Frying tips
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Frying Tips: Basic Latkas and Variations

I’ll bet Frying tips is exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

This is my Fear of Frying Therapy!

Ah Frying! The food we love to hate! To make matters worse, taking the quintessential fried treat, potato latkas, 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 Frying! 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 frying tips and guidelines for making occasional treats efficiently and safely: consider the following frying tips a mini crash course on conquering the fear of frying!

The following frying tips apply not only to latkas, savory and sweet

They are good for anything you might be frying (shnitzels, fish fillets, etc…). I share all these tips and much more in my latest cookbook

  • 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.

Below is my basic latka recipe with basic variations, but you will find in this link all my latkas and fritters recipes

Latkas International

These are just some of my favorites!

Frying Tips: Fear of Frying Therapy

Basic Potato Latkas

Moroccan Doughnuts: Sfenj

Vegetable Latkas and Burgers

Millet Fritters with Green Goddess Sauce

Indian Pancakes

Cornmeal Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes

Cheese Latkas

Homemade Apple Sauce

Apple Latkas

16 replies
  1. Susan
    Susan says:

    Thanks Levana. I plan to make latkas Thursday night and then serve for shabbat dinner (I get home too close to shabbat to make them on Friday). I intend to stack them upright in a pan as your describe, and heat them up before shabbos. I will then need to put them into my warming drawer to keep until dinner. The question: is there anyway to keep them crispy for dinner an hour or two later?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Susan I would put the pan on a blech rather than in a warming drawer. Or, uncovered in a low temperature oven.

  2. Prag
    Prag says:

    Great tips.

    I’m not a great fan of frying either but you cant’ get away with it on Hanukkah.

    Am right thinking it’s better to make sweet potatoes latkes as far as nutritional value goes?

    Reply
    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Prag, I must say we don’t look closely at nutrition when we fry latkas, so I look at my nutrition elsewhere, but I must say: Sweet potato latkas are fantastic, I add curry and cinnamon: Yum!

  3. nina
    nina says:

    I have a problem with soggy batters every time! I can only fry a few at a time and the first batch or two of completed latkas are ok, but the last batches are soggier because the batter has been sitting for a while waiting to be fried. Should I put the batter in a strainer before I fry it?

    Reply
    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Nina, start by reading my post on frying. What I live to do is, quite simply, work with 2 skillets. But even if you have only one skillet, if you follow my tips, you’ll go faster, and your oil temperature won’t drop. If some moisture forms at the bottom of your bowl, ignore it, and keep going.

  4. Sue
    Sue says:

    Thanks – the word “unwanted” through me – it suggests – not wanted – therefore -remove – squeeze out!!!!
    I agree – don’t squeeze – haha

    Reply
  5. Sue
    Sue says:

    Hi Levana – You say NOT to squeeze the grated potatoes , but then you go on to say “unwanted” extra moisture!!!
    So – do you squeeze – or not?

    Reply
    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Sue, I don’t understand. I say: “Make sure you do not squeeze, so as not to extract moisture” So do NOT squeeze!

  6. cheryl m kaplan
    cheryl m kaplan says:

    Hi Levana,
    What’s the difference in the consistency and taste in using flour instead of matzoh meal? I happen to love matzoh meal in many things and tend to stay away from flour. I also use corn flake crumbs often.
    Thanks for your time.
    Cheryl…who is drooling thinking of fried anything, something I don’t usually indulge in.

    Reply
    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      In my case I would say the exact opposite: I don’t like the tough crust matza meal makes in shnitzels, latkas etc, I almost never use it, least of all on Passover where we don’t use Gebrocht. I find flour is more tender and more absorbent! Corn flake crumbs? for Latkas? I don’t thing so! Happy Chanukkah,

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