cook, this one included. However, fried foods are irresistibly delicious. I am happy to provide a few guidelines for frying occasional treats efficiently and safely: consider the following a mini crash course on conquering the fear of frying! This goes not only for latkas (any latkas, savory and sweet) but anything you might be frying (shnitzels, fish fillets, etc…)
- Keep it dry. Too much moisture will steam food instead of frying it, yielding soggy results. Be sure to dry whatever you are frying thoroughly with paper towels.
- Keep it thick. With a firm (not runny) batter, you will be able to form thicker patties, which will absorb much less oil than thinner ones. The ouside will be crisp and the center will be tender yet cooked through.
- Keep it hot. Less-than-hot oil will seep into your food, making it inedibly greasy. If you are adding oil to your pan while frying, chances are your oil was not hot enough to begin with. When your oil is good and hot, you will need to add very little if any to finish frying an entire batch of food. How hot is hot enough? Drop a smidgen of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the surface, the oil is hot and ready for frying.
- Keep it steady. Do not crowd the pan. First of all, you will make handling the food more difficult. Also, crowding will bring down the temperature of the oil. Adding what you are frying at steady intervals ensures that the oil has time to return to the desired temperature.
- Keep it lean. I have my mother to thank for this advice. Rather than using spatulas or slotted spoons, work with two forks when frying. Lift each fried item with a fork on each side, and hold it vertically for a second or two over the frying pan: You will be surprised by how much oil drips off it. Immediately place the items on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels, which will absorb any remaining unwanted grease.
- Keep it white. This applies only to potato dishes. Peeled potatoes will oxidate when exposed to air and turn an unappealing gray color. So when making latkes (or a potato kugel), get everything ready and peel and grate the potatoes last, adding them immediately to the otherwise finished batter.
- Keep it fresh and hot. A word about freezing and reheating. If you are entertaining a large group, it won’t be enormous fun spending the afternoon frying while everyone is having a good time. If you must fry in advance, follow all the above guidelines, but fry each item until it is ninety percent cooked through, no more. Store it in a shallow pan in one layer. You can also place the latkas in the pan vertically, like a deck of cards; you will be able to fit quite a few in a pan in this position (again, one layer). Cover tightly. Refrigerate or freeze, depending on how long in advance you are preparing the dish. Reheat uncovered, at about 350*F, for fifteen to twenty minutes if it was frozen, until golden and crisp.
Makes 24 latkas.
vegetable oil for frying
1 cup flour, any flour, including gluten-free
1 medium onion, grated in a food processor
salt and pepper to taste
8 large Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled
Heat 1/3 inch oil in a heavy frying pan until very hot. While the oil is heating, place the flour, eggs, onion, salt and pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Quickly grate the potatoes in a food processor, and immediately stir them into the batter, making sure not to squeeze so as not to extract unwanted extra moisture. Work very quickly so they do not have time to get discolored. Form small patties, and lower them into the hot oil, or drop the batter by heaping tablespoons. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve with applesauce (try my homemade applesauce: nothing to it, and it’s wonderful!), or plain yogurt.
Vegetable latkes: Replace the potatoes with a mixture of zucchini, carrots and parsnips. Add seasonings of your choice such as oregano, minced fresh garlic and basil.
Sweet potato latkes: Substitute sweet potatoes for the regular potatoes, and add brown sugar, cinnamon, curry and ginger to taste. Try serving them with my Hot Pepper Jelly!
Potato Kugel: That’s right: What else is it but a giant latka? Add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil to the potato latka batter. Pour the batter into a greased loaf or square pan, and bake uncovered in a preheated 375*F oven for one hour or until the top is golden brown.