This his is an approximate, not an exact recipe. I first made latkes in Paris, where Tom and I were living on a shoe string for the 1973-1974 academic year. Our studio apartment at 14 rue de Quatrefages boasted a two burner hot plate, a miniscule refrigerator and a minimal “batterie de cuisine”. Tom suggested we try latkes, since they were a favorite dish with his Hoboken family. When his mother made them, extra aunts and uncles would smell them cooking and line up to join in the meal. Sometimes someone had to run out and buy more potatoes! The three main ingredients are potatoes (Yukon golds and russets are both fine, but in Paris we usually used the least expensive ones in the market!), onion and eggs. You will also need pepper, salt and vegetable oil. When I checked on line for comparison, most recipes called for matzo crumbs, flour, potato starch, etc.  Some did not use eggs. Grated potatoes DO cast off a fair amount of liquid, but this liquid contains potato starch, so use it. Do not add salt to the grated potatoes! If you prefer to reduce the liquid, place the grated potatoes in a strainer over the eventual mixing bowl and let the liquid drain off, then pour away the watery part and save the starch which accumulates on the bottom of the bowl. Mix the starch in with the grated potatoes, onions, eggs and freshly ground pepper. Salt the latkes only as they cook, sprinkling salt on the top before they are turned and then when you turn them over to the crispy brown side.

Keep the cooked latkes warm in the oven and serve them with sour cream and apple sauce.


POTATOES: Usually I peel two “medium” potatoes, per individual, plus one for good measure. This assumes the latkes are the main dish. If you make extra latkes, layer them with a spread of sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste, to make potato pancake casserole. Refrigerate until wanted and bake it at 350 until thoroughly warmed and crispy on the edges. This is not a “leftover” but a second delicious treat. Some of us eat individual cold latkes straight from the refrigerator.

ONION: For two or three people, peel a medium onion and grate with the potatoes. As you add potatoes, use your taste and judgement how many onions to add.

GRATE the potatoes and onions. We started with a hand grater then bought a Moulinex manual disk grater, which we still use with the medium fine disk. I don’t advise grinding or using a blender to prepare the raw potatoes. If you have a food processor with a medium fine grater setting, that should be good. You may want to try different textures to your own taste.

EGGS: Add the eggs to the grated potatoes and onions, one by one, mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon. Usually expect to use four large eggs to six or so medium potatoes, grated. There should be enough egg to cover the potatoes and onion without dominating. The eggs and potato starch are the binder for the latkes, so don’t skimp, BUT this is not an egg forward dish.

PEPPER: Whatever you like. Fresh ground is best.

Prepare to fry the latkes by choosing a griddle or large frying pan, cast iron or non stick. Your frying surface should be large enough to allow several to cook at once and have enough of an elevated edge to prevent hot oil from slopping over the side. Imagine us cooking two at a time on our tiny Parisian fry pan! Have oven proof platters waiting to keep the first ones hot and crisp while the rest cook. Keep a sufficient layer of hot oil on your cooking surface, not deep but slick, at medium high heat. Stir the latke mixture well and take about a heaping tablespoon for each pancake, spreading the wet blob in a thin layer on the hot pan. Sprinkle with salt and cook until you see the edges are golden brown then turn. Salt and brown on the second side. This usually goes quite quickly. Add oil as needed and adjust the cooking heat to fit your speed and cooking surface. Be sure to stir between each spoonful to keep the moisture distributed in the batter. We usually use two platters so we can keep half the latkes hot while we eat the first half. Everyone should wait to eat until the last pancake has fried, or the cook might never get any!

Another version of this recipe can be found here in the Sienkewicz Family Recipe Book.