Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

Potato Latkes

I grew up in a house where we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, and what we lacked in spiritual fidelity, we more than made up for in peace, love and merriment. Dad’s Southwestern-themed Christmas tree (complete with chili pepper lights, seriously) stood tall in the living room, while Mom decked the dining room in blue and silver, with a funny little flocked tree we called “The Hanukkah bush”, sitting square on the table. Didn’t matter–we weren’t the types to eat in the dining room anyway.
I used to love watching the menorah candles burn down in the dark as oil sizzled in a pan just a room away. It was my mom making latkes. You don’t have to be Jewish (or half-Jewish, natch) to appreciate a well-made latke. Potato pancakes fried in oil? That there’s the universal food of love, baby.
I made my first attempt at latkes this year as a nod to my heritage and a virtual Hanukkah shout-out to my Mama, the cutest little Jewish girl in Texas. I started by dragging home a big ol’ bag of potatoes. Even if you don’t buy the majority of your produce organic, you should spring for the organic potatoes because they typically contain a lot of pesticides. See for yourself.
There were only four ingredients in my latke recipe–potatoes, oil, onion, and egg. And salt, duh. There was no way I could mess these up, right? (This is called ‘foreshadowing’). I peeled the potatoes, and quickly put them in a bowl of water so they wouldn’t get all brown and funky on me.
Then, I turned the potatoes into a starchy messy mush by grating them all in a food processor, and resoaking. Then I drained them in a colander and combined them with the grated onion.
Now, here’s where I was a naughty little thing and I stopped following the recipe. It instructed me to roll up the potatoes in a paper towel “jelly roll style” to drain out all the water. I didn’t have any paper towels; I only had paper napkins which are discernibly thinner and shorter. So I dabbed the napkins around the potatoes like I was powdering the shine from a nose. It seemed to get most of the moisture out. 
I mixed in an egg. This should have bound those potatoes for life. Then I got to frying them in little patties in the oil, which I didn’t photograph because sizzling oil and my camera don’t play nice with each other. Let’s just say they smelled like my mom’s latkes, but they sure didn’t look like them.
They looked like this. Which is to say, a hot mess.

Then I tried to transfer them to a baking sheet so they could stay warm in the oven, and they really turned on me. It’s as if they knew I’m only half-Jewish and haven’t seen the inside of a temple since the bar mitzfah circuit 20 years ago. I was tempted to cut my losses and serve these with an omelette in the morning, because instead of latkes I ended up making Hanukkah hash browns.
 By the last batch, I had finally figured out my problem. I wasn’t letting them cook long enough. They require about five minutes on each side, and should only be flipped once. The last ones looked, smelled and tasted just like my mom’s. Dare I say–like my Bubbie’s? That oil really does work miracles.

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • gabrielle
    oh i love them so much. im not jewish but grew up in a predominately jewish town so i celebrated many hanukkahs than christmases. latkes have always been a favorite (my italian mother even makes a mean batch!) wheres the apple sauce?!
  • Caroline
    Great post – looks delish!
  • Jenn from Much to My Delight
    Ha, ha! Gabrielle, I definitely prefer applesauce to sour cream. My boyfriend was at the grocery store buying some while I was taking the photos. Sour cream was for picture purposes only.
  • Shannon
    I am SO pissed my super catholic upbringing didn’t allow me to know the joys of jewish food. I went to my first jewish wedding years ago and only then was I introduced to challah(!). I have totally been missing out. But I’ve more than made up for it by stuffing my face with latkes and bread for the past few years. These look delicious though. Want to eat now. And the image of your menorah-chili pepper youth is cracking me up!
  • MyLittleHappyPlace
    Awesome! I don’t have any Jewish heritage, but I sure wish more of my family’s Czech and Polish heritage wouldv’e made it into our holiday celebrations. Kudos to you for giving a cherished family recipe a go!
  • Taylor Sterling
    Love it! I think your last batch looks amazing and yummy!
  • Trish
    Happy Hanukkah! The latkes look simple and yet and mouth-watering. I love family recipes!
  • Erica
    mmmm the final product/batch looks delicious! I went to a very open elementary school where we learned about all holidays and religions. I LOVED celebrating Hanukkah. Hope you have a nice night :)
  • Gabby
    I love potato latkes! I don’t know how to make them, but I’ve been meaning to find/try a recipe online.
  • Cat
    Love the fact that you have infused holiday traditions from multiple backgrounds! Best, Cat
  • The Buzz
    How yummy! I remember when my eldest came home from school after a multi-cultural lunch at school and asking me why we don’t make potato latkes… he said they were the best thing he had every tasted! Now we have a recipe to try over the weekend so a big THANK YOU for stopping by The Buzz and introducing yourself. Have a great weekend!
  • Scarletta @ Scarletta Bakes
    These latkes look delicious – thanks so much for the delicious recipe!
  • jamie-lee
    Ohh they look yum! x
  • Monet
    I loved hearing about your diverse holiday season. It sounds like regardless of the different traditions, you all shared a lot of love! I adore eating latkes, but I’ve never attempted to make my own. I’m eager to try! Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful weekend!
  • Simply Life
    YUM! I think I’ve only had these once before but would love to have a plate of them now! :)
  • Marta on cocogroove
    I’ve never tried this dish but it actually looks really yummy :)
  • blackbookkitchendiaries
    I would love try making this soon. Thanks for sharing.
  • kirstyb
    that looks really yummy xx
  • michelangelo in the kitchen
    Thanks for reminding me to make latkes again. I bought so may potatoes and don’t want them to turn green on me. I just love latkes with sour cream, they’re DELICIOUS! I could eat them for any time of day! Thanks for sharing. Happy holidays.
  • MitchyMitchyMitchy
    Hey Jen,
    I just basically followed your directions (with some amendments by me) and made Latkes for me and Aubs. Thanks for the great idea. I think this is the first thing I ever made from scratch.