Around Hanukkah, we usually spend a lot of time thinking up new things to top our latkes with. After all, the potato pancakes themselves are pretty simple. Shred some potatoes, bind them into patties, then fry until golden and crisp. Now bring on the sour cream and apple sauce and smoked salmon and anything else you can dream up (caviar is awfully nice!).
But this year we decided to come at it from the other side. Could we create delicious latkes that build their flavour from the inside out? Indeed! All we had to do was look to other cultures for inspiration. And so we have Greek-inspired latkes studded with shredded zucchini and chunks of feta cheese. And we have Indian sweet potato latkes spiked with a hit of curry powder. And for an ultimate doughnut-like decadence, we created cinnamon-sugar latkes, too.
All of these variations are built from our excellent classic latke recipe, which does a great job drying the shredded potatoes (the key for crisping when fried). For a video demonstrating this recipe, go to https://youtu.be/Ve8OlJ3oLkU .
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Makes 12 latkes
2 pounds Russet potatoes
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon potato starch
1/2 cup matzo meal
Peanut or grapeseed oil, for frying
2 eggs, beaten
Applesauce or sour cream, to serve
Using a food processor fitted with the shredding disc, grate the potatoes. Alternatively, you can use the large holes of a box grater, but the food processor makes for a better textured, more even shred.
Working in batches, spread some of the grated potatoes and chopped onion evenly over a clean kitchen towel. Roll the towel up like a jelly roll and, holding it over a sink or bowl, twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Unroll the towel and transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with remaining potatoes and onion. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the salt, potato starch and matzo meal. Whisk or stir to ensure there are no lumps of potato starch. Set aside.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/3 inch of oil to 350 F.
While the oil is heating, set a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet. This is where your latkes will drain, so have it near your pan. Though latkes are best eaten right away, you can hold your latkes in a 200 F oven for up to 1 hour. If that is necessary, turn your oven on at this point.
When the oil is hot, combine the potato-onion mixture with the matzo-potato starch mixture and the eggs. Form into twelve 3-inch patties, and fry in batches of 3 to 4, for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until deep golden brown and crispy. Transfer to the cooling rack and repeat with the remaining potato mixture. Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream.
Nutrition information per serving: 170 calories; 90 calories from fat (53 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 35 mg cholesterol; 330 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 4 g protein.
CURRIED SWEET POTATO LATKES
Use 2 pounds sweet potatoes in place of the Russet potatoes. Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons of curry powder into the matzo meal mixture.
CINNAMON SUGAR LATKES
Leave out the onion. Stir 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into the matzo meal. Once the latkes are fried, let drain for 1 minute, then dredge in cinnamon-sugar. Serve with apple sauce or cranberry sauce.
ZESTY ZUCCHINI AND FETA LATKES
Shred 1 medium zucchini and squeeze along with the potatoes and onions. Stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce (or to taste) and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese with the egg when mixing together.
Alison Ladman is a chef, food writer and recipe developer for The Associated Press. She also owns The Crust and Crumb Baking Company in Concord, New Hampshire.