As a child, I remember loving potato pancakes during many Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah and Passover. Many people, as I recall, slathered these luscious fried, round low disks in apple sauce. However, at our home this iconic tradition called for the tang of chilled sour cream. The warm, crispy potatoes, with its soft center, tasted delicious when dipped in the cool cream. Since I’m a salt freak now, I top mine with a sprinkling of this ancient grain.
Very briefly, here’s some information about Hanukkah. Around 200 BCE, over 2,000 years ago, the Jews fought against their Greek-Syrian neighbors and oppressors during the Maccabean Revolt. During this long siege, a man named Antiochus ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. The Jews rebelled, thousands of them died when the Syrians descended upon them. At one time, as part of the story goes, the Jews were defending the Holy temple of Jerusalem; it appears that they had enough oil to last one night, however, a miracle occurred and the oil lasted eight nights! Thus, the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah happened.
Back to cooking… I think I was born to be a “foodie” it was in my genes, so to speak! But life happens, trauma happens, but still, deep within me is a love of food, preparing it, cooking it, eating it, it all fills me with great joy! For this holiday I celebrate my happiness. I love baking and cooking and serving it to others. Through this process I show how pleased I am to share it with family and friends. Having this passion, and this creative energy, has helped me enjoy life. Pleasure and passion, I believe is a huge part of life. These parts of life support us all as we navigate stresses and difficult times.
Share with me how you make your potato pancakes? Anything different with your recipe?
3 pounds russet potatoes – washed, peeled and grated in a food process or using the large holes on a box grater
1 large onion, grated, in a food possessor or using a box grater with the large holes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup, plus 3 Tbsp. flour or potato starch
1 1/2 cups oil – begin with 1 cup, gradually adding more oil as needed
1 After you grate the onion and potatoes, mix them slightly, then separate them into 2 piles. One pile at a time goes on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel fully around the mixture and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. toss the small amount of liquid down the sink. Do the same with the second mound.
2 Put both mounds in a large bowl, stirring in the salt, pepper, baking powder and flour. Mix well.
3 Heat the oil to medium-high using about 1 – 1 1/2 inches of oil in the pan. Test the hotness with a small drop of the potatoes in the oil, to make sure the oil is very hot. Using 2 tablespoons with the mixture formed together, or use a number 30 size scoop, carefully placing the mound in the pan, pressing out some additional moisture. Flatten each mound slightly with the back of the spoon. Fry each mound for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Add additional oil as needed. Drain any oil on paper towels. Sprinkle on a bit more salt, if desired.
4 Serve immediately, or keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, or place in aluminum foil, tightly wrapped, in a flat layer in the freezer for a few weeks. Reheat at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, checking often. With 3 pounds of potatoes your yield will be about 25 potato pancakes.
Tips and Tweaks
- At step 2, your welcome to add 1 egg, mixed a little first then added. This will help with some binding.
- leave out the onion all together, or add a small amount of chives.
- At step 2 stir in 1-2 minced garlic cloves.
- Once cooked, serve alongside sweetened applesauce or sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt.
- Naturally, add any spice if you want to kick up the flavor – try cayenne, garam masala, more pepper, a teaspoon or two of hot chili sauce. Do this at step 2.
- Also, add herbs that you may favor, like — cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, thyme, winter savory. Use about half a teaspoon of each or just pick those herbs you like. Don’t overdo the herbal additions too much so that you still gain the full taste of the potato pancake.
- For larger potato pancakes, use an ice cream scoop.
- Some traditional main dishes served with potato pancakes are roasted chicken and beef brisket.
- Keep the oil hot, at a good medium-high, otherwise if too low the potatoes will get soggy and icky!