Those of us who grew up in a Jewish family undoubtedly remember a mother, aunt or in‑law serving soggy gray potato pancakes for Hanukkah. Not crispy, not golden, undercooked in the middle.
Many older cooks insist that draining their pancakes on brown paper bags is the secret to making them great, but aside from the right frying technique, the key actually rests in the potato starch, which must be squeezed out during prep and added back later. When the starch rejoins its family of potatoes, they will cook off with a crispy, crunchy exterior and a divine potato flavor. Not to mention that each pancake will be certifiably, deliciously, golden brown.
Reprinted with permission from Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook: Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond
- 4 large Idaho potatoes
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup finely minced or grated onion (about half a medium onion)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (substitute matzo meal if you don't want to use flour)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup canola oil
- Peel the potatoes and place them in a bowl of cold water.
- Grate the potatoes on the medium or largest holes of a box grater and into a clean bowl (or use the shredding tool of a food processor).
- Squeeze the lemon juice over the potatoes and mix it in with your hands (to keep the potatoes from browning).
- Using your hands, squeeze the liquid from the shredded potatoes into another bowl and reserve.
- In a clean bowl, add the eggs, onion, salt and pepper to the dry shredded potato mixture. Mix in the flour until combined.
- Discard the top layer of the reserved potato liquid and save the sludgy starch at the bottom of the bowl. Add the starch back into the potato mixture and mix in with your hands or a spoon.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the canola oil to just below the smoking point. Form eight to 12 2-inch pancakes. Sauté four pancakes at a time, making sure that the oil coats them. (You can flatten them with your spatula if you prefer a thinner pancake.)
- Once a pancake has golden edges and is partially cooked in the middle, it is ready to be turned. When flipping a pancake, tilt the pan away from you so that the oil doesn’t spray and burn you. Lower the heat so that the pancakes will continue to cook through and won’t burn before they’re done cooking, about another 3 to 4 minutes. When done, remove the pancakes from the pan and place them on a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Before cooking the remaining pancakes, remove the excess potato pieces from the pan with a paper towel or spoon.
- Serve the pancakes warm or at room temperature with sour cream or applesauce.
- If you want to reheat the pancakes, place them on a cookie sheet and warm them in the oven at 350°F for up to 10 minutes until they re-crisp, but be careful — they dry out easily.
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