Few foods are as satisfying as a golden potato pancake that is soft and tender inside, but crispy outside. But this simple dish so often is bungled. It can be undercooked, overcooked and/or soaked in grease.
The key to great potato pancakes is using just a little bit of oil at the right temperature and finishing the cooking process in the oven. And that last step is key. By placing the fried pancakes (also called latkes) on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, the hot air in the oven is able to circulate around them, keeping them dry and crisp (instead of steaming the bottom).
I also prefer hand grating my potatoes, rather than using the food processor. I find the texture is better, more tender, and the shreds hold together more easily.
When it comes to selecting the potatoes, I use a combination of either starchy russets or Yukon golds and sweet potatoes. The bright orange sweet potatoes add welcome color and a touch of sweetness to the pancakes. To keep the potatoes from changing color (oxidizing) and to maximize crispness, I soak them in ice water as I grate them.
One of the best parts about this recipe is that you can prep them almost all the way (right through the frying stage) in advance, then just reheat them in the oven just before serving. And when you serve them, be sure to accompany them with applesauce (the brandy-spiked applesauce I wrote about a few months ago is my favorite) and sour cream. The combination can't be beat! Happy Hanukkah!
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes 18 small pancakes
2 pounds baking potatoes (such as russet or Yukon gold), peeled
1 medium sweet potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled
1 small yellow onion or 1 large shallot
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher or sea salt
Peanut oil, for frying
Sour cream or creme fraiche, to serve
Applesauce, to serve
Fill a medium bowl with ice water.
Using the medium holes on a box grater, grate the baking potatoes and sweet potato. Add the grated potatoes to the ice water and set aside.