Old World Potato Latkes

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The quintessential Hanukkah treat, potato latkes are a priority this time of year. Josh Ozersky uses his family recipe to make creamy-on-the-outside, crispy-on-the-inside homemade latkes.

Video Transcript

Hi I'm Josh Ozersky and I'm here on eHow.com making potato latkes. Hanukkah has come round at last and that means only one thing, an excuse to eat potato latkes. Hanukkah you may or may not be aware is the Jewish Festival of Lights. I learned to make potato latkes which are the definitive quintessential Hanukkah treat at my grandmother's knee. Now one thing you'll find when you look at my latkes is that unlike the new school, modern American waffle house latke, it is not simply a shredded potato that is in the shape of a cake, no, the real old school shtetl latke was a soft mushy thing on the inside, thickened with egg and flour a little bit and cooked up in a lot of hot oil and/or schmaltz. Usually I would take four big potatoes, an onion, some half a cup of flour, say, and a little bit of baking powder. So now i am going to take an onion and I'm going to cut the end off like so, dispense with it, then I'm going to make a little slice, that's how I get the skin off. All the sulfuric acid in the onion is going to come up and hit me in the face and no matter if I hold kitchen matches in between my teeth or wear a gas mask or goggles like the mole man, it's going to be a difficult bit of business but that only makes it so much better. Okay, so now I have onion unless enough to make it sapped. Alright so normally there should be a lot more of this, but I just wanted you to have an idea of how to make latkes and what goes into it. So here is my potato mush and I'm going to take an egg. I'm going to put an egg in there and I am going to take a little bit of flour, less so than I normally would and the baking powder use it very sparingly, almost just like a little pinch but it just gives it a, it gives it an extra lightness. I believe that it is a similar effect to what the Bubby's get when they put seltzer into the Matzo Balls to make them extra light. Alright now I'm going to mix this all up together. You know a latke is not supposed to be that thick. It's not supposed to have that much egg. A lot of times you'll go into a deli or a restaurant and they'll have latkes that are sitting in a case and they are as dense as depleted uranium and they reheat them to order but that's really not how latkes work. They're not supposed to have enough egg in them to hold them together that much. They're supposed to be essentially very very lacy. Alright, now we get the oil going. Alright, so I took some chicken skin and I cooked it in this oil, a little treat for the cook but the main thing it did is in rendering out it put some schmaltz into the oil which gives it that little bit extra flavor that little bit extra mouth feel that makes it taste like old time because this is a very nostalgic dish. This is a dish that's meant to remind people of their childhood and generally the older you are, the more unhealthy it was, the more associated with schmaltz. I'm going to take about a tablespoon and I am going to spoon it in. I'm going to make very small latkes. I'm going to spread them, these guys will float up when they're ready but they should basically be wiggling and giggling right over the surface of the pan much as a pan fried chicken would do. So, I'm going to turn this over and now here's the thing, it's very tricky with this kind of frying because you want the oil to be very hot but not too hot. Latkes swim in oil, they're covered with oil. There's oil everywhere on them and in them but they shouldn't be super greasy. The only way to keep that from happening is to make sure that it's super hot, the oil, I mean it should almost be like, I mean it should almost be like at the verge of the smoking point. They usually say that 375 degree is the right temperature but it probably has been lowered significantly by the addition of the schmaltz. That said, these latkes are beginning to look pretty good to me. There's like all this little lace work and there's all the little holes that it emerges from. It's like one of those islands, those newly born islands you know, in the Maldives or something. This is ready to come out. It looks just like Bubby's did really, I mean except it won't be as good as hers and that is the story of the potato latke. I'm Josh Ozersky and I'm here on eHow.com.

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