With Hanukkah in its full swing, many a household is frying up some latkes. In the years of trying to get my hands on every latke recipe I could find, I've learned a few reliable techniques that turn out lacy, crispy, delectable latkes each and every time. And I'm here to show you how to get the same results in your own kitchen!
The Key: Starch Content
Use starchy potatoes like Russets: the starchier the potato, the crispier the latke. This is where Red Bliss potatoes, with their high moisture content, will most certainly disappoint. In my extensive latke research (read: What's the best thing about a good latke?), everyone selected crispiness as their number one desired latke quality.
The Method: Hand-Grating
Hand-grating (as opposed to using a food processor) on the coarse side of a grater works best. Honestly, I can't really tell you why, except that I found the strands from the food processor to be slightly too long and sometimes would get tangled up, resulting in a thickish latke middle.
For those who might think hand-grating is the pits: It took me less than a minute to grate one large potato. You can wear a Microplane glove and protect your hand, and the whole grating process will go very quickly. You can, of course, still use the grater blade of your food processor if you really dislike grating by hand or if you are feeding a lot of people.
The Trick! Lower the Water Content While Preserving the Starch
As you grate your potatoes, let them drop into a large bowl of ice water. Make sure there's enough ice in the water to keep from melting entirely for up to half an hour.
When you're finished grating, using your hands, remove the potatoes from the ice water (it helps if you're wearing thin latex gloves, otherwise the cold water really stings your hands) and squeeze them out over the bowl of water. Place the grated potatoes into a large colander lined with a kitchen towel. Gather the edges of the towel together and wring the potatoes (over the bowl of ice water) as much as possible. Set the potatoes aside and let the bowl of ice water stand, undisturbed, for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, the starch will accumulate at the bottom of the bowl and form a dense, white layer. Carefully, as not to pour off the starch, pour the water out until you are left with the starchy layer on the bottom. Using a spatula, transfer the remaining starch to the grated potatoes and combine. Proceed mixing your latkes as usual.
Why It Works
This method is different than just grating the potatoes and squeezing them in a towel, because that way a lot of starch gets lost in the water you squeeze out. Here's what you're doing here: letting the starch settle at the bottom of the bowl while squeezing out the water from the potatoes, then adding that starch back in. You've lowered the moisture level of the potatoes while preserving their full amount of starch — and thus rewarding yourself with a crispier latke!
Have you ever tried this method? Do you have another way of making super-crispy latkes?
(Images: Olga Massov of Sassy Radish)