It is the last night of Chanukah and as good a time as any to mention that I make the world's best potato latkes. I should clarify ...my mother, Elaine Shapiro, made the world's best latkes and I watched hungrily over the years as she slaved over the stove serving them hot and crispy right from the frying pan on Chanukah. Sadly she is gone and the job of world's best latke maker has fallen on my shoulders. It's amazing what you can learn by just standing around and watching. Blintzes, chopped liver/herring, stuffed cabbage, ...I can do it all.
This is no idle boast. Everyone who eats my latkes, even old pros, say that they are the best they have ever eaten and ask for the recipe. Like all good intuitive chefs, I have never followed an actual formula. I just work by sight and smell and feel, and hope for the best. While I know the ingredients, I have always been vague about the amounts. Last night, however, we made a small batch using 4 potatoes and an onion, and I realized that I had the measured amount of ingredients which would qualify as an actual recipe, ...so here it is.
Start with 4 medium sized potatoes (I use russets), peeled. Using the safety grater below, grate them into a large bowl.
Then grate most of one medium-sized sweet onion into the same bowl and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. Next, squeeze out all the excess liquid by hand.
[Google "safety graters" and you can find one online for under $10 or buy one at a home goods store.]
Once well drained, add about 1/2 cup of matzo meal. Don't use flour no matter what anyone tells you!
Stir, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Careful with the salt; it's easy to overdo it. Then stir in three large eggs and mix well.
In a large frying pan, heat 1/2 inch of cooking oil to a medium heat so the latkes cook thoroughly. Spoon mixture into hot oil and flatten out the middle of the latkes so they are flat and cook evenly. They should look like this one when done. Hot, crispy and golden brown. Great with sour cream or apple sauce.
Jackie just found this picture of me in my prime, making latkes a couple of chanukahs ago.
Over the past few years, the number of latke eaters has grown out of control to the point that we need 3 frying pans. After I experienced an emotion meltdown over a frying pan that was not heating up quickly enough requiring me to be tranquilized and put to bed, help was needed, and my wonderful niece Leslie has stepped in, took over the pan, and hence forth became my apprentice with all things latke. The tradition continues. Elaine's granddaughter is poised to become the world's greatest latke maker.