One Hanukkah night, years ago, I called food writer Melissa Clark (my friend and mentor) and scribbled her latke recipe on the back of an envelope. I’ve been the official latke-maker in our circle ever since. This year, Melissa finally published the recipe for those potato pancakes. Ultra-crunchy, perfectly salty, savory from the onion, lacy at the edges and soft in the middle…you’d be hard-pressed to improve upon them.
The whole tradition of latke-making, however, could use improving: flipping fiddly little pancakes in four skillets awash with burning hot oil while the house swarms with hungry adults and their gelt-fueled, manic children is not particularly festive from a cook’s perspective. . Or safe. And if the kids are old enough to clamor for latkes night after night—or old enough to want to help cook—a person might ask whether all the tsuris and clean-up is really a necessary part of the festival of lights?
This year, I was determined to embrace the tradition of making lots of latkes in lots of oil night after night, but without making a mess of the stove, scalding a small child or burning out after night two. So into the oven went Melissa Clark’s recipe, with the help of my toddler (who pushed the food processor buttons and helped form the latkes on baking sheets). And out of the oven—all at once!—came a whole batch of perfectly crisp, utterly delicious oven-fried latkes. This is not a healthier adaptation—if it was, no one would be clamoring for them eight nights in a row—but rather a technique shift. Give it a try and tell me if these fry-free latkes aren’t one more miracle to celebrate.
Oven-Fried Potato Latkes
Adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark. As Melissa points out, this recipe is easily multiplied (or halved, actually). If you make more than one batch, add a bit more oil to cover the bottom of the pans after the first batch, and reduce the baking time to allow for the pre-heated pans.
Time: 30 minutes
Makes 24 latkes
2 large russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and quartered lengthwise
1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and quartered
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
About 1 cup vegetable oil
Applesauce, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and smoked salmon, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Line two large, heavy rimmed baking sheets with heavy-duty foil. Coarsely shred the potatoes and onions together in a food processor (or grate by hand with a box grater). Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.
2. Working quickly, combine the potatoes and onions with the flour, eggs, salt, baking powder and pepper, tossing with a fork until well combined.
3. Pour ½ cup oil onto each baking sheet, spreading it with a spatula. With a fork, scoop 12 small latkes onto each baking sheet, pressing to flatten into disks.
4. Bake the latkes until crisp on the bottom and sizzling, about 12 minutes. Flip the latkes, rotating the pans from back to front and top to bottom, and bake until crisp on the second side, about 8 more minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack lined with paper towels or paper bags, drain briefly, and serve.
Image: Liliana Fuchs