Susie Bright: The League of Amazing Latkes Q & A

200812290939 Is it too late for potato latkes? Can I have some more?

It's never too late for latkes. You can eat potato pancakes all year round!

Is there a perfect recipe?


Potato pancakes inspire controversy because of family traditions... everyone longs for their childhood memory. My recipe may not bring your great-grandmother to life, but I dare say you'll look upon me as a favorite aunt.

It takes forever to grate all those potatoes and cry over the onions- I want to devour my latkes, pain-free, NOW!

Immediate gratification is all about using the right tools. Use a 7-cup Cuisinart with the "grater attachment" to cut up the pototoes and onions, presto!

My latkes always turn out limp and bland; what am I doing wrong?

The key to tasty latkes is to get the water out of the potatoes before you fry them in hot oil. But  potatoes don't like to give up their water.

The miracle answer to a labor-intensive problem is an old-fashioned potato ricer. Don't ask me what else you do with this thing: I only know it as a latke-enabler!

Put a handful of the sopping potato gratings in the ricer's mouth. Press the handles together, and all the water is expressed through the sieve side- in one second! You don't even have to use two hands. You leverage one arm of the ricer against the other by propping it over the sink-top and pressing down. You only do it once- there's no other effort required.

Any other must-have tools? 

Yes, a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is the most precise and uniform conductor of heat, and when you fire up your frying oil, you want that "almost smoking" level of hotness in your pan, unwavering. That's what gives you the satisfying crunch!

Can I use flour, or some other gluten instead of matzo meal for my binding agent?

No! The matzo gives the texture you crave.

Can I make a lower-calorie, lower-fat latke that tastes just as yummy?

The fiber content of potatoes are good for you. You could increase that with by combining other gratings of even higher-fiber candidates, like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots- a different kick, but equally tasty. Remember, squeeze the water out of all of them!

There is no getting around the oil/butter/fry part, not if you want the "eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head" satisfaction. There is only one corner you can cut without detection: Use egg whites, lose the yolks- or at least cut down the yolks by half.

The secret to staying slim while you dance the latke fantastic is strategic fiber consciousness and portion control. Move away from the stove and serve yourself a couple of pancakes on a small plate with a huge helping of applesauce. Before you dig in, treat yourself to a fantastic butter lettuce salad with balsamic vinegar, or maybe a sweet tangerine. Afterward, turn up the Eartha Kitt really loud, to dance and sing your heart out!

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)



  1. Cast iron adds healthy yumminess to food.

    Of course, latkes are already so yummy that only healthiness could be added. I eat them with sliced and melted cheese which is no doubt heretical… but delicious!

  2. The potato ricer is a wonderful help even to prepare italian GNOCCHI! They are a wonderful alternative to pasta! Great with tomato sauce, with pesto, with a mix of cheeses, with nuts and gorgonzola (blue cheese), with radicchio, parmesan and double cream, they are even wonderful seasoned only whith some butter paermesan and salvia sauce! Tray it!

  3. Whatever you do don’t try to make the batter smooth by blending the hell out of it. You need the course texture of the potatoes and onions. I had some smooth ones. They were awful.

  4. if’n you want to get the starch out of grated potatoes for latkes/rostis/whatever & have no tool for the job, just put ’em in a robust teatowel, gather up the corners and twist them tight so the ball of gratings is compressed & the starch & water is forced out. Works perfectly.

  5. Butter? No one I know uses butter, especially if you need your latkes parve.

    I just stick the mixture in a strainer over a bowel, it does the job.

  6. Oh, curse you for bringing that up when I’m hungry but not yet stocked up on potatoes after getting back home!

    But when I have some, I’ll try applesauce with them for a change – here in Sweden the most common ways of serving potato pancakes is with red caviar, chopped red onions and sour cream or the more hearty variety with thick slices of fried bacon and lingonberry jam.

  7. Can someone recommend a good cooking blog with tips like this. Something that has recipes with a BB sensibility?

  8. DO you have to add applesauce? This sounds great as a dessert, but with it would go really well with breakfast without applesause.

  9. A good chef friend (real chef, CIA-trained and everything) of mine goes and buys frozen hash browns instead of spending her entire life grating potatoes. You just have to make sure they contain potatoes and not seasonings and such.

  10. These look suspiciously like a Jewish version of tattie scones. Except we tend not to try and justify the dietary downsides, they’re just consumed with square slice, black pudding, bacon, fried tomatoes etc.

  11. > The miracle answer to a labor-intensive problem is an old-fashioned potato ricer. Don’t ask me what else you do with this thing: I only know it as a latke-enabler!

    It makes much better mashed potatoes than using a normal masher. Yum.

  12. Susie,

    you’re doing your readers a disservice: latkes must be grated with a hand grater – it’s the only way you can insure that some blood and skin make it into the mix and THAT is the true secret ingredient!

  13. MMM, I do not think bowels are parve either.

    Sounds kind of icky, but some people like haggis with tatties and neeps…

  14. Usually, I read latke recipes just waiting to pounce because people don’t include squeezing out the liquid, which is Key. Love that I learned a new trick (the ricer). I’m personally happy with either flour or matzo meal, but I’ll try using butter for the frying fat. And I personally like pureeing half of the potato/onion mixture with the eggs and matzo meal so the latkes have a mix of textures. But to each their own.

    One other important step: cover the uncooked batter with a piece of plastic wrap placed right on the surface. Otherwise, oxidation turns the batter (and hence your latkes) an unappealing greyish black. They still taste great, but only if you eat them while averting your eyes.

  15. 19 & 20 beat me to a couple of comments.

    One thing, if you happen to be making them for gluten-free people (as I did for my Hanukkah party on the 25th) you can use potato starch instead, though I prefer matzah meal. And I gave up on the, preferred, hand grating after a half dozen and finished them off in the cuisinart, still came out darn good.

    I also make a mean matzah ball.


  16. I’m trying to lose weight, but now I’m going to buy potatos and onions and matzoh meal on the way home and have latkes tomorrow morning. Rats.

    Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll begin the new year as I mean to continue it.


  17. “[get] some blood … into the mix and THAT is the true secret ingredient!”

    Don’t forget to use gentile children to do the grating.

  18. “…[H]ere in Sweden the most common ways of serving potato pancakes is with red caviar, chopped red onions and sour cream or the more hearty variety with thick slices of fried bacon and lingonberry jam.”

    That’s it! I’m moving to Sweden!

  19. Only if there’s also a sitting cooking thread. I can’t stand for long enough to do some cooking I have to these days (problem to be fixed in the next few months). Which is not at all to say I can’t stand cooking!

  20. Yeah, Xopher, me too. It’s the “stir to a slow boil” that challenges the battered spinal column these days. I’ve got a tall stool for those jobs. Feels silly but it works good.

  21. If you don’t mind, Takuan, I’ll stay with the pots and pans. That’s not to say your advice wouldn’t be, um, interesting.

  22. Buddy, mine is a hip, which can (and will) be replaced, unlike your spine. My sympathies.

    I finally had a forehead-smack moment and stopped boiling cream for ganache on the stove, duhh. Microwave works just fine for that.

    I was, however, in serious pain the last time I made fondant. There’s just no way to do that sitting down; you can’t use a microwave to boil the sugar syrup (because you need to know its temperature moment to moment), and even if your slab were low to the ground, the motion is more than any but a much taller person than I am could do without standing.

  23. Xopher, I’m serious about the tall stool. I got mine from a bar and lounge catalogue a couple years ago for just the purpose of stovetop monitoring. It’s one of those big suckers you almost have to climb to get seated.

    You know, following Takuan’s example, there are so many crips and gimps on bb that maybe we ought to have a Moan n’ Groan thread: Helpful Hints From Handicapped Harry?

    gallows giggles

  24. I have used one for some purposes. The agitation of fondant, though, I don’t think I could do even from a tall stool, because the needed range of motion exceeds my sessile reach, if you understand me: I have to move from side to side and lean over and back to keep agitating the fondant evenly, and I have to keep it up absolutely constantly until the fondant sets.

    Maybe I could. I probably won’t have to make fondant again until after my surgery, so maybe it won’t come up, but if it does perhaps I’ll try the stool approach.

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