February 23, 2020

Fry That Oil: Latke Recipes 5 Different Ways

As someone who has catered many Hollywood parties in Southern California, I know what people will and won’t eat. It’s important that people enjoy the art of indulgence, so I approach the table with a California mindset.

When it comes to hand-held appetizers, latkes are the perfect food for today’s conscious eaters. They deliver crunchy, salty, juicy goodness and can be made without gluten, grains or dairy. In a world where most hors d’oeuvres are made of frozen pastry dough and melted cheese, latkes offer an option for those seeking to avoid those food groups for allergy and other reasons.

But forget the health objectives for a moment. Latkes are a perfect food, particularly when made with lots of leeks, grated onions and only a touch of potato flour and egg to hold them together. The flavors remain pure and robust. Plus, I fry latkes in olive oil, the miracle oil of Hanukkah, the golden touch of the Mediterranean.

Potato Leek Latkes
2 pounds russet potatoes
1 yellow onion
2 leeks
2 tablespoons potato starch or potato flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
30 grinds of pepper mill
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Grate the potatoes into large mixing bowl using large holes of box grater. (Using a food processor won’t result in the same texture.) If potatoes start to turn brown, no one will notice after they’re cooked.

Grate onion using small holes of box grater. Add to bowl.

Remove outer layer of leeks and grate only white and light-green parts on small/medium holes of box grater. Add to bowl.

Add potato starch/flour, egg, salt, and pepper to bowl and mix with your hands.

Heat heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until quite hot. Add olive oil and let it get very hot. (Test temperature by dropping in piece of potato. If it sizzles and browns easily, oil is ready.)

Squeeze tablespoon-sized portion of potato mixture between your fingers to flatten and release liquid. Latkes should be thin and not perfectly circular. Frayed potato gratings along the sides will be the first to crisp. Pressing out water minimizes oil splatter. 

Add each dollop to hot oil and fry until deep brown and crispy on each side. Transfer to paper towels.

Sprinkle with salt. 

Makes about 35 latkes.

Latkes, Lox and Cream Cheese
20 Potato Leek Latkes
4 ounces (wild) sliced smoked salmon, ripped into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces cream cheese
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
Ground black pepper, to taste

Top each latke with piece of salmon, dollop of cream cheese and chives. Grind pepper if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 20 latkes.

Crispy Latkes with Spicy Tuna
1/4 pound sushi-grade ahi tuna
1 tablespoon (low sodium) tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon wasabi powder
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
13 slices of serrano or jalapeno pepper

Either finely chop tuna with sharp knife or zip in food processor. Use knife if more texture is desired; use food processor for sushi-style texture.

Add tamari, wasabi powder, lime zest and juice and sesame seeds. Mix.

Top latkes with mixture, and garnish each with slice of serrano or jalapeno.

Serve immediately.

Makes about 20 latkes.

Latkes with Creme Fraiche, Pomegranate and Chives
35 Potato Leek Latkes
8 ounces crème fraîche
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

Top each latke with dollop of crème fraîche, a few pomegranate seeds and chives. Serve immediately.

Makes 35 latkes.

Lemony Latkes Avocado Toast
1 large avocado
1 green onion, white and green parts thinly sliced
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
Juice of 1 /2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In small bowl, smash peeled avocado with fork.

Add green onion, half lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.

Top each latke with dollop of avocado and garnish with extra lemon zest.

Serve immediately.

Makes 10-12 latkes.

Brisket-Topped Latkes
Because brisket takes time to cook, I recommend you get two meals out of it. First serve it for dinner, then use leftovers for a latke party, or vice versa. 

35 Potato Leek Latkes
Best Brisket Ever (recipe follows)
8 ounces crème fraîche (optional)
Fresh mint, chopped

Top each latkes with warm brisket, dollop of crème fraîche, if desired, and chopped mint.

Best Brisket Ever
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 pound brisket
2 onions, chopped
2 to 3 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
5 to 6 fresh basil leaves
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/2 bottle red or white wine
2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt

One or two days before serving:

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Heat large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat (let it get hot for a couple of minutes).

Add enough olive oil to cover bottom of pot. Add brisket, fat side up, and brown about 10 minutes on all sides. (In order to fit entire brisket in pot, it might need to be cut into two pieces, or squeeze it in pot with meat flaps up the side. Meat will shrink as it cooks.)

Remove brisket and set aside. If there is too much melted fat in pot for your taste, remove some before continuing.

Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Return brisket to pot, fat side up.

Top with celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme and basil.

Add tomatoes including their juices and wine.

Sprinkle generously with salt.

Cover well and place in oven for 4 to 5 hours. It can cook for longer but at a lower temperature.

When brisket cuts using fork, it’s done.

Remove pot from oven and cool until it can be handled easily, about an hour. Remove brisket from pot and let it and juices cool completely.

Return the brisket to pot and refrigerate.

One day before or on the day of serving:

Place brisket on large cutting board. Use knife and/or fingers to remove all fat from brisket. Cut brisket against grain into 1/4-inch slices.

If brisket juice appears thick enough, place brisket slices back in pot. If juice should be thicker, boil it down uncovered on the stove. A portion of juices and veggies can be blended to add creaminess.

After brisket juices are desired thickness, place sliced brisket back in pot or in large casserole dish. Cover meat with sauce.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

On day of serving:

When ready to serve, re-heat brisket in one of two ways.

If using casserole dish, cover it very well in heavy-duty foil or wrap it in two layers of regular foil, and bake at 350 F for almost an hour until brisket is well heated through.

If everything is in original pot, reheat it on stove over medium-low heat or place it in oven at 350 F for one hour.

After it’s heated through, place meat on a serving platter, top with remaining juice and serve.

Brisket serves 8 to 10. As topper for latkes, serves 35 or more.


Elana Horwich is the author of “Meal and a Spiel: How to Be a Badass in the Kitchen” and the founder of the Meal and a Spiel cooking school.