Classic Potato Latkes

DSC01679.JPGAdapted from Tori Avery
Tori’s Kitchen, 2010

Schmaltz was used to make these traditional potato latkes. I like to use it because imparts an authentic flavor that you just  can’t get with using a vegetable-based oil.

So “What is schmaltz?” , you might ask……..

Briefly speaking , schmaltz (,cf9a8aa4d8372000843db7cc626acbd02d80ef96.jpegalso spelled  schmalz  or shmalz,) is rendered  chicken or goose fat that is used for frying or as a spread on bread in Central European cuisine, and in the United States, particularly identified with Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Schmaltz was the oil of choice for Eastern European Jewish immigrants to America in the late 1800’s. Back then, rendered goose fat was the most common form of schmaltz. In these modern times, chicken fat is used because it is much cheaper and easily accessible.

Schmaltz can be made from scratch at home, but it you are pressed for time, it is commercially prepared and is also widely available to kosher consumers. You can find it in the freezer section of most kosher markets. A favorite brand that I like to use is Empire Kosher Rendered Chicken Fat.

Makes  About 22-24 Latkes

2 1/2 pounds  Yukon Gold potatoes
1 large white onion, shredded
3/4 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup schmaltz

Special Equipment:
Hand grater or food processor with shredding disc attachment
Wire cooling or baking rack

Before you begin making the latkes, place your wire cooling rack close to the area where you will be frying the latkes. Place a layer of paper towels below the cooling rack to catch excess oil.

Cut the potatoes into large chunks and shred using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment with large holes (large shreds).

Place grated potato into a bowl and immediately cover with cold water.Meanwhile, grate the onion using the grater or food processor attachment with fine holes (small shreds).

Drain the potato shreds in a colander. Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the shreds and set aside.

Place drained potato shreds and grated onion in the center of a clean tea towel or multiple layers of cheesecloth.Wrap the shreds up in the cloth, twisting the cloth to secure the bundle, and squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid from the shreds.

Add the  potato and onion into the clean dry bowl. Stir the shreds with a fork to make sure the grated onion is evenly mixed throughout the potato shreds.

In a skillet, add oil to reach a depth of 1/8 inch. Add 1/4 cup of schmaltz to the oil if you’d like, it will add more savory flavor to the latkes. Heat slowly over medium to about 365 degrees F. While oil is heating, use the fork to stir the matzo meal,beaten eggs, potato starch, salt and pepper into the potato and onion shreds. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Using a spoon,scoop up  about 3 tablespoons of the potato mixture and shape into a tightly compacted disk.Place the disk carefully into the hot oil.

Latkes can break apart at this point, they’re very delicate. The oil should sizzle, note that is the oil pops, it is too hot to fry the latkes.If the  oil  bubbles weakly, the oil is not hot enough. Use the first latke to test the oil temperature, and don’t fry a whole batch until the temperature is right.Continue shaping the latkes.

Fry in batches of 4-5 latkes at a time (no more than that – don’t crowd the pan) for 2-3 minutes per side until brown and crispy. Note: If your latkes aren’t holding together, stir more potato starch into the mixture, 2 teaspoons at a time, until the batter “holds”. You can also add another egg to the mixture and more matzo meal, if needed.

Remove the latkes from the skillet and place them on the wire cooling rack to drain.

Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and serve latkes with applesauce and/or sour cream.

Cook’s Notes:
It is  recommended that the  latkes should be served  fresh within 10 minutes of frying them, if your cooking schedule permits. If you need to make them ahead, fry them 4 hours or less before serving. After allowing the latkes to drain on the wire cooling rack, place them on an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Leave them at room temperature until ready to reheat. Place in a 375°F oven for about 10 minutes , until heated through, just prior to serving. Parenting Team FC Contributor