Holidays Evoke Memories and Grandma’s Potato Latke Recipe

Holidays Evoke Memories and Grandma's Potato Latkes RecipeToday my kitchen was filled with the smell of frying potatoes as I prepared the traditional latkes for Hanukah. I was in a relaxed cooking zone, like a form of meditation. It was just me and the quiet of the house, a rarity in a household with two little kids. But I didn’t feel alone. Somehow I felt the presence of my mom and grandma, my two cooking mentors who have passed away.

Grandma Shirley, circa 1930

As I cooked, I thought about my Grandma Shirley who taught me how to make latkes, also known as potato pancakes. Latkes, soup, and cookies were her specialties, a handy repertoire to have. Like many of my older relatives, my grandma cooked by feel, often without a recipe. Latkes were no exception; she just had a list of a few ingredients in her head. I feel fortunate that one day long ago I cooked along side her and took written notes to document her recipe.

The party in my kitchen continued as memories of other relatives popped into my mind. My dad appeared, the food critic and fan of homemade food. As I sampled the first latke to taste for any needed adjustments to the batter, I could hear my father say, “really good, but needs a little more onion.” He was always spot on. I know he would have given these latkes the thumbs up. They were flat and crispy with just a touch of soft potatoes inside.

20121207-093821.jpgThen, I thought of my mom, the ultimate dinner party hostess. She was an excellent cook and loved to bring people together to share a meal. I looked around my house and saw the Hanukah party that was starting to take shape in my house– the trays of latkes waiting and the dining room table set with care. I realized that my mom would have been so proud of me and the adult that I have become.

As my kitchen continued to fill with memories and the smell of latkes, I felt surrounded by warmth. Holidays have a way of evoking memories. I hope you have a warm and memorable holiday season too.

20121207-092737.jpgThis latke recipe is for a delicious, traditional dish that is a Hanukah treat. There is no way to “lighten” these up, unless you want to make a completely different dish like my potato latke muffins, which are baked. So enjoy, it’s the holidays.

Grandma Shirley's Potato Latkes Recipe
Serves: 12-14
Makes 65 to 75 small latkes.
  • 12 Yukon gold potatoes, about 4 pounds
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • ⅓ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • About 12 to 16 fluid ounces safflower oil, total (or any high-heat cooking oil)
  1. Chop onions in a food processor with the knife blade, and pulse on/off until onions are in small pieces. Alternatively, use a hand grater. Drain onions in a large colander with a plate underneath to catch excess liquid.
  2. Prep all ingredients and get ready to move fairly quickly once potatoes are grated because the potatoes can turn a darker color. Peel potatoes, and then grate them in a food processor with the shredding disk. Place grated potatoes in the colander with the onions. Drain off extra liquid. The key to crispy latkes is to remove excess liquid.
  3. Coat the bottom of 2 large, heavy fry pans with oil. Place the pans on the stove with medium heat. Make sure the oil doesn’t burn.
  4. Combine all ingredients (except oil) in a large mixing bowl to form the batter.
  5. Have the heat on the stove as high as you can without the oil splattering (usually medium to medium-high heat). I usually run one test pancake in each pan to check the oil temperature. I also test the first cooked potato latke for taste and add more salt or onion if needed. Spoon batter into the hot pans making small, round, thin, flat circles. Cook until dark golden brown on one side, and then flip and cook until brown on the other side. Cook in batches, and add more oil to the pan as needed. As the latkes are made, more excess liquid will accumulate in the bottom of the batter bowl. Avoid using the excess liquid; a slotted spoon can even be used.
  6. Place cooked latkes on cooling racks covered with paper towels. Serve warm or re-heat in 350 degree oven on baking sheets until warm and bubbly, about 10 minutes or less. Potato latkes can also be frozen and re-heated. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.



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19 Responses to Holidays Evoke Memories and Grandma’s Potato Latke Recipe

  1. Vicky December 24, 2016 at 3:11 AM #

    I would love to try this recipe. I have a question. What do you do with the onion juice after draining? Is it used in the batter? Thank you.

    • Dana December 24, 2016 at 10:17 AM #

      You discard to onion and potato juice. Alternatively, you can drain the potato and onion by wrapping them in a clean kitchen towel and squeezing until the vegetables are dry and the towel is wet. When you put the batter in the pan, you don’t want excess liquid. Sometimes more liquid gathers in the batter bowl, so I use a slotted spoon and leave the excess liquid behind. The point of all this is to reduce oil splatter when placing the batter in the pan and to make crispier latkes. Happy holidays.

  2. Carrie November 10, 2013 at 8:03 AM #

    Dana! Thanks for posting! Is it ok to use flour vs matza meal?

    • Dana November 10, 2013 at 8:15 AM #

      Hi Carrie- yes, both matzo meal and flour work well and are commonly used. However, I think flour is a little lighter.

  3. Robyn December 10, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

    We used your recipe tonight for dinner. Avery loved them…we all did! Thanks! Robyn, Loren & Avery

    • Dana December 10, 2012 at 8:23 PM #

      Hi Robyn, I’m glad the latkes were a hit. Happy Hanukah to everyone. PS- Let me know if you have any healthy baking I can share. Hope to see you, Dana

  4. Kathy Gallagher December 10, 2012 at 7:23 AM #

    Yum! Your latkes look amazing! I wish we could have come over to enjoy some with you guys over the weekend! So funny about Dad…. he definitely would have said “more onion”! and Grandma Shirley was also known for her popovers and profiteroles. Please put those on your blog too! I loved cooking with her in her Roxbury condo kitchen too. Xo K

    • Dana December 10, 2012 at 10:07 AM #

      Kat- yep, he’s still making us laugh through our memories of all his funny schtick. Oh, yes, the profiteroles, we have to hunt down that recipe and make those too. I have the chocolate sauce recipe that goes with it. I’ll post more family recipes soon. Thanks for stopping by to join the dialogue. D

  5. Marla Roth December 9, 2012 at 11:02 PM #

    Happy Hanukkah from our family to yours! Never had the pleasure of meeting your Grandma Shirley but I do know that your mom and dad would both be so proud of you and so pleased with your blog! You have a gift with food, writing and your photos are wonderful too. Having a Hanukkah party at our house on Saturday and looking forward to trying out your recipe:)

    • Dana December 10, 2012 at 9:57 AM #

      Hi Marla, thanks for your supportive comments and for being a reader. Hope your family enjoys the latkes. Say hi to everyone for me. See you soon. Love, Dana

  6. Nancy Rose Eisman December 9, 2012 at 5:59 PM #

    You’re the spitting image (what a strange expression) of your grandmother, and I would gladly eat at least a 1/2 dozen of those latkes. Have a very Happy Hanukah!

    • Dana December 9, 2012 at 10:07 PM #

      Hi Nancy, thanks so much. Sorry I missed you yesterday. Happy Hanukah to you too.

  7. Lizthechef December 7, 2012 at 5:49 PM #

    A beautiful post. I love the photo of your grandmother and see a resemblance to you here. Our loved ones lift us up, don’t they? They were so special that they will never, ever leave us. Happy Hanukkah. X0 Liz

    • Dana December 7, 2012 at 7:53 PM #

      Hi Liz, thanks for reading my post. I know you can relate to this connection that we both have to our loved ones who taught us how to cook. The memories are comforting, yet bittersweet at the same time. I look forward to when you write about this topic again on your blog. I know we both will have many more memories and experiences with “ghosts in the kitchen.” All the best, Dana

  8. Jodi Baer Pynes December 7, 2012 at 4:36 PM #

    mmmm….I can smell them from here!

    • Dana December 7, 2012 at 4:41 PM #

      Hi Jodi, I also thought of making latkes with your family as well– including your dad joining me in the kitchen to flip latkes. Funny how a holiday food can tie you to so many people. Happy Holidays, Dana


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