It goes without saying that the final word on fried potatoes belongs to David Firestone, dubbed the Latke King of Queens some years back in Molly O'Neill's seminal New York Cookbook. I have the book, and I have had the latkes, and for years that was enough.
But what is perfection, really? Inevitably one starts to experiment. Didn't Icarus fashion wax wings to fly like a bird? He plummeted to his death after melting near the sun, but this year I added leeks to the Latke King's Hanukkah recipe with no ill effects.
For a full list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below:
Photographs by Clementine Quittner. Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.
Above: You'll notice the cookbook is falling apart; did the publisher not expect anyone to keep it for 20 years?
"The country tosses nervously in its bed each night, moaning vaguely for potatoes, fried potatoes, throw in a little onion, please," begins the Latke King's recipe, published in 1992. "It wakes up instead to cold cereal and baked beans, a corroded economy and a failed national promise."
Above: The most important thing you need to know about the preparation of leeks is to slice them and scrub them—to remove sand and dirt from between the layers—before you try anything fancy.
Above: Chop the leeks finely before you sauté them in a little butter. Then toss the softened leeks in with the potatoes.
Above: The recipe makes about 16 latkes, "which is all you should eat the first night," advises the Latke King. "By the end of Hanukkah, you should be able to eat twice that many."
Leek Latkes, adapted from "David Firestone's Crispy Potato Latkes"
Makes 16 latkes
- 2 1/2 lbs Idaho baking potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed well
- 2/3 large yellow onion, quartered
- 3 leeks
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup matzoh meal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 cups olive oil, for frying
- 16 ounces of applesauce
Preheat oven to 150 degrees (so you can keep the first batch of latkes warm while you finish cooking the rest).
Shred potatoes (in a food processor or by hand). Chop the onion and add to shredded potatoes in a colander. Set the colander over a bowl to collect liquid.
Rinse leeks, chop finely (discarding tough green tips), and sauté in butter over medium heat until they soften (do not brown them) and then add them to the potato mixture.
From the bowl beneath the potatoes, pour off the liquid, but reserve the potato starch. "This is good for you," says the Latke King. Add the potato mixture to the bowl of reserved starch. Add the eggs, the matzoh meal, the parsley, the salt, and the pepper. Stir everything together and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes.
In a large cast-iron skillet, pour in 1/4 inch of oil. Over high heat, get the oil hot ("but don't set off the smoke detector.") Spoon in tablespoonfuls of batter and flatten them. Reduce heat to medium and cook until latkes are golden brown on one side (about five minutes). Flip and repeat.
As you remove the latkes from the skillet, place them on a folded paper towel on a platter (and keep them warm in the oven).
Serve the latkes with the applesauce. The Latke King recommends you "remove from the room anyone who prefers latkes with sour cream." Oops.
For more of our favorite holiday recipes, see Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds and Mulled Apple Cider with a Secret Secret ingredient.