Sonny's Special Potato Latkes
Executive Vice President, the James Beard Foundation; Author, Kitchen Sense (Clarkson Potter, 2006)
"This recipe took me to the top of the latke world," wrote Mitchell Davis in his 2002 book, The Mensch Chef. In 1995, Davis (now JBF Executive Vice President) won the Foundation's latke cook-off with this delicious recipe that uses his mother's formula of one onion for every two potatoes.
- 4 potatoes, such as russet or Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 large onions, halved, about 1 pound
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup matzoh meal
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup peanut oil, for frying
Using the medium shredding blade of a food processor, grate a couple of pieces of potato, laying them horizontally in the feed tube to maximize the length of the strands. Next grate half an onion. Alternate the potatoes and onions in the feed tube until everything is grated. The onions will turn to mush, but their juices will help keep the potatoes from turning brown. Pick out any ungrated pieces.
Lay a clean dish towel inside a large bowl and transfer the grated mixture into the towel. Roll up the towel lengthwise and wring out as much liquid as possible (you can do this over the bowl or right over the sink).
Transfer the grated mixture to a clean bowl. Add the eggs, matzoh meal, salt, and pepper, and mix well. In a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet, pour about 1/8 inch of oil and heat on medium high. The oil is hot enough when a piece of potato sizzles when added. Form a trial latke with a tablespoon of the mixture. Fry until brown, taste, and adjust the seasonings.
To form the latkes, scoop up about 1/2 cup of the mixture with your hands and loosely pat it into a pancake about 1/2-inch thick, leaving a few straggly strands around the edge. (As you work, liquid will accumulate in the bowl. Squeeze out the excess to form a compact pancake). After shaping each latke, slip it into the hot oil and flatten gently with the back of a spatula. Fry until deep golden brown, at least 10 minutes on each side to be sure the center is fully cooked. The latkes may take more or less time depending on how many you fit into your pan and how hot your stove is, but I've never been able to get the total cooking time under 15 to 20 minutes a batch. If the edges darken very quickly, lower the heat. To prevent excess oil absorption, flip each latke only once. Add oil between batches as needed, making sure the oil heats up again before frying more latkes. Drain the latkes on paper towels or a clean brown paper bag. Serve immediately.