How to Make Perfect Latkes (and Use Up the Leftovers)
This week’s episode of Chefs at Home features Caroline Schiff, who shows how to make her great-grandmother’s recipe.
Latkes are a Hanukkah classic, and in this week’s episode of Chefs at Home, Caroline Schiff—pastry chef at Gage & Tollner and head chef at Slow Up—is here to show you how to make her great-grandmother’s recipe, yielding super crispy, golden-brown results. Once the latkes are done, she also shares two easy ways to repurpose leftovers: a latke breakfast hash and a latke Spanish-style tortilla. Read on for her step-by-step method and follow along with the video above.
Make the Latkes
To make the two latke dishes, you’ll need latkes first. Schiff makes hers with grated Russet potatoes and grated yellow onion, which she drains in a colander to remove excess liquid. She then takes the drained mixture and adds it to a large mixing bowl, along with some kosher salt, followed by a few eggs and a bit of all-purpose flour. When you’re mixing everything together and forming the latkes, Schiff says you have to “do this by feel”—you don’t want to use too much flour (they could turn out gummy), but you don’t want them to be too wet or eggy, either.
Next, she heats up canola oil in a skillet (about 1/2 an inch depth), and says you want the temperature to be at 325 degrees Fahrenheit—you can test it with a small piece of potato and watch for it to sizzle. Then scoop up about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture, form it into a patty, and gently lay it in the oil. This will be your test latke, to check the texture. Once you’ve got it down, Schiff says you make three or four at a time. Make sure the oil isn’t too hot—otherwise, you’ll end up with a burnt outside and raw inside, she says.
You’ll want to fry the latkes for two to three minutes on each side—when you flip, flip the latke in the direction away from you to avoid getting hit with oil spatters—until they’re golden-brown and crispy. Take the cooked ones and place them on a wire rack set within a baking sheet, with paper towels underneath to catch any excess oil, and be sure to sprinkle kosher salt on right away. As for toppings? Schiff says she’s a purist, and sour cream is her favorite. She also lists applesauce, sour cream with caviar, smoked salmon, and caramelized onions as classic options.
Make Latke Breakfast Hash
The first leftover-latke dish Schiff makes is a breakfast hash. It starts with browning onions in a pan—then, sliced bell peppers go in, along with a pinch of salt, some sliced jalapeños, and freshly ground black pepper. After the peppers have softened up, you add the leftover latkes, torn into bite-sized chunks. (Be sure to make room in the pan so they can come in contact with the hot surface and re-crisp.) Get everything in one layer and resist the urge to stir the mixture—Schiff notes that “you want a really nice crust to re-form on those leftover latkes.”
After adding some paprika and letting the crust form, Schiff gives the mixture a “gentle fold” and makes little wells in the mixture so she can add in the eggs. When the whites begin to set, she sprinkles on some cheese, and places a lid on the pan so the whites finish setting. Once the hash is done, a garnish of fresh herbs finishes it all off.
Make a Latke Spanish-Style Tortilla
Finally, Schiff makes what she calls “a play on a Spanish tortilla,” incorporating leftover latkes into the dish. It’s an idea she got from chef José Andrés (he has a version made with potato chips). Grabbing an eight-inch skillet, Schiff heats up olive oil, adding in thinly sliced onions to cook them down. Then, she adds in pieces of leftover latke, stirring it around with the spatula a few times. After that, she pours in the beaten eggs and sets the heat to low-medium, pressing down the latkes to ensure they’re submerged. Take care not to flip the tortilla too early, she notes—otherwise, you’ll get an eggy mess.
As the eggs start to set, she runs a spatula along the edges, and then, inverts the tortilla onto a plate, using the plate to flip it over back into the pan. (Add more oil if you need to.) Once the tortilla is ready, she slides it onto a cutting board and garnishes it with fresh herbs. Cut it into wedges and you’re all set to eat.
Come back next Monday, December 21 for our next episode of Chefs at Home featuring chef Miguel Trinidad.