My Dad makes these latkes every Hanukkah, and now that I’m on Martha’s Vineyard away from my family, it’s up to me to recreate them myself. While Dad (Larry, of course) and I used to grate Russet potatoes for these latkes, now we use store-bought pre-grated potatoes (frozen OreIda “Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes”), a shortcut that makes things a whole lot easier and still gives great results. You do, however, still have to grate the onion, and shed a few tears while you’re at it. Be sure to defrost the bag of potatoes completely (overnight is best). Otherwise you’ll get chilblains when you mix, and that’s not fun. You can still grate your own potatoes if you like, but the pre-grated potatoes actually have less moisture and starch, which is a good thing. 

Yields: At least two dozen latkes or enough for six people as an appetizer

  • 1 30-ounce bag of frozen Ore-Ida “Shredded Hash-Brown Potatoes,” defrosted completely (or 4 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled, grated and thoroughly drained)
  • 1 large and 1 small yellow onion (about 12 ounces total), peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, whisked (plus 1 more, reserved)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 32 ounces canola oil  (possibly more for a pan wider than 10 inches)
  • Sour cream and applesauce for serving

1. Line a sheet pan or two with paper towels. Put the defrosted potatoes (or freshly grated and drained potatoes) into a large mixing bowl.   

2. Grate as much of the large onion as you can. (Hold the onion halves flat to the box grater; discard ends.) Grate half or all of the small onion if you think you need more. (You’ll want about ¾ to 1 cup.) Cry a little. It’s part of the tradition. Add the onion to the bowl of grated potatoes.

3. Mix in the one egg, the flour, the salt, as much freshly ground pepper as you like (not too much!), and let the oniony, salty, potatoe-y aroma fill your nostrils. Sniff it. If you’re still crying, then you’ve probably got it right.

4. Pour all of the oil into a heavy-duty frying pan (cast iron is ideal, about 10-inches wide. If wider, you will need more oil). The oil should be just over an inch deep — it’s important that the pancakes have enough oil to float. Heat the oil until it is very hot but not smoking. If you’ve got a deep-fry thermometer, the oil should be between 350 and 375 degrees F.  Toss a potato strand into the oil. If it sizzles immediately, you’re good to go.

5. To shape a patty, take about ¼ cup of the mixture in your hands and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Then form and compress the mixture into a flat pancake approximately the size of your palm and ideally no thicker than the width of a finger at its thickest. Carefully slide the pancake into the oil, and watch it crisp for about two to three minutes. When it looks like the bottom has browned and crisped, flip the pancake over and cook the other side. When it’s golden, so are you. You can make and cook three or four pancakes at a time (depending on the size of your pan), but no more as the oil temperature will drop too much otherwise.

Tip: If you’re having trouble shaping pancakes that hold together and that are also thin, whisk the second egg and stir in part of it to the mixture.

6. Place each pancake on a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain as it is cooked. Once you have a few, serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream and a dollop of applesauce. (Alternatively, you can hold the latkes on a rack over a sheet pan in a warm oven, but I think they’re best eaten right away.)

7. Repeat until the bowl is empty and bellies are full. Happy Hanukkah.